Expensive Government Shutdown
Time and CNN reported the following on October 17, under the following headline:
“Here’s How Much The Government Shutdown Cost The Economy.”
The article continued:
“$24 billion. That’s according to an estimate from Standard & Poor’s. The financial services company said the shutdown, which ended with a deal late Wednesday night after 16 days, took $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, and reduced projected fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent…
“Hundreds of thousands of federal workers bore the economic brunt of the shutdown. But small businesses also suffered from frozen government contracts and stalled business loans. Tourism suffered from closed national parks, and military families had to cope without childcare and other services. Federal workers will receive back-pay under the deal, but contractors will probably not get their lost wages…
“And with the deal only guaranteeing government funding through Jan. 15, the situation could grow worse…”
And all of this for nothing…
AFP wrote on October 19:
“The government shutdown may have ended Wednesday, but the bipartisan deal that put workers back on the job also suspended the nation’s debt ceiling, leaving the national debt soaring at an astronomical rate that is expected to keep growing.
“The nation’s debt climbed by a record $328 billion on Thursday alone, reports The Washington Times, the first day the federal government could borrow money under the agreement. The debt is now at a record $17.075 trillion and climbing, according to the Treasury Department.”
The website http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/US-economy-politics-debt/2013/10/19/id/531938?ns_mail_uid=9650683&ns_mail_job=1542415_10192013&promo_code=153B3-1 offers up-to-date figures of the climbing national debt. Newsmax reported on October 10 that “The national debt is set to double by the time President Barack Obama leaves office, if it continues to increase at the current rate.”
Obamacare Website—Disastrous and Catastrophic
Newsmax reported on October 18:
“The disastrous rollout of the Obamacare website has taken a new turn with errors turning up for the few who successfully managed to enroll through the glitch-filled site.
“Executives at more than a dozen health plans have told The Wall Street Journal that errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields [sic], and suspect eligibility determinations. In one case, a customer successfully signed up on Healthcare.gov for three plans at one company. ‘The longer this takes to resolve… the harder it will be to get people to [come back and] sign up,’ Aetna Inc. Chief Executive Mark Bertolini told the Journal. ‘It’s not off to a great start.’…
“The administration initially blamed the issues on high demand, but has since admitted the site was fraught with serious flaws, though officials have withheld details. President Barack Obama this week admitted his frustration with the website… On Thursday, the Journal published an editorial labeling the Obamacare website ‘a catastrophe.’”
Newsmax reported on October 21:
“Consumer Reports, the nation’s most respected consumer watchdog, has some sobering advice for Americans attempting to sign up for Obamacare: ‘Stay away.’ The federal exchange, Healthcare.gov, which has been plagued by software glitches, should be avoided ‘for at least another month if you can… Hopefully that will be long enough for its software vendors to clean up the mess they’ve made.’”
The Weekly Standard wrote on October 23:
“While the Affordable Care Act was making its way through Congress in 2009 and 2010, President Obama famously promised the American people over and over again that if you like your health plan, you can keep it. ‘Let me be exactly clear about what health care reform means to you,’ Obama said at one rally in July 2009. ‘First of all, if you’ve got health insurance, you like your doctors, you like your plan, you can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan. Nobody is talking about taking that away from you.’
“But the president’s promise is turning out to be false for millions of Americans who have had their health insurance policies canceled because they don’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. According to health policy expert Bob Laszewski, roughly 16 million Americans will lose their current plans because of Obamacare.”
Breitbart wrote on October 23:
“The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein now admits that weeks before the disastrous ObamaCare launch, he heard ‘some very ugly things about how the system was performing[.]’ We also now know that a few hundred people were involved in a test that crashed the site days before the launch and that insurance companies were complaining about the site before the launch. On top of all that, we are now seeing story after story about the red flags ignored by the Administration. But it isn’t just the White House claiming to be caught off guard by The Obvious, it is also a useless American media that seems incapable of breaking stories embarrassing to this president…
“Once again, despite numerous red flags, our media claims to be as surprised by a major scandal as the rest of… America. This isn’t the first major Obama White House scandal the media failed to break. The NSA, Associated Press, IRS, and Benghazi scandals were all missed by an American mainstream media that apparently spends its days spinning for the White House instead of engaging in the kind of investigative journalism into it that might result in revelations they don’t want to know about or report.
