German President Resigns in Disgrace
The Local reported on February 17:
“German President Christian Wulff resigned in disgrace on Friday, finally bowing to pressure and a lack of trust on the back of months of revelations about blurred lines between personal, business and political advantage… the next president will be Germany’s third within two years… Wulff has been under increasing pressure to resign since last December when details of a soft loan of €500,000 he got from the wife of a businessman but did not declare, became public…
“Wulff himself was a controversial candidate who Merkel pushed into office in the face of opposition from within her own party’s ranks. He took over after his predecessor Horst Köhler resigned in May 2010 after making comments which appeared to justify Germany taking military action to defend its economic interests… The German constitution says that should a president resign or be prevented from carrying out his duties, his office should be filled by the president of the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat – currently Christian Social Union leader Horst Seehofer. The enormous Federal Convention which elects the president, must meet at the latest 30 days after a resignation to start voting on candidates…”
It was announced that the vote will take place on March 18.
Der Spiegel Online added on February 17:
“Following the announcement by prosecutors that they would seek to lift his immunity, German President Christian Wulff announced Friday morning he would resign as the country’s head of state… The resignation of Wulff, Merkel’s handpicked president, is likely to come as a blow to the chancellor and her party in the run-up to state elections in Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland… At the center of the probe are allegations that a film producer had paid for a vacation in a luxury hotel for Wulff during his time as head of a state government. Wulff has denied the allegation, saying he repaid the filmmaker in cash…”
German Parties Pick New President
BBC News reported on February 19:
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she backs [independent] Joachim Gauck, a [Lutheran] pastor and former East German rights activist, to be the country’s next president. Mr Gauck was proposed by the opposition Social Democrats and Greens after Christian Wulff quit as president on Friday over corruption allegations. Mrs Merkel opposed Mr Gauck for the presidency in 2010, instead supporting her ally Mr Wulff. Germany’s president has a largely ceremonial, but influential, role. With the backing of all the major parties, Mr Gauck’s election to the position next month should be a formality…
“The 72-year-old Mr Gauck is well known for his work as a dissident in East Germany and for running the archives on the Stasi secret police after the Berlin Wall came down, exposing its crimes… ‘Let’s not forget that we have churchmen like Gauck to thank for the success of East Germany’s peaceful revolution,’ [Angela Merkel] said. Mrs Merkel is herself the daughter of a Protestant pastor and, like Mr Gauck, grew up in the former East Germany… But the affair has come at a bad time for Mrs Merkel, who is trying to steer a way through the eurozone crisis…”
It is interesting that Angela Markel should emphasize the important role of the Lutheran Church in respect to the developments in East Germany, leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the same time, it is well-known what important role the Catholic Church under its (then) Polish pope played in respect to the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Deutsche Welle wrote on February 19:
“Having lived under the dictatorship of East Germany and been forced to look on as his father was shipped to a Soviet gulag for four years, Gauck has dedicated his life to promoting freedom… Due to his family background and because he was not a member of East Germany’s official socialist youth association, Gauck was denied the opportunity to study German language and literature at university. Instead, he took up theology in 1958, and he began work as a Lutheran pastor in 1965… When the religious community took on a central role in promoting democracy in the former East Germany in 1989, it was Gauck who helped lead the popular movement New Forum in Rostock and who held the religious ceremonies that often preceded large-scale demonstrations on the streets of East German cities…
“Gauck’s role investigating the Stasi has made him unpopular in some parts of the Left party, a successor to the former East German communist party. When he ultimately lost out on being appointed president to Wulff in 2010, Left party leader Gesine Lötzsch called Gauck a ‘man of the past’ who did not ‘set a path for the future’… While the Left party has consistently refused to support Gauck’s candidacy for the president’s office, Germany’s other parties have regularly backed him… During the two days of tense discussions following Wulff’s resignation, Gauck was the only person to receive the support of the FDP, the junior partner in Merkel’s governing coalition, as well as the SPD and Greens. Gauck also enjoys the support of the German population. Two polls published Sunday showed voters would like to see Gauck move into Bellevue Palace, the president’s official residence…”
After many past disappointments, Germans are looking for a decent and trustworthy person to lead them. Not everyone is happy with the most recent choice of Joachim Gauck as new President. The skeptic Twitter community is rather opposed to him, especially because the big German parties support him. Also, Pastor Gauck has been separated [but not divorced] from his wife and mother of their four children for many years, while being together with another woman for 12 years. The German news media is asking the question whether Gauck will now divorce and marry his companion, before they are moving together into Bellevue Palace. Of course, Germany’s Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle, a practicing homosexual, does not see the need for this discussion. Sadly, in the future, a charismatic person will arise who will seemingly support all the right values, and the people will love him. But he will be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He is identified as “the beast” in the Bible.
Merkel’s Bitter Defeat—FDP Guilty of Blackmail?
Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 20:
“In accepting the opposition’s candidate for the next German president, Angela Merkel has suffered the bitterest defeat of her chancellorship. Her junior coalition partner, the FDP, teamed up with the two main opposition parties to push through their choice. The ignominious defeat could mark a turning point for the German chancellor…
“In the ad hoc alliance between the SPD, Greens and the FDP, three parties have come together to oppose the chancellor… Now the three parties, which could conceivably join forces to form a coalition government after the 2013 election, have gone their own way.The trio has outfoxed the arch-strategist Merkel. The chancellor and CDU leader has become more isolated since the weekend — and weaker.”
