Germany’s Witchcraft Hysteria
The Local wrote on May 23:
“If there was a World Cup for witch-burnings, the Germans would be undisputed Weltmeister. While those suspected of witchcraft had been persecuted across the Holy Roman Empire as early as the 12th and 13th centuries, things really didn’t kick off until the publication of the Malleus Maleficarum, or ‘Hammer of Witches’ in 1487. This deeply misogynistic text was written by a priest called Heinrich Kramer in response to his failed attempts to persecute some ‘witches’ in the Tirol region… The Malleus Maleficarum effectively gave communities a rubber stamp for acts of mass hysteria. All it took was one person with a grudge to set a spark amongst kindling, accusing someone (usually an older woman) of cursing or hexing them…
“In 1615, local healer and grumpy old woman, Katharina Kepler (mother of one of the greatest minds of all time, the astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler) was accused of cursing a neighbour’s daughter. Trouble had (been) brewing for a while between her and a rival, who just so happened to be the grandmother of the neighbour’s daughter and it was only a matter of time before allegations of sorcery started flying.
“Mama Kepler was soon thrown into prison… There she was held in filth and squalor for months until Johannes (who was serving as the Holy Roman Emperor’s mathematician over in Linz) heard and came and raised hell. This kept the angry townsfolk off her back, but only for a while. In 1620 the city fathers grew brave enough to try again. This time Johannes came back and pulled every string he knew of to slow the process…
“Now, in these times, the only way someone could be punished was through a confession. In the absence of a fair, sane and reasonable legal system, most of early modern Europe figured the best way to do this was via prolonged bouts of torture with the rack, thumbscrews, fire and tongs. Katharina was lucky – she only had to look at these implements of pain before refusing to confess and being released. Other women weren’t so lucky. Thousands of women across Germany between the 15th and 17th centuries were maimed and broken before finally being consigned to the flames.
“The experience must have been traumatic for Katharina, however. Coupled with the extended periods of incarceration, Katharina ended up dying the next year, a broken woman. Compared to most, however, Katharina Kepler’s fate is fairly benign… Over a thousand people including children would be executed in the years between 1626 and 1631 [in Würzburg and Bamberg] as hysteria swept the region.
“The persecution of women as witches would only be quashed by the arrival of the Enlightenment, and even then, small pockets of hysteria would persist well into the 18th century. As late as the 1730s, children were being accused of witchcraft in Augsburg. Compared to other historical genocides, such as the Holocaust, the medieval persecution of Jews and the Spanish Inquisition, the witch trials of Europe seem relatively small scale.
“But it is important to highlight and remember the fate of these women; victims of an insidious, almost unstoppable societal force in mass hysteria. It’s a force that, much to our chagrin, we’ve still yet to conquer.”
The last remark is worthwhile contemplating about. The Bible foretells that in these end times, due to mass hysteria, many Jews and Sabbath-keeping Christians will be persecuted and killed.
Terrible Superstitions in Tanzania
The Independent wrote on May 23:
“Two witch doctors have been arrested after an albino woman was found murdered and mutilated in Tanzania. Police in the Simiyu region said the 40-year-old victim was murdered overnight earlier this month and the attackers had hacked off her left leg, the index and middle fingers of her left hand and part of her left thumb…
“People with albinism are often subjected to violent attacks in the country, where they are known as the ‘zeru zeru’ or ghosts. The condition is heavily stigmatised and families who see it as a curse have known to kick relatives out of their homes.
“But sufferers are also a target for traditional healers, who harvest body parts to make potions for wealth, success and even election victories… The two arrested witchdoctors, a 45-year-old man and 52-year-old woman, were reportedly known in the victim’s village and police are also hunting for her boyfriend.
“Police said the woman had two children and had sent her eight-year-old daughter to a witch doctor on the day of her murder for herbal medicine to treat her backache. The healer reportedly told the girl not to return home to her sick mother because it would stop the ‘medicine’ working and instructed her to stay with her aunt. That night, the woman was murdered and her grossly mutilated body was discovered outside of her home by her niece the next morning… [There is concern] that attacks will increase in the run-up to elections in October, when the demand for potions made from albino body parts is expected to increase…”
God is extremely angry about these kinds of terrible superstitions around the world—Tanzania just being one example out of many—and He will soon intervene to bring an end to man’s worship of demons and their human agents.
Women Bishops in the Anglican Church
The Associated Press reported on May 23:
“The Church of England says all its dioceses have voted to let women serve as bishops, leaving just one major hurdle to changing centuries of church practice. The issue has long divided the Anglican Communion, a Christian denomination with more than 80 million adherents worldwide.