“From what we now know, three weeks after the launch of this half-billion dollar debacle, the only thing more outrageous than the Obama administration launching a site they knew was nowhere near ready, is that our media was too lazy or partisan or incompetent or all three to have been way ahead of this scandal.”
Some even try to put their usual positive spin on these events, praising the “success” of Obamacare by pointing out that so many have (unsuccessfully) attempted to sign up for it. Beg your pardon?
Next War Inevitable
USA Today wrote on October 17:
“Budget reductions could render the Army at ‘high risk to meet even one major war,’ according to documents obtained by USA TODAY, a warning the Army is sounding because it sees another war as inevitable before long… War is likely to break out again…
“Since May, the Army, Marines and Special Operations Command have been emphasizing the importance of ground forces in future conflicts. The Strategic Landpower Task Force states that some in the defense community believe wars will be fought primarily with weapons fired from a safe distance… [But] operations on land are most effective at achieving national objectives. [Commanders] referred to the need to influence what they refer to as the ‘human domain.’ Compelling people to act in U.S. interests is best accomplished by land forces, they said.”
Sadly, America’s next war IS inevitable, but America will not win it.
U.S.-Saudi Arabia Rift Deepens
The Guardian wrote on October 22:
“A deepening diplomatic rift between Saudi Arabia and the US burst open on Tuesday after secretary of state John Kerry acknowledged that Washington’s key strategic ally had serious misgivings about US foreign policy in the Middle East.
“Kerry held urgent talks with his Saudi counterpart in Paris on Monday amid complaints from Riyadh that the US was not doing enough to help Sunni-dominated rebels in Syria following a decision not launch US military action… Kerry insisted relations remained fundamentally sound, but news of the meetings appears to confirm reports in the Wall Street Journal that the Saudis had threatened to scale back their regional co-operation with the US in protest at what it saw as a misguided Middle East strategy…
“Reuters also quoted Prince Bandar telling European diplomats that the kingdom would be making a ‘major shift’ in relations with Washington over perceived inaction towards the conflict in Syria, and a possible rapprochement with Iran over its nuclear program. Saudi Arabia is understood to be upset at perceived US weakness over Iran – and wants more aggressive steps taken to prevent Tehran’s development of nuclear weapons technology – and Egypt, where the US has severed military ties with the new government in protest at crackdowns on demonstrators…
“These are the latest signs that a US policy of rapprochement with Iran is causing friction with existing allies in the region, following similar concerns expressed by Israel. Washington is also struggling to maintain good relations with France, Brazil, and Germany over separate arguments about surveillance by the National Security Agency. But the row with Saudi Arabia threatens to destabilise one of the strongest diplomatic ties in Washington, based historically on mutual oil and security interests. Last week, Riyadh snubbed a US-backed offer to take a seat on the United Nations security council.”
Mail On Line added on October 22:
“In unusually blunt public remarks, [Saudi Arabia’s] Prince Turki al-Faisal called Obama’s policies in Syria ‘lamentable’ and ridiculed a U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons…
“Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds. ‘All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,’ the [unnamed] Saudi source said. He said there would be no further coordination with the United States over the war in Syria, where the Saudis have armed and financed rebel groups fighting Assad.”
“America’s Not in Decline… It’s on the Rise”
Believe it or not, this ridiculous article was published on October 20 by the Washington Post. The authors, Ely Ratner and Thomas Wright, begin to describe correctly the ACCURATE international reaction to the most current developments, as follows:
“It’s been a banner month for the oracles of American decline. The shutdown of the federal government, the prospect of a default on the country’s debt, and the political dysfunction that made the United States seem rudderless on Syria and forced the cancellation of President Obama’s trip to Asia seemed to confirm that the end of American preeminence is finally upon us.
“Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass argued that Washington was ‘hastening the emergence of a post-American world.’ The Guardian’s Timothy Garton Ash wrote that ‘the erosion of American power is happening faster than most of us predicted — while the politicians in Washington behave like rutting stags with locked antlers.’ And the financial Web site MarketWatch declared: ‘This is what decline of a superpower looks like.’…”
But then, the opinion is uttered that these concerns are baseless, and that a glorious future is ahead of the USA. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. But read yourself the statements in the article:
“Despite gridlock in Washington, America is recovering from the financial crisis and combining enduring strengths with new sources of influence… Meanwhile, emerging powers are running into troubles of their own. Taken together, these developments are ushering in a new era of American strategic advantage… the United States is experiencing a turnaround of fortunes. The unemployment rate has fallen to just over 7 percent from an October 2009 peak of 10 percent. By contrast, euro-zone unemployment remains stuck at around 12 percent.”
This is so wrong. These figures (even though lamentable per se) are terribly misleading, as they do not include those who are self-employed and who have lost their business; who are part-time or under-employed, and who have given up on even claiming unemployment.
The article continues:
“In this dawning era of strategic advantage, the United States will confront foreign policy challenges largely associated with weakness and instability abroad… The Middle East will continue its painful and bloody revolution. And Europe appears increasingly unable to move beyond protracted stagnation, eroding its ability to play a constructive role in world affairs.”
This world view is hopelessly naïve and unrealistic. It’s mere wishful thinking. It reminds us of the false prophets of old, at the time of Jeremiah, who proclaimed peace and security, while captivity and slavery were awaiting the nation. The same is true today. Don’t listen to these false prognosticators of incorrect fantasies… they are lulling the people to sleep and don’t help them at all.
Schwarzenegger for President?
The Washington Times wrote on October 18:
“Hollywood action star and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been quietly lobbying key politicos for a legal loophole or a constitutional change that would clear the path for him to run for president in 2016. If allowed, Mr. Schwarzenegger would face off against Hillary Rodham Clinton, The New York Post reported… ‘Schwarzenegger has been talking openly about working on getting the constitutional rules changed so he can run for president in 2016,’ a source said, The Post reported. ‘He is ready to file legal paperwork to challenge the rules.’
“The actor was born in Austria, making him ineligible to seek the high office. The Constitution states plainly that one of the requirements for a U.S. president is to be a natural born citizen. Section One Article Two states: ‘No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of president.’
“The loophole language could be the definition of ‘natural born citizen,’ legal minds have argued. Columbia University Law School professor Michael Dorf said, The Post reported: ‘The law is very clear, but it’s not 100 percent clear that the courts would enforce that law rather than leave it to the political process.’
“Meanwhile, there’s little doubt that the Hollywood icon would run if he could. Mr. Schwarzenegger became a legal U.S. citizen in 1983, and in 2010 he was asked during a ‘Tonight Show’ appearance if he would seek the presidency if the law allowed. His answer: ‘Without any doubt.’”
One has to wait and see what will develop. After all, there are still nagging doubts and many unresolved answers whether Barack Obama is a “natural born citizen” under the Constitution and therefore eligible to hold the office of President.
Obama Administration to Give Iran Billions of Dollars?
The Associated Press reported on October 18:
“The Obama administration is weighing whether to offer Iran the chance to recoup billions of dollars in frozen overseas assets if it takes steps to scale back its nuclear program, U.S. officials and congressional aides said Friday. The proposal would face a skeptical Congress determined to make the end of Tehran’s uranium enrichment activity the condition for any sanctions relief.
“The brainstorming comes after two days of nuclear negotiations between Iran and world powers ended this week in Geneva. The talks — the first since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took office — ended on an upbeat note although it fell short of specific and concrete commitments by Iran to stop enriching uranium or ship out its stockpiles of higher-enriched uranium…
“Under the plan being weighed, Iran would be able to access money from oil sales overseas that it currently can only barter with because of U.S. and international sanctions. Senate aides put the total between $50 billion and $75 billion. It’s not clear what Iran would have to do in return to prompt the Obama administration to allow banks to release the money.”
Iran would be happy to get that money, while NEVER agreeing to forsaking their nuclear program…
USA Guilty of War Crimes?
The Guardian wrote on October 21:
“US officials responsible for the secret CIA drone campaign against suspected terrorists in Pakistan may have committed war crimes and should stand trial, a report by a leading human rights group warns. Amnesty International has highlighted the case of a grandmother who was killed while she was picking vegetables and other incidents which could have broken international laws designed to protect civilians.