In a related article, Der Spiegel Online added on February 20:
“The conflict over the choice of Gauck is likely to have repercussions within Merkel’s coalition. Sources in the conservatives told the AFP news agency on Sunday evening that resentment at the FDP would probably have effects on the coalition’s cooperation in the future. SPD politicians could scarcely contain their delight at the split within the government. ‘That was by no means amicable,’ said the SPD’s general secretary, Andrea Nahles, on Sunday evening, describing the conservatives’ concession to the FDP. ‘Amazingly enough, it wasn’t the FDP that was toppled, but the chancellor.’”
The Local wrote on February 21:
“Joachim Gauck’s nomination for the German presidency nearly brought down Angela Merkel’s coalition government, with her Christian Democratic Union accusing their junior partners the Free Democrats of blackmail. The fallout from the row between the CDU and the FDP spilled into public after stories emerged of a stormy meeting between the coalition partners as the decision was being made on Sunday. According to media reports, Chancellor Merkel was incensed after she only heard of the FDP’s decision to back Gauck via the news wires…
“Volker Kauder, head of the CDU’s parliamentary faction was said to have been particularly infuriated, because he had a reputation for defending the shaky alliance with the Free Democrats… FDP leader Philipp Rösler, who is also vice chancellor and economy minister, told Die Welt on Tuesday that the conservatives had seriously threatened to bring down the government. ‘The (CDU) mentioned ending the coalition several times,’ he said… Deputy parliamentary leader Michael Kretschmer called the FDP’s behaviour a ‘flagrant breach of trust’… For a party still languishing in the opinion polls, the long-term effect on the FDP could be devastating.”
The Role of the German President
Deutsche Welle wrote on February 17:
“The resignation of German President Christian Wulff has once again called into question the role of the president. DW takes a look at Germany’s highest office, which plays a largely ceremonial role… Compared with leaders of other countries, the German president has few opportunities to influence day-to-day politics in his or her country. The president represents Germany in matters of international law, and at official gatherings…
“The president signs laws because without that signature they cannot take effect. But it is up for debate exactly how much the president can verify the content of a law, or stop its execution. Some say a president can only make sure that the formalistic lawmaking process has been followed, while others say he or she has the ability to review a law’s contents.
“Part of the president’s job is to propose a chancellor to the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag. He appoints and fires the chancellor based on suggestions made by the Bundestag. Likewise, he can appoint and fire cabinet ministers based on the chancellor’s recommendation. The president can also pardon criminals…
“Unlike in the US, France or Austria, the German president is not elected directly by the people. He is elected by a committee, the Federal Convention, consisting of members of the Bundestag and the same number of delegates sent from the state parliaments. The president has a term of five years, and can only be re-elected once. Any German citizen over the age of 40 is able to become president.
“Why does the German president play a mainly ceremonial role? The reason is that during the Weimar Republic, the period that led up to Nazi Germany, the president had wide-reaching powers. He could annul basic laws and rule with emergency law. These factors played a large role in Hitler’s rise to power…”
However, under certain circumstances, these wide-ranging powers are now vested in Germany’s Chancellor….
Euro Ministers Agree on Greece Bailout
Reuters reported on February 21:
“Euro zone finance ministers agreed a 130-billion-euro ($172 billion) rescue for Greece on Tuesday to avert an imminent chaotic default after forcing Athens to commit to unpopular cuts and private bondholders to take bigger losses. The complex deal wrought in overnight negotiations buys time to stabilize the 17-nation currency bloc and strengthen its financial firewalls, but it leaves deep doubts about Greece’s ability to recover and avoid default in the longer term… Greece will be placed under permanent surveillance by an increased European presence on the ground, and it will have to deposit funds to service its debt in a special account to guarantee repayments.
“The 5 a.m. deal (0400 GMT) was hailed as a step forward for Greece, but experts warned that Athens will need more help to bring its debts down to the level envisaged in the bailout and will remain worryingly ‘accident prone’ in coming years… Greece will struggle for years without economic growth. The austerity measures imposed on Athens are widely disliked among the population and will put pressure on politicians who must contest an election expected in April… An opinion poll taken just before the Brussels deal showed that support for the two mainstream parties backing the rescue had fallen to an all-time low while leftist, anti-bailout parties showed gains…
“Parliaments in three countries that have been most critical of bailouts – Germany, the Netherlands and Finland – must now approve the package. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who caused an outcry by suggesting that Greece was a ‘bottomless pit,’ said he was confident it would be passed… Many economists question whether Greece can pay off even a reduced debt burden, suggesting the deal may only delay a deeper default by a few months…
“A return to economic growth in Greece could take as much as a decade, a prospect that brought thousands onto the streets of Athens to protest on Sunday. The cuts will deepen a recession already in its fifth year, hurting government revenues. ‘We sowed the wind, now we reap the whirlwind,’ said Vassilis Korkidis, head of the Greek Commerce Confederation. ‘The new bailout is selling us time and hope at a very high price, while it doggedly continues to impose harsh austerity measures that keep us in a long and deep recession.’”
The EUObserver added on February 21:
“Eurozone countries have been quick to pat themselves on the back for greenlighting a second bailout for embattled Greece, but the deal is dependent on a wholesale change to Greek society while the rewards in terms of economic growth and employment remain a long way off… The changes – required to cover a fiscal gap of 5 percent in 2013 and 2014 and make the country competitive – imply a thorough change to society, business and administration in Greece.
“Specifically, the country still needs to make it easier to hire and fire people, needs to start means-testing family allowances, reduce supplementary pensions, reduce public investment, decrease wages to special sectors such as the police and military, close or merge government ministries, cut electoral spending, clean up the system for health reimbursements, cut the minimum wage and renegotiate collective agreement with unions. The government also needs tackle what is seen as endemic tax evasion, although officials admit that this is a devil’s quest as the more recession bites the less still is incentive to pay state dues.