“Anglican churches in Australia, New Zealand and the United States already have women serving as bishops. The Church of England has grappled for years with whether to admit women to the hierarchy. The church’s governing General Synod voted in February to send draft legislation allowing female bishops to its 44 dioceses. The church said Friday that all had voted in favor, with Manchester, the last to do so, deciding Thursday.
“The legislation will now go back to the Synod in July for a final vote.”
The Bible specifically FORBIDS women from serving in the ministry and preaching from the pulpit.
Pope Francis and the State of Palestine
The Telegraph wrote on May 25:
“Pope Francis prayed in silence and pressed his forehead against the wall that separates Jerusalem from the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Sunday, during a visit which Palestinians claimed as affirmation of their claim to statehood… It was an unprecedented gesture which delighted Palestinians. They were also pleased that during his various addresses in Bethlehem, Francis used the term ‘State of Palestine’.
“His decision to travel to Bethlehem by helicopter direct from Amman, where he spent the first day of his three-day visit to the Holy Land, was also interpreted by both Christian and Muslim Palestinians as tacit recognition of the fight for a Palestinian homeland. ‘The fact that he came straight from Jordan is a sign that the Pope sees Palestine as a state,’ said Ilias Abdo, 59, a Christian clergyman from Bethlehem. ‘That was a deliberate decision – it was not by chance. This is a political visit as much as a religious one. He is hinting at recognition of an independent Palestinian state.’”
Working Towards Unity Between Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches
Deutsche Welle wrote on May 25:
“Pope Francis has met with Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I in Jerusalem, with the two religious leaders praying for Christian unity. The meeting was a highlight of the pontiff’s three-day Middle East trip. Sunday’s joint prayer took place at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, revered in Christian tradition as being built on the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
“While praying together for further unity between the eastern and western branches of Christianity, the two leaders knelt side by side on the Stone of the Anointing, where the body of Jesus is said to have been laid before burial. Earlier, Francis and Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, signed a landmark pledge to pursue a common dialogue reaffirming values common to the Catholic and Orthodox churches… The pledge was signed in the presence of representatives of 13 Catholic and Orthodox churches in Jerusalem.
“The meeting was billed as the main reason for the pope’s three-day trip to the Middle East. It commemorated the historic rapprochement between both branches of the Christian church 50 years ago, when Pope Paul VI met and embraced Patriarch Athenagoras. That encounter marked the first easing of tension between the Churches since the Great Schism in the 11th century, which split Rome from Constantinople, the seat of Orthodoxy.”
Navigating the Minefield of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Reuters wrote on May 26:
“Pope Francis navigated the minefield of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and humbly bowed to kiss the hands of Holocaust survivors on Monday, the last day of a successful Mideast trip laden with bold personal gestures… The fourth pope to visit Israel, Francis had earlier became the first to lay a wreath at the tomb of Theodor Herzl, seen as the founder of modern Zionism that led to Israel’s foundation…
“A day packed with political and religious encounters began at the gold-topped Dome of the Rock, the pope taking off his shoes before walking into the Jerusalem shrine from which Muslims believe the Prophet Mohammed climbed to heaven. Francis then went to pray at the adjacent Western Wall, one (of) the Jews’ most revered shrines and a sole remnant of their sacred Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. There, he, a rabbi, and an Islamic leader – both friends from his native Argentina he invited to make the trip with him – embraced in a sign of the inter-religious dialogue that Francis is convinced can be a catalyst for peace in the region…
“The pope made one of his boldest political gestures on Sunday when he unexpectedly intervened in flailing diplomatic efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, inviting the presidents from the two sides to his Vatican residence to pray for peace. The meeting is expected to take place on June 6. Both Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, who plays no decision-making role in Israeli diplomacy and leaves office in July, accepted the offer, which came just a month after U.S.-led peace talks collapsed amid bitter, mutual recrimination… However, there was little real hope that the unusual prayer meet could break decades of mutual mistrust, and Netanyahu, the key Israeli decision-maker, made no mention of the initiative.
“Francis’s final engagement saw him celebrating Mass in the Cenacle, a vaulted hall just beyond the walls of the Old City, which is revered by Christians as the room of the Last Supper. The floor below contains what some Jews believe to be the tomb of King David…”
Praying to the Madonna
Zenit reported on May 27:
“Pope Francis made a private visit to the basilica of Saint Mary Major on Tuesday morning to thank Our Lady for the positive outcome of his apostolic visit to the Holy Land… Pope Francis arrived at Saint Mary Major at about 11am with a bouquet of flowers for Our Lady to thank her for the good outcome of his journey and to entrust to Her the fruits of his pilgrimage.