“The report is issued in conjunction with an investigation by Human Rights Watch detailing missile attacks in Yemen which the group believes could contravene the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law and Barack Obama’s own guidelines on drones… The US has repeatedly claimed very few civilians have been killed by drones. It argues its campaign is conducted ‘consistent with all applicable domestic and international law’.”
Frightening Incompetency in the US Air Force
Fox News wrote on October 23:
“Four Air Force officers who were entrusted with the launch keys to nuclear-tipped missiles have been punished for leaving open blast doors intended to help prevent a terrorist or other intruder from entering their post while they were sleeping. Air Force officials confirm to Fox News that twice this year alone, Air Force officers were caught leaving open blast doors. The doors are never to be left open if one of the crew members inside is asleep — as was the case in both these instances — out of concern for the damage an intruder could cause, including the compromising of secret launch codes.
“Transgressions such as these, which were first reported by the Associated Press, are rarely revealed publicly. But officials with direct knowledge of Air Force intercontinental ballistic missile operations told the AP that such violations have happened, undetected, many more times than in the cases of the two launch crew commanders and two deputy commanders who were given administrative punishments this year. The blast door violations are another sign of serious trouble in the handling of the nation’s nuclear arsenal. The Associated Press has discovered a series of problems within the ICBM force, including a failed safety inspection, the temporary sidelining of launch officers deemed unfit for duty and the abrupt firing last week of the two-star general in charge.”
30 Million People Enslaved Today
Reuters reported on October 17:
“Some 30 million people are enslaved worldwide, trafficked into brothels, forced into manual labor, victims of debt bondage or even born into servitude, a global index on modern slavery showed on Thursday. Almost half are in India, where slavery ranges from bonded labor in quarries and kilns to commercial sex exploitation, although the scourge exists in all 162 countries surveyed by Walk Free, an Australian-based rights group… almost 21 million people are [estimated to be] victims of forced labour…
“The Global Slavery Index 2013 defines slavery as the possession or control of people to deny freedom and exploit them for profit or sex, usually through violence, coercion or deception. The definition includes indentured servitude, forced marriage and the abduction of children to serve in wars. According to the index, 10 countries alone account for three quarters of the world’s slaves.
“After India, China has the most with 2.9 million, followed by Pakistan (2.1 million), Nigeria (701,000), Ethiopia (651,000), Russia (516,000), Thailand (473,000), Democratic Republic of Congo (462,000), Myanmar (384,000) and Bangladesh (343,000)…
“At the other end of the scale, Iceland has the lowest estimated prevalence with fewer than 100 slaves. Next best are Ireland, Britain, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Finland and Denmark, although researchers said slave numbers in such wealthy countries were higher than previously thought…”
It is interesting that the countries with the lowest percentage of slaves are all of Israelite descent, while the countries with the highest percentage are all of non-Israelite descent. Sadly, it will be many of the Israelite nations who will find themselves in slavery and captivity of war in the not-too-distant future.
France Prohibits Freedom of Conscience
AFP wrote on October 19:
“France’s Constitutional Council ruled on Friday that the country’s mayors cannot refuse to officiate at same-sex weddings, rejecting a bid by a group of mayors who claimed gay marriage went against their moral or religious beliefs.
“The Constitutional Council’s ruling followed an appeal by mayors and registrars opposed to France’s controversial bill legalising same-sex marriages, which came into effect in May this year. They argued that the same-sex marriage bill should have included a ‘freedom of conscience’ clause, giving officiators the right not to carry out same-sex marriages if it conflicts with their personal religious or moral beliefs. The lack of such a clause in the bill goes against the French constitution, they claim.
“But the Council, France’s highest legal authority, rejected this argument in its ruling on Friday morning. Jean-Michel Colo, the Mayor of Arcangues in southwest France who hit headlines in June when he became the first official to refuse to marry a gay couple, denounced the Council’s decision. ‘The Constitutional Council has been manipulated by politics. It is a political decision,’ he told AFP.