“This comes on top of the measures required for the first bailout which saw major pension reform, opening up of professions, and wage reductions – the combination of which has created a new poor in Greece and driven thousands to the streets in protest… Wages are expected to decrease by a further 15 percent over the coming three years… Meanwhile, unemployment has shot up from 9 percent in 2009 to above 18 percent now. The joblessness rate is expected to start decreasing only in 2014. A year later it is expected to still rest around 15 percent.
“…the agreement was political. The actual measures… still have to be enforced…”
The EUObserver wrote on February 22:
“One of the many loose ends to the Greek bail-out agreed in the early hours of Tuesday (21 February) is the lack of a firm commitment from the International Monetary Fund, pending a decision by eurozone leaders next week to merge the firepower of two bail-out funds…”
Military Attack on Iran Inevitable?
The Guardian wrote on February 18:
“The Middle East could be the battleground for a new cold war, if Iran succeeds in acquiring nuclear weapons, Britain’s foreign secretary has warned. William Hague said the world would face the most serious round of nuclear proliferation since the invention of the atomic bomb, which would be a ‘disaster in world affairs’…
“Hague’s desire to give economic sanctions time to work is reflected in Washington. However, officials in key parts of the Obama administration are increasingly convinced that sanctions will not deter Tehran from pursuing its nuclear programme. They believe the US will be left with no option but to launch an attack on Iran or watch Israel do so.”
The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) wrote on February 18:
“[The] Head of [the] Russian Strategic Research Center for Contemporary Religions and Politics, Maxim Shochenko, said on Saturday [the] US and EU policy of banning Iranian oil is an already failed project… He told IRNA that Iran is cooperating with different countries in this field with many states eying Iranian oil; therefore the US politically-motivated move would bear no fruits for America. Shochenko said Western powers cannot understand the realities in Iran as [an] energy-rich country… He described economic sanctions and [an] oil embargo against Iran as a failed project and said China, India, Turkey and Japan are the main buyers of Iranian crude…”
In spite of the expressed optimism of American and European leaders, these sanctions will not work at all. The reason is that Iran’s leadership is determined to bring about upheaval and war to make possible the return of their Mahdi, as they see it.
Fox News reported on February 19:
“The U.S. and Britain on Sunday urged Israel not to attack Iran’s nuclear program as the White House’s national security adviser arrived in the region, reflecting growing international jitters that the Israelis are poised to strike.
“In their warnings, both the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said an Israeli attack on Iran would have grave consequences for the entire region and urged Israel to give international sanctions against Tehran more time to work…”
Haaretz added on February 20:
“Visits to Jerusalem by senior U.S. officials this week reflect a growing concern in Washington over the possibility that Israel will decide to attack nuclear sites in Iran. The Americans are particularly worried about the hawkish line that Defense Minister Ehud Barak has adopted on the matter… Washington, like Jerusalem, appears to be under the impression that Barak will play a key role in Netanyahu’s decision-making. According to various assessments, in the constellation of forces within the senior forum of eight capital ministers, Barak represents the hawkish camp…”
Haaretz wrote on February 21:
“Iran would take pre-emptive action against its enemies if it felt its national interests were endangered, the deputy head of the Islamic Republic’s armed forces was quoted by a semi-official news agency as saying on Tuesday… Iran is facing growing international pressure and isolation over its disputed nuclear activity. Expanded Western sanctions aim to block its economically vital oil exports and Tehran has said it could retaliate by shutting the Strait of Hormuz shipping lane vital to global energy supplies.
“Earlier Tuesday, Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and other senior officials had protested over recent comments by senior American officials critical of any Israeli attack on Iran, saying this criticism ‘served Iran’s interests.’ A senior Israeli official said Netanyahu and Barak told Tom Donilon, U.S. national security adviser who has been in Israel this week, of their dissatisfaction with the interview given by Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, to CNN on Sunday.
“Dempsey said ‘I don’t think a wise thing at this moment is for Israel to launch a military attack on Iran,’ and a strike ‘would be destabilizing’ and ‘not prudent.’ Dempsey said the United States has so far not been able to persuade Israel not to attack Iran…”
We are seeing divisions develop between Israel on the one hand, and America and Europe on the other hand. It is interesting that Isaiah 9:21 speaks of contentions between modern-day Ephraim (mainly Great Britain), Manasseh (the USA) and Judah (the state of Israel).
Iran Continues Their Provocations
VOA News reported on February 18:
“Iranian warships have passed through Egypt’s Suez Canal and entered the Mediterranean Sea… the passage… was only the second made by Iranian ships since the 1979 Islamic Revolution… The Suez canal cuts through Egypt and allows shipping to pass between the Middle East to Europe.”
AFP added on February 18:
“Iranian naval forces are composed of small units, including speedboats equipped with missiles, which operate in the Gulf and are under the command of the Revolutionary Guards. The navy, using small frigates, destroyers, and three Russian-made Kilo class submarines, oversees high seas missions in the Gulf of Oman and Gulf of Aden. It now permanently has at least two vessels in those areas to escort merchant ships, and has been involved in more than 100 confrontations with armed pirates, according to the navy commander in December.”