“After gathering in prayer before the image of the Madonna Salus Populi Romani, the Pope greeted the faithful present in the basilica before leaving at about 11.30am. Pope Francis made an unannounced visit to the same basilica on Friday morning before departing for his Holy Land journey. He had done the same thing before his journey to Brazil in July 2013. Today’s visit to the basilica of Saint Mary Major is his ninth since the beginning of his Pontificate.”
Israel’s Notice to the World
The Times of Israel wrote on May 27:
“Housing minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) said Tuesday that there would be no freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank or Jerusalem… ‘There will be just one state between the Jordan River and the sea, and that is the State of Israel,’ Ariel stated at the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva in the capital. ‘Jerusalem will not be divided again,’ he added. ‘There are no [construction] freezes and there will be no more freezes — we won’t allow it. We won’t accept delays and restrictions [on building], not in Jerusalem and not in Judea and Samaria.’…
“One of the most hawkish members of Knesset, he was elected to parliament as No. 2 on the Orthodox-nationalist Jewish Home slate, after its leader Naftali Bennett… Several right-wing MKs led by Bennett have in recent days come out in support of annexing Jewish sites and Jewish settlement blocs in the West Bank, and have been working on legislation to that effect. The initiative has presumably come in response to Netanyahu’s comments last week in an interview with Bloomberg, in which he hinted that Israel may have to take unilateral action in response to failed negotiations with the Palestinians.
“The statements were interpreted by hawkish MK’s as a call for annexation, while more dovish elements in the government, Tzipi Livni among them, said the time may have come to consider a unilateral pullout from certain areas in the West Bank. Sources close to Netanyahu were later quoted saying he did not have unilateral withdrawals from territory in mind…”
After the “Election”–Ukraine Far Away from Peace and Stability
The Wall Street Journal wrote on May 25:
“Petro Poroshenko declared victory in Ukraine’s presidential election Sunday after exit polls showed the pro-Europe chocolate tycoon won more than half the vote, but separatists largely blocked voting in parts of the east. The shuttered polling stations across Donbas—the restive region in Ukraine’s southeast where armed pro-Russia rebels have declared a separatist republic—showed the colossal obstacle Mr. Poroshenko will have to overcome to unite Ukraine and prevent the fractured country from slipping deeper into an already-deadly civil conflict…
“The 48-year-old billionaire pledged to call nationwide parliamentary elections by year’s end. He also promised to guide Ukraine toward Europe with all the government’s power but also vowed to normalize ties with Russia, saying relations with the country’s larger neighbor are more important than they’ve been in centuries. Russian President Vladimir Putin had pledged on Friday to respect the result of Sunday’s elections and work with the new Ukrainian president. Mr. Poroshenko also said he would meet with Mr. Putin, pointing out the impossibility of ensuring security in the region without Russia’s participation…
“Despite vowing to normalize relations with Russia, Mr. Poroshenko was firm on retaining Ukraine’s boundaries. ‘Ukraine will never recognize the illegitimate referendum and occupation of Crimea,’ he said…
“Ms. Tymoshenko finished second, according to the exit polls, which said she won 12.4% to 12.9% of the vote. She gave a concession speech calling for national unity and pledging to help the Ukrainian government move toward membership in the European Union. It marked a low point in the political career of the former prime minister, who came in a close second in the 2010 presidential race against Mr. Yanukovych. She was jailed the next year on charges of abuse of office in connection with a Russian gas deal in what Ms. Tymoshenko called a political vendetta. She was released as Mr. Yanukovych fled to Russia upon his ouster.
“Exit polls also showed that Ukrainian boxer turned politician Vitali Klitschko had emerged victorious in the race for Kiev mayor. Initially he had been running for president but dropped out of the national race after allying with Mr. Poroshenko.
“One surprise in the exit polls was the rise of the third-place finisher Oleh Lyashko, a radical nationalist member of parliament who appeared to have notched between 8% and 9% of the vote. Mr. Lyashko campaigned in part by sending his alleged ‘battalions’ of armed men into the east to capture separatists, photos or videos of whom he would post online. Human Rights Watch condemned the activities…”
BBC News added on May 25:
“President Vladimir Putin has said Moscow will respect the election results. But respect is not quite the same as recognition. Russia may decide that any actions by Mr Poroshenko to put down the insurgency in the east will be unacceptable.
“We’ve also heard that Mr Poroshenko could be a man Moscow can work with. He’s a businessman with interests in Russia. The Russians have some familiarity with him…”
More Violence in Ukraine
Deutsche Welle wrote on May 26:
“Ukraine’s military has launched an airstrike on pro-Russian separatists who seized an airport in the eastern city of Donetsk… The attack was a rapid response from the military after the rebels stormed the airport earlier in the day in an apparent sign of defiance to Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday… Fighter jets and attack helicopters strafed the area with heavy firepower, before paratroopers were flown in to recapture the airport.