“Colo said that the group of mayors would now take their case to the European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile, the group Manif Pour Tous, which has been at the forefront of protests against the legalisation of same-sex marriage, said it supports ‘all the mayors who courageously dare to assert their right to freedom of conscience’. The organisation says a petition it launched in defence of the right of mayors not to officiate at gay weddings has collected more than 80,000 signatures.
“In France [as well as in Germany and many other European countries], marriages can only be made official by state authorities, though many couples also celebrate religious weddings.”
France Immigration Debacle
Der Spiegel Online wrote on October 21:
“French Interior Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday defended his decision to deport a 15-year-old Roma girl and her family to Kosovo after they lost their bid for asylum. The deportation has prompted calls for the minister’s resignation by students and leftist groups. Valls, the point person on immigration policy in François Hollande’s Socialist government, has been assailed in the French media ever since police detained Leonarda Dibrani in front of her classmates while on a fieldtrip on Oct. 9. Dibrani and the rest of her family, who were living in Levier in eastern France, were all flown to Kosovo that day.
“Thousands of secondary school students demonstrated in Paris and across the country last week against the government, while some politicians have backed students’ demands that Valls step down, according to French media…
“The interior minister has taken a hard line on illegal immigration, causing a rift within his own center-left party. Valls argued last month that France’s 20,000 Roma migrants were ‘different’ and not capable of integrating into French society, suggesting they should be returned to their countries of origin… Hollande was criticized on both the left and the right for the move. The leader of the center-right opposition Union for a Popular Movement accused the prime minister of undermining the ‘authority of the state,’ while the Left Party called the decision not to allow her family to join her one of ‘abject cruelty’…
“The Dibrani case appears to have further damaged the popularity of the embattled Hollande. A new poll published Sunday by the Journal de Dimanche gave him a record low approval rating of 23 percent. However, a survey conducted by French pollster BVA, published in Saturday’s Le Parisien, showed that around 77 percent of the French public support Valls’ stance on the situation, indicating continued French unease with immigration.
“Over 10,000 Roma — mostly from Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia — were forcefully evicted from informal settlements in France during the first half of 2013, according to a recent report by Amnesty International.”
For additional information, please view our new StandingWatch program, “France in Prophecy.”
France Appalled by US Spying Activities
The Associated Press reported on October 21:
“The U.S. National Security Agency swept up 70.3 million French telephone records in a 30-day period, according to a newspaper report Monday that offered new details of the massive scope of a surveillance operation that has angered some of the country’s closest allies. The French government summoned the U.S. ambassador for an explanation on Monday and renewed demands for talks on protection of personal data, as well as pledges that the surveillance would cease…
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government canceled a Cold War-era agreement that allowed the U.S. and Britain the authority to request German authorities to conduct surveillance operations within the country to protect their troops stationed there. Privacy is especially cherished in Germany after the country’s painful history of mass surveillance of citizens of communist East Germany and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi state.
“‘I can understand the anger in France. You don’t do that among partners. You don’t do that among friends. That is why it is important that everything becomes clear what happened. That applies to France. It applies to other countries, and also for Germany,’ German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Monday…”
US Allies Outraged
Deutsche Welle reported on October 22:
“The revelations of US espionage have angered several US allies. On Sunday, the Mexican Foreign Ministry demanded answers from Washington after the publication of a separate article alleging NSA-snooping on Mexico. The latest revelations stemmed from an article published by the German news magazine Der Spiegel which said the US surveillance program had been spying on Mexico for years… Last week, Deutsche Telekom announced a plan to shield domestic Internet traffic from foreign spying. The telecommunications giant aims to strengthen data privacy in Germany by preventing it from leaving its borders and opting instead to channel it through domestic servers only.”
NPR added on October 22:
“The fallout from revelations about the National Security Agency’s spying activities continues: A key European Parliament committee approved new rules strengthening online privacy and outlawing the kind of surveillance the U.S. has been conducting. NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson says the legislation could also have significant implications for U.S. Internet companies.”
The Associated Press added on October 23:
“European lawmakers on Wednesday called for the suspension of an agreement that grants U.S. authorities access to bank data for terror-related investigations, marking a sharp official rebuke of Washington’s surveillance programs. The European Parliament’s resolution, adopted in a 280-254 vote with 30 abstentions, is not binding. The agreement could only be suspended by a two-thirds majority of the 28-nation bloc’s member states.”