The Associated Press wrote on February 19:
“Iran has halted oil shipments to Britain and France, the Oil Ministry said Sunday, in an apparent pre-emptive blow against the European Union after the bloc imposed sanctions on Iran’s crucial fuel exports. The EU imposed tough sanctions against Iran last month, which included a freeze of the country’s central bank assets and an oil embargo set to begin in July. Iran’s Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi had warned earlier this month that Tehran could cut off oil exports to ‘hostile’ European nations. The 27-nation EU accounts for about 18 percent of Iran’s oil exports. However, the Iranian action was not likely to have any significant direct impact on European supplies because both Britain and France had already moved last year to sharply curtail oil purchases from Tehran to less than 3 percent of their daily needs…”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on February 23:
“Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency had been hoping to be allowed access to a suspicious facility southeast of Tehran, but the visit was pronounced a failure… The failed inspection visit is the latest setback in international efforts to force Iran to come clean about its nuclear program. Tehran continues to insist the program is exclusively civilian in nature. But an IAEA report issued last November, which for the first time voiced the agency’s strong suspicion that Iran was working towards the construction of atomic weapons, has led the West to redouble its efforts to isolate the country…
“The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘Whatever the reasons were for Tehran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA mission, they have played into the hands of all those who are calling for air strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, whether they are in Israel, in the US Republican Party, or elsewhere. The danger of crisis has become greater as a result…’
“The left-leaning Berlin daily Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘The inspection ritual in Iran hasn’t changed for 10 years, no matter what threats the West makes or how biting their sanctions are… the current regime will make no concessions in the atomic dispute… Particularly given that Israel has nuclear weapons and is threatening with a military strike. As a result, we will experience the (non-)inspection ritual again and again — until Iran has the bomb.’”
The developments pertaining to Iran are of great concern. Experts have said that if Iran were to close the Strait of Hormuz or if Israel were to attack Iran, the average price for regular gas at American gas stations could rise this summer to 5 or 6 dollars, and that such rising gas prices would be partially due to the greed of gas companies which, according to news analyst and commentator Lou Dobbs, have exported surplus refined oil to countries like China, and because we can expect the usual greed of suppliers to make a buck and bleed their customers. Please also note the next article, which sheds a flickering light on America’s oil-exporting allies.
Bad News on the Oil Market?
CNBC wrote on February 19:
“The world’s top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, appears to have cut both its oil production and export in December… For the third month in a row, no details were available for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Libya, the immediate reasons for which are unclear.
“Together with other Gulf oil exporters, the UAE has been in focus as a possible source of alternative supply for at least some of Iran’s crude… Iraq, another frequently-cited supplier to make up for part of the Iranian oil shortfall following European Union sanctions, reported no major changes to its supply and export regime…”
Somewhat inconsistently and contradictory, Reuters reported the following on February 19:
“Iran was supplying more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) to the EU plus Turkey in 2011, industry sources said. By the start of this year imports had sunk to about 650,000 bpd as some customers cut back in anticipation of an EU ban. Saudi Arabia says it is prepared to supply extra oil either by topping up existing term contracts or by making rare spot market sales.”
It was reported that at some gas stations in Florida, the price for regular gasoline has already reached 6.00 dollars a gallon.
New Mideast War Is Coming Soon
Newsmax reported on February 20:
“From Tunis to Tripoli to Cairo to Damascus, what seems real one day is no longer the next. Policymakers in Western capitals agree that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s suppression of dissent, with a toll of 6,000 dead so far — and still climbing — makes him the war criminal… In Libya, liberation from Moammar Gadhafi’s 40-year-tyranny gradually morphed into inter-tribal warfare… Thousands of Russian surface-to-air missiles bought by Ghadafi’s regime and other weapons lay abandoned in the desert, available to any terrorist group with plans to down commercial aircraft anywhere in the world…
“In Cairo, a new parliament dominated by fundamentalists of the Muslim Brotherhood, with 47 percent of the seats, appeared shaken while trying to project a moderate image for their western interlocutors. Salafists, or Muslim extremists who rooted for the late Osama Bin Laden, emerged from the most recent ballot count with 25 percent of the new parliament. Together, with 72 percent of Parliament, these two branches of Islam will dominate constitutional reform. Liquor, women with uncovered heads or in swimsuits on the beaches of the Mediterranean and Red Sea will be officially banned…
“As the Arab world continued to unravel, the Iranian nuclear crisis had a near-monopoly of front-page news… One nuclear missile obliterating Tel Aviv or Jerusalem would be a global catastrophe. Israel would survive, but Iran would cease to exist as a nation hours later. Israel’s fighter bombers with air-to-air refueling tankers have been on instant standby for months. Violating the air space of other countries wouldn’t even be a consideration…
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes his country cannot wait for Iran to produce its first nuclear weapon… Obama knows that the United States will be drawn automatically into the conflict as Iran unleashes its asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities up and down the Persian Gulf, including the Strait of Hormuz, through which passes 20 percent of the world’s oil consumption… The October surprise: The United States will be in its third war in 10 years.”
“Assad Must Go”
The New York Times reported on February 23:
“A United Nations panel concluded on Thursday that ‘gross human rights violations’ had been ordered by the Syrian authorities as state policy at ‘the highest levels of the armed forces and the government,’ amounting to crimes against humanity… Syrian security forces continued to bombard areas of Homs, a city in central Syria, for a 20th successive day, despite a growing outcry and international calls for the creation of humanitarian corridors to reach the sick, the wounded and the frail. The 72-page report, which was delivered to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, said that the insurgent Free Syrian Army, made up of defectors from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, had also committed abuses, but those were ‘not comparable in scale and organization to those carried out by the state.’…
“The foreign ministers of several European and Arab countries met in London on Thursday ahead of the international ‘friends of Syria’ meeting in Tunis on Friday to discuss ways to bolster Syria’s opposition forces… The United Nations report argued that Syria was now ‘on the brink’ of civil war… The document spoke of torture and killing of civilians…
“Among the scores of people that activist groups reported killed by rockets and bombs through the day on Wednesday, two were Western journalists, the veteran American war correspondent Marie Colvin, who had been working for The Sunday Times of London, and a young French photographer, Rémi Ochlik. The two had been working in a makeshift media center that was destroyed in the assault, raising suspicions that Syrian security forces might have identified its location by tracing satellite signals. Experts say that such tracking is possible with sophisticated equipment.