“Many flights to and from Donetsk, a city of one million, were delayed or canceled on Monday, and access to the airport was blocked by police. The facility was evacuated and sealed off after gunmen claiming to be from the self-declared ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ showed up and demanded Ukrainian troops guarding the perimeter be withdrawn…”
Ultimately, Ukraine will collaborate with Russia—NOT with the EU.
Eurasian Economic Union in the Making
Deutsche Welle reported on May 29:
“A treaty to launch the Eurasian Economic Union spanning Russia, Kazahkstan and Belarus has been signed by the countries’ presidents in the Kazahk capital. The bloc will come into being next January.
“Three ex-Soviet republics took the first step on Thursday to creating a trading bloc with a combined population of 170 million after years of tense negotiations. It still depends on approvals from the republics’ parliaments… At Thursday’s signing in Astana, Kazakhstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Eurasia bloc would enable the trio to strengthen their positions in global markets – alongside the EU, US and China.
“The Eurasian deal stops short of introducing a single currency and delays the creation of a common energy market. The treaty deepens a customs union created in 2010 and is supposed to guarantee the free transit of goods, services, capital and labor, as well as coordinated economic policy… Armenia and Kyrgyzstan have said that they want to join the union later.
“The Eurasian Economic Union will base its executive body in Moscow, a high court in Belarus and a top financial regulator in Kazakhstan… Putin began the drive to create the Eurasian union after asserting in 2005 that the break-up of the Soviet Union had been the ‘biggest geopolitical disaster’ of the 20th century.”
New Security Cooperation Between China, Russia and Iran?
The Japan Times wrote on May 21:
“China’s president called Tuesday for the creation of a new Asian structure for security cooperation based on a regional group that includes Russia and Iran and excludes the U.S. President Xi Jinping spoke at a meeting in Shanghai… to a group of leaders that included Russian President Vladimir Putin…
“The proposal is the latest effort by Beijing to build up groups of Asian or developing governments to offset the influence of the U.S. and other Western governments in global affairs…”
Russia’s Deals With Iran
Breitbart wrote in May 23:
“The Russian government is planning to sign a contract to build up to eight new nuclear reactors in Iran… ‘Russia and Iran may sign an intergovernmental agreement this year on building from four to eight nuclear reactors, and, under the deal, the contract for the construction of the first two reactors as additions to Bushehr,’ the source [to Reuters] added. Bushehr, Iran’s first and only nuclear power plant and the first of its kind in the Middle East, began operating thanks to Russian construction in 2011…
“The news of potentially eight new reactors in Iran comes as the defense ministers of both Iran and Russia meet in Russia. These talks, according to the Associated Press, aim to deepen the relationship between the two countries at a time of high tension between both and the United States. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan invited his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu to Tehran to send a ‘clear message to the Americans.’”
Iran: “Death To America”
The Daily Caller wrote on May 25:
“Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, all but said on Sunday that negotiations over the country’s illicit nuclear program are over and that the Islamic Republic’s ideals include destroying America…
“In response to a question by a parliamentarian on how long this battle will continue, Khamenei said, ‘Battle and jihad are endless because evil and its front continue to exist. … This battle will only end when the society can get rid of the oppressors’ front with America at the head of it, which has expanded its claws on human mind, body and thought. … This requires a difficult and lengthy struggle and need for great strides.’…
“Three days of negotiations in the fourth round of Geneva meetings ended recently without concrete results… diminishing any hope by the Obama administration to claim victory in its approach to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, according to reports from Iran.
“The Obama administration had hoped that with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif showing an eagerness to solve the nuclear issue and address the West’s concerns, there would be a possibility for a negotiated solution. An interim agreement penned last November in Geneva was touted as an ‘historic nuclear deal.’…
“The Iranian delegation last week presented new red lines that could not be crossed, including the expansion of the country’s research and development for its nuclear program, the need of the country to continue enrichment, and the fact that the country’s ballistic missile program — despite U.N. sanctions — is not up for negotiation…”
Peace Talks Between India and Pakistan?
The New York Times wrote on May 27:
“Pakistan’s prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, said on Tuesday that the foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India would meet in the near future, indicating that he sees momentum toward reviving stalled peace talks between the two nations. Mr. Sharif’s statement came after a 50-minute meeting in New Delhi with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi… ‘I explained to the prime minister that we have a common agenda of development, which is not possible to achieve without peace and stability,’ Mr. Sharif told reporters, stressing that it was a time for conciliation, not for ‘accusations and counteraccusations.’…
“Mr. Modi, who spoke about Pakistan in hard-line terms during his election campaign, caught many by surprise by extending invitations to Mr. Sharif and six other leaders of South Asian countries. Each of the leaders met with Mr. Modi for a bilateral discussion before flying home on Tuesday. Such a swift diplomatic move would normally prompt waves of controversy and dispute in India, including among Mr. Modi’s right-wing supporters. But his overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections afforded him an unusual degree of freedom.”