Did USA Spy on Angela Merkel?
BBC News reported on October 23:
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called US President Barack Obama after receiving information that the US may have spied on her mobile phone. A spokesman for Mrs Merkel said the German leader ‘views such practices… as completely unacceptable’… [and calling any spying activities on Merkel “a grave breach of trust.”] The White House said President Obama had told Chancellor Merkel the US was not snooping on her communications… The US has been on the receiving end of anger from allies over spying allegations based on material said to originate from fugitive American leaker Edward Snowden… But the spokesman did not address whether Mrs Merkel’s phone had been monitored in the past.”
In an accompanying “analysis,” BBC News stated this:
“The language in the White House statement responding to allegations that the NSA monitored Angela Merkel’s private mobile phone is deliberately precise. ‘The president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring and will not monitor the communications of Chancellor Merkel.’ It did not deny possible past surveillance on her phone.
“Clearly, Angela Merkel believes these allegations are plausible enough to confront directly Barack Obama, in what must have been an awkward conversation.Tonight at the White House there was supposed to be a state dinner for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. But she cancelled the visit last month following allegations that the NSA snooped on her personal communications.
“Only on Monday, President Obama had to reassure his French counterpart, Francois Hollande, over allegations published in Le Monde of electronic eavesdropping on French political figures and business leaders on a vast scale. The diplomatic backlash is getting fiercer by the day.”
The Associated Press added on October 23:
“In Germany, opposition politicians, the media and privacy activists have been vocal in their outrage over the U.S. eavesdropping. Up until now, Merkel had worked hard to contain the damage to U.S.-German relations and refrained from saying anything bad about the Americans.”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on October 23, 2013:
“During her conversation with Obama, Merkel expressed her expectation that ‘US authorities would provide an explanation about the possible extent of such surveillance practices, and thus answer questions that the German government already posed months ago’…”
In possibly spying on Angela Merkel, the USA might have gone too far and might have taken too big a bite of the apple—being unable to swallow it.
Europeans Angry with the USA
Der Spiegel wrote on October 24:
“The newest allegations of US spying have unleashed a torrent of criticism and concern in Europe. If suspicions unearthed by SPIEGEL that the US tapped Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone turn out to be true, the ramifications for trans-Atlantic ties could be immense.
“Leading politicians and media commentators in Germany expressed serious concern on Thursday following allegations that US intelligence agencies had tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. Merkel’s spokesman confirmed that she placed an angry call Wednesday night to United States President Barack Obama to discuss the suspicions, which arose from an inquiry by SPIEGEL. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle took the unusual step Thursday morning of summoning the US ambassador, John B. Emerson…
“The news agency Reuters reported that representatives of both Merkel and French President François Hollande said the two would have a one-on-one meeting on the US spying issue Thursday afternoon before the start of a two-day EU summit in Brussels.
“And the German Federal Prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe is also looking into the new allegations of US spying, setting up a so-called ‘monitoring process,’ and requiring the appropriate federal agencies to supply them with relevant reliable information. The agency started a similar process at the end of June to look into possible activities by the NSA in Germany. That process is still ongoing, a spokesman said. Claudia Roth, the outgoing co-leader of the German Green Party, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the alleged bugging of Angela Merkel’s cell phone is a ‘terrible, terrible scandal’ that will lead to a ‘meltdown’ in German-US relations… adding that the allegations, if proven, are a more extreme invasion of privacy than those imagined in George Orwell’s 1984.
“Sharp criticism also came from German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière… De Maizière went on to say that he had assumed for years his own phone had been tapped. ‘However, I did not expect the Americans,’ he added. Asked about possible effects on US-German and US-European relations, de Maizière said: ‘We can’t simply return to business as usual. There are allegations in France, too.’ Diplomatic relations between France and the US have been strained following reports that millions of French calls had been monitored by US intelligence agencies.