“The killings provoked an outcry, with powerful media figures and European politicians calling on Syrian forces to permit the retrieval of the bodies and to allow the Red Cross to enter areas where civilians say they are under relentless siege, running short of food and medical supplies. At least two other journalists were wounded on Wednesday and their newspapers in London and Paris said they were trying to find ways to rescue them. The French prime minister, François Fillon, identified one of the wounded journalists as Edith Bouvier, a 31-year-old freelancer for the daily newspaper Le Figaro…
“Late Wednesday, British officials summoned the Syrian ambassador, Sami Khiyami, to protest the continued attacks on Homs… the Foreign Ministry in Damascus on Thursday rejected ‘all statements that hold Syria accountable for the death of journalists who infiltrated Syria at their own risk without the Syrian authorities’ knowledge of their entry and whereabouts.’ Speaking on the BBC on Thursday, Foreign Secretary William Hague of Britain said that ‘people have been dying in their thousands, that continues. The Assad regime has continued to act seemingly with impunity.’ There would also be further steps at the United Nations to put pressure on Mr. Assad, even though Russia and China have combined to block Western and Arab League efforts to force him from power.
“Russia has said it will not attend the Tunisia meeting and news reports on Thursday said China had not committed itself to attending, blunting the gathering’s chances of securing strong action against Mr. Assad’s government. Activists, civilian journalists and foreign correspondents who have snuck into Syria have infuriated the authorities and foiled the government’s efforts to control the coverage of clashes, which have claimed thousands of Syrian lives in the last year and which Mr. Assad portrays as caused by an armed insurgency. Last week, Anthony Shadid, a correspondent for The New York Times, died of an apparent asthma attack in Syria on Thursday after spending nearly a week reporting covertly in the northern area of Idlib, near the Turkish border… the latest deaths of journalists, on top of the agonizing civilian toll, focused a new wave of international revulsion and anger on Mr. Assad and the Syria government. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said the killings showed that ‘enough is enough, this regime must go. There is no reason why Syrians should not have the right to live their lives, to freely choose their destiny.’”
It’s Not That Funny…
The Associated Press reported on February 18:
“Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul warned the U.S. [that] … we’re slipping into a fascist system where it’s a combination of government and big business and authoritarian rule and the suppression of the individual rights of each and every American citizen.’…
“Paul repeatedly denounced President Barack Obama’s recent enactment of a law requiring military custody of anyone suspected to be associated with al-Qaida and involved in planning an attack on the U.S…”
Although Ron Paul is sometimes described as the “funny uncle,” who does not really seem to have any chance of becoming the nominated Republican candidate, some of his viewpoints should not be rejected off hand. Conversely, the current four Republican candidates are attacking themselves personally with ever-increasing force, while no one seems to be emerging as the clear leader. There is great concern amongst Republicans that none of them could defeat President Obama in the next election (according to a newscast by MSNBC on February 22, 2012, current poll numbers suggest that President Obama would defeat any one of the Republican candidates). Therefore, the German press is speculating whether the Republicans will choose a new candidate, and some wonder whether this candidate could be former Florida’s governor Jeb Bush. Bild Online asks in its article of February 23, 2012: “Will it be another Bush in the end?” The paper states that rumors have it that additional candidates could be Indiana’s governor, Mitch Daniels, or New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie.
Center for NATO Missile Defense Shield in Germany
Deutsche Welle reported on February 16:
“While the US is withdrawing combat troops from Europe, the center for NATO’s missile defense shield will be based in Germany… The US state deficit is forcing Washington to reduce military spending by $487 billion (370 billion euros) over the next decade. Some $525 billion is still earmarked for the US defense budget this year. The missions in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost the American taxpayer dearly… the army is to be downsized from 570,000 to 490,000 personnel…
“The US wants to downsize two combat brigades, notably in Germany… German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière emphasized in Brussels that the US still views NATO as the most important military alliance: ‘The withdrawal of some 35,000-40,000 US soldiers from Germany is not dramatic. Europe remains the biggest base for US soldiers abroad. There is no reason whatsoever to doubt NATO’s commitment and America’s bond with Europe.’
“After the end of the Cold War… the US reduced the number of their troops in Europe from 230,000 to 81,000… Establishing the center for NATO’s planned missile defense shield in Ramstein, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, was not meant as a compensation for the planned troop withdrawal, say NATO officials. US Air Forces in Europe and NATO’s Allied Air Command already had their headquarters in Ramstein and it was therefore only logical to base the missile defense shield there as well…
“With cuts in the US defense budget, NATO diplomats are expecting that Europeans will be confronted with new tasks and will no longer be able to rely on the Americans stepping in automatically with regard to security issues in future. US Defense Secrety Leon Panetta, however, stressed that cost saving measures would not impede the US’ ability to provide security around the globe and fight two potential adversaries – Iran and North Korea, should it come to that – at the same time.”