Prince Charles and the British Royal Family Under Russian Attack
The Times of Israel wrote on May 23:
“Vladimir Putin’s English-language news channel launched an extraordinary attack on the British royal family’s historical links to the Nazis, as a row over Prince Charles’s comparison of Putin to Adolf Hitler deepened. Russia Today broadcast a graphic highlighting the British royals’ links to various Nazis while its presenter asserted, ‘If anyone knows real Nazis, it’s the royal family.’
“Among the highlighted connections Russia Today showed were a picture of Charles’s great uncle, Prince Edward the Duke of Windsor, visiting Hitler at his Obersalzberg mountainside retreat in Bavaria, accompanied by the assertion that the American wife of the prince, Wallace Simpson, ‘hung out with Hitler.’ (Edward had to abdicate the monarchy in 1936 to marry her, since she was divorced.)
“The broadcast also noted that the late Princess Sophie — the sister of the current Queen’s husband — Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh — was married to an SS officer; this was Sophie’s first husband, Prince Christoph of Hesse. And it screened a photograph of Charles’s son, Prince Harry, wearing a Nazi uniform at a 2005 fancy-dress party, with the commentary: ‘Prince Charles’s very own son likes to dress up like a Nazi even if it’s just for Halloween.’
“Russia Today’s Thursday assault on the royals came after Moscow demanded an official explanation for Charles’s reported comparison — not denied by the royals — of Putin’s actions in Ukraine to those of Hitler. ‘If these words were really said, then undoubtedly they are not worthy of a future British monarch,’ Russia’s foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in Moscow… Lukashevich slammed Western media for using Charles’s reported words in what he said was a propaganda campaign against Russia…
“UK Prime Minister David Cameron declined to comment on a private conversation, but said: ‘Of course, everyone is entitled to their private opinions.’ Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the future king was ‘free to express himself.’
“Opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband went even further, saying: ‘I think he has got a point about President Putin’s actions, and I think he is absolutely entitled to say that there are real concerns about that.’…
“Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton made a similar comparison at a private event in March… The Russian foreign ministry last month complained to the German ambassador after Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble reportedly drew parallels between Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and Hitler’s aggression in Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II.”
Who in his right mind can doubt that Prince Charles’ assessment of Vladimir Putin is correct? The same can be said about the remarks by Hillary Clinton and Wolfgang Schaeuble, reportedly echoing similar comments by Angela Merkel. The cowardly responses of some of Britain’s politicians (Cameron and Clegg) are shameful. At the same time, RUSSIA’S hypocrisy is appalling, considering Russia’s adoration of mass-murderer Stalin and his alliance with Hitler. See the next article.
Stalin No Tyrant Before World War II?
Breitbart wrote on May 23:
“A television ad seen near Sunset and Cahuenga in Hollywood offers this compelling tagline. ‘WWI Made Stalin a Man. WWII Made Him a Tyrant.’
“The event in question is The History Channel’s The World Wars, a three-day presentation kicking off at 9 p.m. EST May 26. The teleplay covering both world wars follows ‘a 30-year global struggle. A fight that will either save the world—or destroy it,’ according to the channel’s press materials.
“So why use a misleading tagline to tease the production? Joseph Stalin’s tyrannical ways began before the start of the second World War.
“Marion Smith, Executive Director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, pins the blame on the country’s general ignorance regarding communism and its impact. ‘What [the public] knows is very far from the truth,’ Smith says.
“As for Stalin’s pre-WWII measures, consider the monstrous Holodomor in the early 1930s as a prime example of a tyrannical regime. Stalin’s Ukrainian policies resulted in massive death tolls. A country known as a European breadbasket suddenly couldn’t feed its citizens. The Soviets let some food rot while much was sold to the West to fill the government’s coffers. Stalin’s collectivist policies, combined with a ruthless enforcement policy, doomed millions.
“Smith adds that some fertile farm land was sectioned off by barbed wire so famished Ukrainians couldn’t reach the food within. Those somehow able to access the fields were shot, a ‘policy that came from the top,’ Smith says. Landowners who managed to oversee prosperous farms despite those conditions were often targeted for death by the government.