“‘The allegation shows once again that our fears have been confirmed,’ said Thomas Oppermann, chairman of the Parliamentary Control Panel, which is responsible for monitoring Germany’s federal intelligence services. ‘The NSA’s monitoring activities have gotten completely out of hand and evidently take place beyond all democratic controls,’ continued the center-left Social Democrat…
“German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has called for Merkel’s government to suspend the SWIFT deal between the EU and US, which governs the transfer of some bank data from the EU to anti-terror authorities in the United States. ‘The new suspicion exceeds all bounds. The NSA affair is not over,’ she said, calling for EU bodies to ‘decide quickly’ on the matter.
“German media commentators also reacted angrily on Thursday. ‘A greater affront by a friendly country is hardly conceivable,’ wrote the prominent center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung in a front-page commentary that criticized Merkel’s government for initially downplaying the US spying scandal. ‘But the new allegations also cast a new light on Obama and the US intelligence community. During his visit to Germany, the US president grandly promised a trustful cooperation. But even Merkel now seems to have lost her belief in that. It’s hard to even imagine how Obama’s intelligence services deal with hostile states when one sees how they behave toward their closest allies.’
“The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung cautioned readers that nothing had yet been proven regarding the chancellor’s mobile phone, but it also emphasized the extent to which the US spying scandal has already damaged diplomatic relations. ‘As Obama’s cool reaction shows, the government in Washington has apparently not yet understood the level of damage that continues to be caused by the activities of American intelligence agencies in Europe. They have diminished the trans-Atlantic relationship — even to a major degree.’
“Elsewhere in Europe, other editorialists also reacted with outrage to the latest spying allegations. Conservative Paris daily Le Figaro called the news ‘a warning shot in the direction of the US and a call for a resolute response from the EU. Europe is not discovering the NSA wiretapping scandal now. But with a personal accusation from Angela Merkel, the matter takes on a spectacular new scale.’
“Even if the cell-phone allegation turns out to be false, writes right-leaning Milan daily Corriere della Sera, ‘it doesn’t change anything of the substance. … The real central issue is that a threshold has already been crossed… [The] left-wing Guardian newspaper on Wednesday evening… question[ed] what it means ‘to be an American ally in the 21st century.’”
NSA Scandal in Germany—More and More Details Come to Light
The Guardian wrote on October 24:
“Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, has called the US ambassador to a personal meeting to discuss allegations that US secret services bugged Angela Merkel’s mobile phone. The decision to call in John B Emerson, who has only been the US representative in Berlin since mid-August, is an unusually drastic measure. During previous upheavals in relations, such as over the Syrian crisis, conversations have taken place between diplomats.
“Allegations that the US government’s spying had reached the highest level were met with outrage and disappointment in Germany on Thursday. On Wednesday Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, made plain that the chancellor upbraided Obama unusually sharply… The sharpness of the German complaint direct[ed] to a US president strongly suggested that Berlin had no doubt about the grounds for protest…
“On Thursday Süddeutsche Zeitung conveyed a strong sense of the depth of disillusionment with the US president in Germany when it wrote that ‘Barack Obama is not a Nobel peace prize winner, he is a troublemaker’… Die Zeit wrote that Obama’s ‘half-hearted denial’ of the allegations raised more questions than it answered…”
The German press reported that the NSA spying activity on Angela Merkel might have emanated from the US Embassy in Berlin. In addition, according to an article of the Guardian, dated October 24, 2013, the “NSA monitored [the telephone] calls of 35 world leaders.”
Obama—the Isolated “Ice-Cold” President
Der Spiegel Online wrote on October 24:
“US President Barack Obama… has failed to foster close relationships with other heads of state, causing much frustration around the world… The Democrat, who prefers to spend his evenings with his family or alone in front of his computer, has made it no secret in Washington that he does not want to make new friends. That maxim especially applies to his foreign diplomacy. Unlike his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama is loved by the people of the world, but much less by their heads of government. On the heels of recent revelations that US spy agencies might have monitored Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone, the complaints about Merkel’s ‘lost friend’ Obama are misplaced. Obama doesn’t want to be a friend
“During a recent visit by a European head of government to Washington, the atmosphere was described as frosty by those in the entourage from Europe. Obama didn’t find the time for even a little small talk…
“Obama angered Nicolas Sarkozy by choosing to dine with his family instead of with France’s then-president during his visit to Paris. The Polish and Czech heads of state informed the president by telephone that they would not install a long-planned missile defense system. And when it comes to Britain, traditionally America’s closest partner, Obama was initially uncomfortable with the long-held notion of a ‘special relationship’ between the two countries. He may have expressed his vision for the friendship when, on his state visit, he brought the queen an iPod as a gift. London was not amused.