While the USA is withdrawing its troops worldwide, including in Germany, US Air Forces in Europe and NATO’s Allied Air Command maintain their headquarters in Germany, and they are also going to establish there the center for NATO’s missile defense shield. This should make us think…
More Bad News for the USA
Reuters reported on February 21:
“About 2,000 Afghans protested outside the main U.S. military base in [Bagram, in] Afghanistan on Tuesday over a report that foreign soldiers improperly disposed of copies of the Koran… NATO’s top general in Afghanistan attempted to contain fury over the incident, which could be a public relations disaster for the U.S. military as it tries to pacify the country ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops in 2014…
“‘We Afghans don’t want these Christians and infidels, they are the enemy of our soil, our honor and our Koran,’ said… one of the protesters. ‘I urge all Muslims to sacrifice themselves in order to pull out these troops from this soil.’ The Afghan Taliban also strongly condemned the incident. ‘Since the invasion of Afghanistan by the animal Americans, this is almost the 10th time that they have degraded the holiest values of Muslims,’ said [a] Taliban spokesman…
“Bagram also houses a prison for Afghans detained by American forces. The center has caused resentment among Afghans because of reports of torture and ill-treatment of suspected Taliban prisoners, with President Hamid Karzai demanding the transfer of prisoners to Afghan security.
“Winning the hearts and minds of Afghans is critical to U.S. efforts to defeating the Taliban, but critics say Western forces often fail to grasp Afghanistan’s religious and cultural sensitivities… The Koran is the holy book of Islam [and] any hint that Western forces are showing it disrespect could deepen resentment over their presence in Afghanistan… Protests raged for three days across Afghanistan in April last year after a U.S. pastor burned a Koran in Florida…”
BBC News reported on February 23:
“President Barack Obama has apologised to the Afghan people for the burning of Korans by American troops at a US base. In a letter to President Hamid Karzai, Mr Obama expressed his ‘deep regret’ and said the incident earlier this week was a genuine mistake.
“Demonstrations against the desecration have continued for a third day across northern and eastern Afghanistan. Two US soldiers and two Afghans were killed in an attack on a military base. Elsewhere there were four other deaths. On Wednesday, another seven people were killed and dozens injured in protests… In addition to those killed, many people have been injured in the protests, some of them critically, while armed men on Thursday also attacked at least two military installations.
“Crowds shouting ‘death to Obama’ have been throwing stones and setting fire to the US flag. Meanwhile the Taliban have called on Afghans to kill and beat all invading forces in revenge for ‘insulting’ the Koran… many officials sympathise with the outrage the US has provoked across the country… Friday prayers may spark more tensions, depending on the tone set by religious leaders.”
Pope Appoints Twelve New Cardinals
The Associated Press reported on February 18:
“Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday brought 22 new Catholic churchmen into the elite club of cardinals who will elect his successor… each of the new cardinals did make a solemn pledge to keep church secrets upon accepting their new title, ring and three-pointed red hat, or biretta, from the pope. Reciting the cardinals’ traditional oath of loyalty, each one pledged to remain faithful to the church and to ‘not to make known to anyone matters entrusted to me in confidence, the disclosure of which could bring damage or dishonor to [the] Holy Church.’
“Benedict was wheeled into St. Peter’s Basilica aboard the moving platform he has been using for several months to spare him the long walk down the center aisle. Benedict, who turns 85 in April, spoke in a strong voice as he told the cardinals they will be called upon to advise him on the problems facing the church.
“In remarks at the start of the service, Benedict recalled that the red color of the three-pointed hat, or biretta, and the scarlet cassock that cardinals wear symbolizes the blood that cardinals must be willing to shed to remain faithful to the church… As of Saturday, Italy will have 30 cardinals out of the 125 under age 80… The consistory class of 2012 is heavily European, reinforcing Europe’s dominance of the College of Cardinals…”
The Bible identifies and associates the color of scarlet quite differently in Revelation 17:4. Also, what kind of disclosure of information, obtained in confidence, would bring “damage or dishonor” to the Catholic Church?
Intended Role of the Holy Roman Emperor
Zenit wrote on February 17:
“Medieval Europe saw the Church increasing[ly] hemmed in by secular powers, in particular by the Holy Roman Emperor, the most powerful man in the world of that age. The role of the Holy Roman Emperor had been established in 800 as a protector of the Church’s person, property and liberties, but by the 11th century the emperor interfered regularly in Church matters, even appointing bishops, and he expected to have a role in electing the Roman Pontiff.
“… on Easter of 1059, Pope Nicholas II issued the papal bull In Nomine Domini, in the presence of 113 bishops gathered in Rome… This bull put the election of the pope into the hands of the cardinals who would be assembled in Rome, and was the equivalent to a declaration of independence… By the 12th century, the College of Cardinals had grown to include men from all over Europe…”
Even though history reveals a close collaboration between church and state during Europe’s different revivals of the Holy Roman Empire, it is also true that many times, a battle for supremacy was fought between church and state. Such a battle is prophesied to repeat itself, after a strong unification between state and church has occurred. The next article may give us a glimpse as to what may happen on a large scale (compare Revelation 17:16). For more information, please read our free booklets, “Europe in Prophecy” and “Is That in the Bible? The Mysteries of the Book of Revelation.”
This Won’t Make the Catholic Church Happy
The EUObserver wrote on February 17:
“The Italian technocrat government of Mario Monti has announced plans forcing the [Catholic] church to pay property tax on buildings used for commercial purposes. The tax is estimated to raise revenues of minimum €500 million, with the Catholic Church being one of Italy’s largest private real estate holders…”
We Are All Catholics Now?
On February 19, the Washington Post published an editorial by controversial newscaster Glenn Beck. IF we take Beck by his words, it’s a terribly unbalanced article. Note the following excerpts:
“I am a proud member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but today, I call myself a Catholic. Why? Because the state is telling the Catholic Church to violate its principles and teachings. So if you are a person of faith, you must call yourself a Catholic.