“Breitbart News reached out to The History Channel for comment and context on the ad campaign. Through a spokesperson, the channel sent this explanation:
“’THE WORLD WARS tells the story of three devastating decades of war told through the eyes of the powerful men who held the fate of humankind in their hands. We focus on men like Roosevelt, Hitler, Churchill and Stalin (among others) and how these individuals came of age in World War I before ultimately changing the history of mankind during World War II. Over the course of three nights, we take an unflinching look at these world figures and viewers will get a clear picture of Stalin’s ruthless rise to power in the Communist Party through WWI, and his vicious tyranny which grew even more despotic through WWII.’”
Chaos in Libya
AFP wrote on May 27:
“The United States is deploying an amphibious assault ship with about 1,000 marines off the coast of Libya in case the US embassy must be evacuated… The USS Bataan was to be in the area ‘in a matter of days,’ said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The move was described as ‘precautionary’ in case conditions in Libya, where militia battles have plunged the country into anarchy, worsen and require the embassy’s evacuation.”
Fox News subsequently reported that all Americans are urged to leave Libya immediately.
Continuing US Retreat
The Editorial Board of the Washington Post published the following article on May 27:
“YOU CAN’T fault President Obama for inconsistency. After winning election in 2008, he reduced the U.S. military presence in Iraq to zero. After helping to topple Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, he made sure no U.S. forces would remain. He has steadfastly stayed aloof, except rhetorically, from the conflict in Syria. And on Tuesday he promised to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2016.
“The Afghan decision would be understandable had Mr. Obama’s previous choices proved out. But what’s remarkable is that the results also have been consistent — consistently bad. Iraq has slid into something close to civil war, with al-Qaeda retaking territory that U.S. Marines once died to liberate. In Syria, al-Qaeda has carved out safe zones that senior U.S. officials warn will be used as staging grounds for attacks against Europe and the United States. Libya is falling apart, with Islamists, secularists, military and other factions battling for control.
“We hope Afghanistan can avoid that fate. But the last time the United States cut and ran from there, after the Soviet Union withdrew, the result was the Taliban takeover, al-Qaeda’s safe havens and, eventually, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, after which everyone said, well, we won’t make that mistake again…”
New Developments in the Snowden Case
The New York Times wrote on May 28:
“Edward J. Snowden says he was not merely a ‘low-level analyst’ writing computer code for American spies, as President Obama and other administration officials have portrayed him. Instead, he says, he was a trained spy who worked under assumed names overseas for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. Mr. Snowden’s claims were made in a television interview to be broadcast Wednesday evening by NBC News. They added a new twist to the yearlong public relations battle between the administration and Mr. Snowden, who is living under asylum in Moscow to escape prosecution for leaking thousands of classified files detailing extensive American surveillance programs at home and abroad. ‘I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas — pretending to work in a job that I’m not — and even being assigned a name that was not mine,’ Mr. Snowden told Brian Williams of NBC News… The N.S.A., which has described Mr. Snowden as an information technology contractor, has not commented on the new claims.
“Mr. Snowden also addressed how he wound up in Russia after initially fleeing to Hong Kong. ‘The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia,’ he said… ‘I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America, and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in Moscow Airport. So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, “Please ask the State Department.”’…
“Mr. Kerry… suggested that Mr. Snowden’s refusal to return to the United States amounted to cowardice. ‘The bottom line is this is a man who has betrayed his country, who is sitting in Russia, an authoritarian country, where he has taken refuge,’ he said. ‘He should man up and come back to the United States if he has a complaint about what’s the matter with American surveillance, come back here and stand in our system of justice and make his case. But instead he is just sitting there taking potshots at his country, violating his oath that he took when he took on the job he took.’”
Secretary of State John Kerry has come under increasing attack about his highly controversial and contradictory comments in other matters, including his failed negotiations with Iran and pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His comments about Snowden would have to be added to the list.
USA Closes Down Many Military Facilities in Europe
The Hill wrote on May 23:
“The Pentagon announced Friday it was closing down 21 military facilities in Europe, a move the Department said would save $60 million annually. The closures were part of a previously-announced effort, but the decision was somewhat unexpected in light of U.S. attempts to reassure European allies in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
“The closures are comprised mostly of recreational and housing facilities at U.S. and NATO military bases across Europe, such as a skeet shooting range, a hotel and a golf course. But some munitions storage facilities will also be shuttered… Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said at a press briefing Friday… it is just the first round of such closures, which are taking place in Germany, Italy, Denmark, Greece, the United Kingdom, and Belgium, and that more would follow…
“Lawmakers and some defense experts have criticized the Pentagon for pulling several combat brigades out of Europe over the past year, a move that they say renders the United States less able to protect allies in the face of resurgent Russian aggression.