“The frustration extended well beyond the typical bruised vanities of the Europeans… An African head of government said during a visit to Washington that he longed for the days of George W. Bush. At least with him, he said, one knew where one stood… Israel, one of the closest allies of the US, was irritated that Obama didn’t find time for a state visit during his first term in office. Obama let the relationships with Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s president, and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki deteriorate so much that the troop withdrawals grew more difficult.
“And Obama promised the Asian diplomats that he would be the ‘Pacific president,’ but he just cancelled his trip to the continent because the budget debate was more important to him. So much non-diplomacy is new among US presidents… ‘Coolness has its price,’ Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl wrote in 2010, adding that Obama appeared to have no genuine friend among world leaders. But what for? He has the NSA.”
The German Success Story
Deutsche Welle reported on October 19:
“The world is fascinated by Europe’s biggest economy. Despite the economic crisis, Germany has grown, created more jobs, and reduced its national debt… Around 100,000 new engineers and scientists arrive on the job market every year – young men and women who have just received a top class education at one of the 200 engineering schools, or in the technical faculty of a university. But also uneducated, still well-qualified workers also contribute to the country’s high productivity…
“Having a good product is often no longer enough to compete with low-wage economies in Asia. The ‘Made in Germany’ now includes a number of extra services. ‘A company now doesn’t just sell a machine – it installs it, it trains the buyer’s staff in how to use it, it offers a 24-hour repairs service,’ said Röhl. ‘At the end of the day it practically goes so far as to guarantee the machine’s performance.’
“One guarantee for the success of the ‘Germany Model’ is advanced technologies. Germany is practically forced to innovate, because it doesn’t have any real natural resources. As many as 11 percent of German workers are employed in high-tech industries – far more than the EU average. Every year, around 70 billion euros ($96 billion) is spent on research – more than in any other European country… only hard facts count when it comes to infrastructure. But here, too, Germany passes the stress test.
“Only a few countries in the world can boast such well-developed networks in energy, telecommunications, roads, rail, and aviation. Every European country is within a few hours’ journey of Berlin – and the country’s geographical location may well make up the final piece of the puzzle. That, and the moderate climate. ‘We don’t have any heat waves or tornadoes that could act as shocks to the system,’ said Brückner. ‘It is relatively moderate and cool, which has meant that through the centuries better growth and production conditions have appeared than at the edges of Europe. And Germany has profited from that too.’”
Germany is destined to lead Europe. Even though some human and natural factors might contribute to its success story, the most important reason is that Germany must fulfill its prophesied future.
Germany Undisputed Leader of Europe
Der Spiegel Online wrote on October 21:
“At the beginning of her third term, Merkel has more power in Germany and Europe than any chancellor before her. There hasn’t been such a strong majority behind a government in Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, since the first grand coalition half a century ago. In the midst of the European crisis, Germany has become the undisputed dominant power in Europe.
“The grand coalition will hand Merkel a majority she could use to shape Germany and Europe and address major issues, including constitutional reforms in Germany and the reform of European Union institutions.”
Beware of Genetically Modified Salmon
The Telegraph wrote on October 20:
“American supermarkets are being pressured to refuse to stock genetically-modified salmon, which is poised to become the first GM animal ever approved for human consumption in the coming weeks. A so-called ‘super salmon’, which has been under development in Massachusetts for 18 years, is expected to be cleared for sale soon by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“The AquAdvantage salmon, which contains genes from an eel-like fish and from another breed of salmon, grows twice as fast as its natural alternative, allowing for increased and more robust supplies… opponents claim the fish poses a risk of cancer to consumers and could destroy other breeds. They also point to polling suggesting that some 90 per cent of Americans do not want GM fish to go on sale.”
One of the many obvious problems is that the genetically-modified salmon contains genes from an eel—an unclean fish, which is not meant for human consumption.