“Today, the Catholic Church is defending a historic American freedom. We tend to forget that many of America’s earliest European settlers were religious refugees. Europe was not a kind place to the faithful if the state didn’t approve: Jews in Spain, Puritans in England, Protestants in France and so on. You were cast out, or worse.
“Our Founding Fathers remembered this. They knew if you can’t serve God as you choose, you are not free. And so they enshrined that right in the First Amendment of the Constitution: The state ‘shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’
“This is why Americans are offended by the ruling from the White House that would force church-run institutions to pay for birth control and morning-after pills, which are tantamount to abortion…
“Many people – including those who use contraception and abortion – respect those whose faith teaches them that God wants them to do or not do certain things. They recognize such faith in themselves. Some people don’t drink alcohol. Some don’t eat pork. Some people wear a hijab. Some work in soup kitchens. Some tithe 10 percent of their income. All because God tells them to…
“Because when the state comes against the Catholics, or the Jews, or the Muslims, or the Pentecostals, or the Mormons or those of any other faith – exotic or familiar – we must all stand up as one: We are all Catholics now… this struggle is similar to the fight against anti-Semitism.
“… when it comes to the separation of church and state, we need absolutes. The state needs to be free from the church, and the church from the state. The state has no right to say how much religion any American can practice. It’s our right, and it is the first one our Founding Fathers protected.”
This polemic article raises all kinds of problematic questions. According to Beck’s rationale, the state could not prohibit murder, racial persecution or even child sacrifice because of religious conviction and practice. This is of course total nonsense.
Deutsche Welle reported on February 21, 2012:
“Nitzan Horowitz likes to remember the summer of 2006, when he covered the Football World Cup from Germany as a reporter for Israeli television… He beseeched his countrymen not to be afraid of images on television showing Germans waving flags… Today, Horowitz is a member of the Israeli parliament for the Meretz party… ‘I think today, Germany is an anchor of democracy,’ he told DW. ‘Not just in Europe, but in the whole world.’ Germany, he says, is a strong, democratic and stable state that sets a good example for other countries…’
“But Michael Wolffsohn, a German-Israeli historian, doesn’t share Horowitz’s point of view. ‘There is no friendship between Germany and Israel,’ he said in a recent interview. Wolffsohn says opinion polls show the gap between the countries has increased since 1981, when a fierce controversy between then-leaders Menachem Begin and Helmut Schmidt concerning planned German arms sales to Saudi Arabia led to a profound break in relations… Today, Wolffsohn says Israel ranks as one of the most unpopular states in the world in the eyes of the German public…
“Would Germany, for example, back Israel if the Israeli army attacked Iran in an attempt to stop the country from developing its nuclear program?… Gadi Algazi, a historian who lives in Tel Aviv, would rather not see Germany on the side of Israel in any potential attack on Iran. A military strike against Iran’s nuclear program would be devastating, he says, adding that Germany should never support such a political solution…
“Carlo Strenger, a Swiss psychoanalyst and author, has come under fire for his criticism of Israeli politics… He understands that, due to the shared history, it may be difficult for German politicians to criticize Israel. In this respect, he admires German Chancellor Angela Merkel: while she does not attempt to hide Germany’s past, neither does she shrink from legitimate criticism…”
The Sabbath Controversy
Haaretz reported on February 22:
“Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau issued a harsh response on Tuesday to the city council’s decision to allow public transportation to operate on Shabbat. The council’s decision was decided by a majority vote on Monday. In a letter published on Tuesday morning, Lau wrote that he was ‘filled with a feeling of deep disappointment and pain’ upon hearing of the council’s decision, and called on Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai and the ministers of transportation and the interior to cancel it. ‘This is a severe blow to the holiness of the Shabbat, which is a remnant of Creation, a reminder of the Exodus from Egypt, a day of rest for every worker and a day of spiritual ascension and the unity of the family,’ he added…
“Among Israeli cities, only Haifa and Eilat are currently allowed to operate public transportation on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest. Tel Aviv transportation authority head Moshe Tiomkin said on Tuesday that, despite the council’s decision, he did not expect the move to succeed… The Transportation Ministry issued a statement in response, saying, ‘There is a decades-old status quo regarding operation of public transportation on Shabbat, and the Transportation Ministry does not intend to violate it.’”
Scientists Playing God
Der Spiegel wrote on February 17:
“Should scientists be allowed to create extremely aggressive and highly infectious influenza viruses? Dutch virologists have done it …
“Fouchier is attracting so much attention because he has created a new organism. And although it is tiny, if it escaped from his laboratory it would claim far more human lives than an exploding nuclear power plant. The pathogen is a new mutation of the feared bird flu virus, H5N1. In nature, this virus, which kills one of every two people infected, has not yet been transmitted from humans to humans… Fouchier’s ferrets, animals that most closely resemble humans when it comes to influenza, transmitted the virus to each other without direct contact, through tiny droplets of saliva and mucus.
“Many scientists are particularly impressed by the fact that, at almost the same time, another research team also managed to produce a bird flu virus that could be transmitted via airborne respiratory droplets. To achieve this, virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin combined the avian flu virus with the swine flu virus. The newly created superbug is highly infectious…
“Similarly controversial experiments have also been conducted with other pathogens… In 2001, a mouse pox virus that was 100-percent fatal was accidentally created in an Australian laboratory… The influenza virus that caused the devastating Spanish Flu in 1918 has been completely recreated… The ‘Russian flu’ of 1977 may have been triggered by a lab virus. SARS, a respiratory disease, almost returned when laboratory workers became infected with the coronavirus during their work. A scientist in Chicago even died of SARS in 2009.