“A Pentagon statement announcing the move acknowledged that the U.S. military’s forward presence is one of the nation’s ‘most visible indicators of support to our European allies, providing assurance and demonstrating tangible commitment to our collective defense.’ However, it also said that ‘U.S. dedication to our NATO security responsibilities is beyond doubt; ongoing infrastructure adjustments simply ensure that we are best-positioned to fulfill those responsibilities given changing circumstances. None of these adjustments affects existing force structure or military capabilities, and the efficiencies will further enable U.S. European Command to resource high priority missions,’ Kirby said in an earlier statement.”
Come again? How does this Pentagon statement make any sense? But what Europeans are taking from this is that America cannot be relied upon as a power willing and able to defend its allies, forcing the Europeans to build their own mighty military “defense” system.
The Results of the European Votes—Sending Shock Waves Through Western Europe
Deutsche Welle reported on May 25:
“According to official estimates published by European Parliament, center-right parties have won 211 of the total 751 seats. The EPP top candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker, immediately claimed the right to head the executive European Commission. The socialists are in second place with 193 seats, liberals third, followed by the Greens and the far left. Euroskeptc parties are seen as winning a total of 129 seats…
“In France the far-right National Front has become the strongest party, sending shock waves beyond the country’s borders. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, has already demanded fresh national elections. France’s center-right opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), meanwhile, came in second and the ruling Socialist party of President Francois Hollande was trailing in third place.
“Early results out of Greece had the country’s anti-austerity radical leftist party Syriza leading the polls with the radical right ‘Golden Dawn’ party winning around 9 to 10 percent. In Austria, too, the far-right FPÖ saw strong gains at 20 percent, compared to the 7.3 percent they garnered in 2009. Belgium’s Flemish nationalist N-VA party made strong gains and in Denmark the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party is set to take the biggest share of the Danish vote, while Britain saw a surge in support for Britain’s euroskeptic UKIP party, bringing them up to 30 percent.
“In the Netherlands, however, Geert Wilders’right-wing Euroskeptic Party for Freedom fell short of expectations, dropping from second to fourth place…
“German projections showed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU party leading in the European elections with 36.1 percent of the vote, ahead of their center-left junior coalition partners the SPD at 27.6 percent. The Green party was at 10.9 percent, the Left party at 7.8 percent and the euroskeptic AfD at 6.5 percent – giving the party seats in parliament for the first time…
“The gains for euroskeptic and far right parties could lead to changes in EU policy in areas ranging from border control and immigration to the trade and investment agreement being negotiated with the United States.”
The Times of Israel added on May 26:
“Far-right and Euroskeptic parties made sweeping gains in European Parliament elections Sunday — triggering what one prime minister called a political ‘earthquake’ by those who want to slash the powers of the European Union or abolish it altogether…
“European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso called Monday on pro-EU groups to come together, after partial results were announced. ‘Standing together as Europeans is indispensable for Europe to shape a global order where we can defend our values and interests,’ Barroso said…
“Pro-European parties ‘have to take very seriously what is behind the vote,’ said Martin Schulz of the Socialist group in parliament. Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the Liberal caucus in the European Parliament, conceded as much but said even after the vote, two-thirds of the European lawmakers would be ‘people who are in favor of the European Union.’
“Despite the Euroskeptic gains, established pro-EU parties were forecast to remain the biggest groups in the parliament…
“Nigel Farage, leader of the fiercely Euroskeptical UKIP party, believed he was on track for a historic victory. ‘It does look to me (like) UKIP is going to win this election and yes, that will be an earthquake, because never before in the history of British politics has a party that is seen to be an insurgent party ever topped the polls in a national election,’ he said. ‘I don’t just want Britain to leave the European Union,’ he added. ‘I want Europe to leave the European Union’…
“Despite the gains, unity may be hard to find in the fractured Euroskeptic camp.”
Britain’s Political Establishment in Shock
The Express wrote on May 26:
“BRITAIN’S political establishment was in shock last night after the UK Independence Party [Ukip] romped to a spectacular euro election victory… The result was a hammer blow for all three mainstream Westminster parties with less than a year to go before next year’s general election.
“The Tories slumped to a humiliating third place, behind Labour, in a national election for the first time in the party’s history… The stunning success of Ukip brings a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU a step closer. It was also a huge boost to the Daily Express crusade for a vote to quit the EU.”
Thailand’s Coup Leaders Dissolve Senate, Assume Lawmaking Powers, Get Backing from the King
The Associated Press reported on May 24:
“Thailand’s coup leaders say they are dissolving the country’s Senate and will assume all lawmaking power. Saturday’s announcement, which was read out on television, strips away the last democratic institution in the country two days after the military seized power.