“Hundreds of new virus laboratories have been established worldwide in recent years, and highly dangerous pathogens are used in a large share of these laboratories. ‘The risk of a virus being released accidentally is considerable,’ says [an expert].”
Such “scientific” conduct is so irresponsible, that one has a hard time believing it. No wonder that God tells us that He will come to “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18).
Massive Rise in Antibiotic-Resistant Blood Poisoning
The Independent wrote on February 20:
“Britain is facing a ‘massive’ rise in antibiotic-resistant blood poisoning caused by the bacterium E.coli – bringing closer the spectre of diseases that are impossible to treat. Experts say the growth of antibiotic resistance now poses as great a threat to global health as the emergence of new diseases such as Aids and pandemic flu… an estimated 25,000 people die each year in the European Union from antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections…”
The Daily Mail wrote on February 20
“A powerful denunciation of David Cameron’s plans to legalise gay marriage is made today by former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey. In an article for the Daily Mail, Lord Carey says the proposal to change the status of marriage ‘constitutes one of the greatest political power grabs in history’. He is backing a new grassroots organisation, the Coalition For Marriage (C4M), which opposes the redefinition of marriage to include same sex couples.”
Leviticus 18:22 states: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.” In the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 6:9 confirms: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators nor … adulterers, nor homosexuals [those submitting to homosexuals], nor sodomites [male homosexuals] … will inherit the kingdom of God.”
The Telegraph stated on February 20:
“[A] five [year old boy], has been living as a girl for more than a year – after he first refused to live as a boy when he turned three… he has Gender Identity Disorder (GID)… [He] is one of the youngest in Britain ever to be diagnosed with GID – meaning he feels like he’s a girl trapped in a boy’s body…. [The parents say the boy] used to be a ‘normal’ little boy… but suddenly at the end of 2010, he decided he wanted to live as a girl. He became obsessed with [a] girly kids’ TV character… and started dressing in girl’s clothing… [A] dedicated specialists explained to [the parents] that gender identity disorder is a conflict between a person’s actual physical gender and the gender that person identifies himself or herself as.”
The Associated Press wrote on February 20:
“A small but growing number of teens and even younger children who think they were born the wrong sex are getting support from parents and from doctors who give them sex-changing treatments… An 8-year-old second-grader in Los Angeles is a typical patient. Born a girl, the child announced at 18 months, ‘I a boy’ and has stuck with that belief. The family was shocked but now refers to the child as a boy and is watching for the first signs of puberty to begin treatment… Doctors who provide the treatment say withholding it would be more harmful…
“Guidelines from the Endocrine Society endorse transgender hormone treatment but say it should not be given before puberty begins. At that point, the guidelines recommend puberty-blocking drugs until age 16, [many times in monthly $1,000 injections or implants imbedded in the arm], then lifelong sex-changing hormones with monitoring for potential health risks… a Texas doctor says he’s also provided sex-changing treatment to an increasing number of children; so has a clinic at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles where the 8-year-old is a patient…
“The idea is to give these children time to mature emotionally and make sure they want to proceed with a permanent sex change… boys switching to girls will develop breasts and girls transitioning to boys will be flat-chested if puberty is blocked and sex-hormones started soon enough… Sex hormones, especially in high doses when used long-term, can have serious side effects, including blood clots and cancer…”
The Bible calls such conduct an abomination. Deuteronomy 22:5 prohibits cross-dressing and the practice of living as a transvestite, which would most certainly include sex changes, stating: “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God.”
The New York Times wrote on February 19:
“As of 2009, more than half of all children born to women under 30 were born to unmarried women. Unmarried mothers, in some areas, have become the norm… Fifty-three percent of all children born to women under 30 is an awful lot of children born outside of what’s been considered, for more than a handful of years, the most stable family structure… The young parents of Lorain (Cleveland, Ohio) said their reliance on the government safety net encouraged them to stay single and that they didn’t trust their youthful peers to be reliable partners…
“Researchers have consistently found that children born outside marriage face elevated risks of falling into poverty, failing in school or suffering emotional and behavioral problems … co-habitation arrangements in the United States are more than twice as likely to dissolve than marriages… Overwhelmingly, the more educated you are, the more likely you are to marry before having children. Bearing children outside of wedlock is a trend that’s most strongly affecting young adults who are already at an economic disadvantage… The further we go in this direction, the more single parents (mostly mothers, but not all) will find themselves and their children living without the stability and security that helps build a happy family life. It’s hard not to think of this as a problem.”
Mail On Line added on February 19:
“More than half of births to American women younger than 30 are outside marriage… And across all ages, a staggering four in ten women are not married when they have children… Fifty years ago, a third of American marriages were sparked by a pregnancy. In the mid-1990s, a third of Americans were born outside marriage. Now, it is 41 per cent and 53 per cent for children born to women under 30. Nearly three quarters of black children are born outside marriage compared with half of Latino babies and 29 per cent of whites. There is also an education divide, with 92 per cent of college-educated women married when they give birth compared with 43 per cent of women with a high school diploma or less.”
God created the institution of marriage between a man and a woman. Christ said in Matthew 19:4-6: “‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So, then, they are no longer two but one flesh…’” Galatians 5:19-21 adds that those who defile the marriage by practicing adultery, or by practicing sexual relationships outside marriage (“fornication”), will not be given eternal life: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are, adultery, fornication… of which I tell you … that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”