“The junta suspended the constitution and dissolved the lower house of Parliament on Thursday. It had left the Senate in place, presumably in hopes the upper house might later approve some of its measures and provide a vestige of democracy…
“The military says it took power to prevent more turmoil in Thailand’s protracted political deadlock, which pits supporters of the elected populist government against establishment-backed protesters who accuse the deposed government of corruption. It’s the country’s 12th coup in eight decades.”
Deutsche Welle added on May 26:
“Thailand’s king has formally endorsed coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha to govern the nation. The army seized power on May 22 after months of political turmoil. In a televised press conference in the Thai capital Bangkok… Gen. Prayuth threatened to ‘intensify law enforcement’ if anti-coup protests flared up again..
“The Thai military seized power on May 22 after months of violent protests against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Senate was then dissolved, the media were censored and critics of the military were arrested. Since the takeover, the military has detained high-ranking political figures including former Prime Minister Yingluck, most of the deposed government’s Cabinet, and dozens of politicians and activists.
“However, Yingluck has since been permitted to go home under military supervision. Early on Monday, her main opponent, ex-lawmaker Suthep Thaugsuban, who had led the demonstrations against her government, was also released.”
Deutsche Welle reported on May 26:
“Thailand’s military has intensified its restrictions on the media and freedom of opinion. Many journalists and intellectuals have gone missing ever since the military junta took over the government in last week’s coup. Just an hour after Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha declared that the military was taking over the reins of power on May 22 – following failed talks among rival political factions – DW spoke with Pravit Rojanaphruk. The Thai journalist and blogger was quick to condemn the coup and predict the arrest of hundreds of activists, journalists and dissidents who dared to criticize the army’s actions. Three days later, Pravit himself went missing after being ordered to report to military headquarters. His last tweet in English read: ‘On my way to see the new dictator of Thailand. Hopefully the last.’
“But Pravit’s story is no exception. After being summoned by the military, an increasing number of journalists and well-known critics of the military coup are being taken into custody. Although some people have been released, many remain locked away with no news of their whereabouts or conditions. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that the military is holding people in unofficial places of detention, such as undisclosed military camps, without access to their families and lawyers. After talking to experts and fellow journalists on the ground, DW has learned there is a growing sense of fear and intimidation in the Thai capital, Bangkok. Many citizens fear for their safety…
“Martial law also grants military authorities the power to censor or shut down newspapers and broadcasters. Following the coup, Thai TV and radio stations were ordered to stop their regular programs and link their broadcast to the army TV Channel 5 for almost 24 hours. Although these TV stations have resumed regular program, they have to strictly follow the junta’s order not to air any information critical of the military intervention…
“Although only Thai nationals have so far been arrested, foreign journalists have told DW they have been forced to delete photo and video material. Furthermore, members of non-governmental organizations, foundations and international organizations fear they might lose their residence permit in the country and risk deportation.”
Earthquakes Strike Israel, Greece and Turkey
The Times of Israel reported on May 24:
“Israelis across the country reported experiencing a minor earthquake on Saturday morning, less than two hours before an earthquake beneath the sea shook northern Greece and western Turkey, with more than two dozen injuries reported on a Turkish island. The 4.1-magnitude earthquake hit Israel at 10:26 a.m., causing no damage but making houses shake, eyewitnesses said. Less than two hours later, just after midday, a stronger earthquake struck parts of Greece and Turkey, causing residents to flee their homes in panic…
“The Institute of Geophysics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki said the temblor announced a magnitude of 6.3; the U.S. Geological Survey… reported a magnitude of [6.9].”
Huge Wildfire in Arizona
ABC News reported on May 24:
“Firefighters say a wildfire burning through forested hillsides in a scenic northern Arizona canyon could dramatically expand as crews scramble to get the upper hand in less rugged terrain. Wild land fire teams are going to allow the flames to burn through flatter lands and into a sort of catcher’s mitt to the north and the west… That means the fire could grow to nearly 36 square miles, nearly tripling in size.
“The goals for fire managers are to protect the 300 structures threatened in Oak Creek Canyon, keep the fire from pushing into the communities of Forest Highlands and Kachina Village to the east, and minimize the potential for flooding. Fire managers said the blaze has cost $2.2 million to fight as of Friday and might take up to 10 more days to fully control…
‘The human-caused Slide Fire started Tuesday and by Friday had burned more than 11 square miles in and around Oak Creek Canyon, a scenic recreation area along the highway between Sedona and Flagstaff that normally would be filled with tourists as Memorial Day approaches…”
It was also reported on May 26 that a huge wild fire broke out in Alaska, and that 30% of America is facing “drought conditions.” The focus was especially on drought-stricken Arizona, Texas and especially California which is the “top agricultural producer of the USA,” according to a telecast by CBS.