Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Week in Review

The Week in Review
January 21, 2011 | From
Hezbollah exercises, Catholicism vs. Islam, the Fatherland of peace.

Middle East
According to the Jerusalem Post, “Hezbollah members and allied parties carried out a two-hour exercise early in the morning Tuesday at 12 different strategic points in Beirut, meant to show a potential first response to the commission findings surrounding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri” (January 19). No violence erupted during the drill, and the militants were unarmed and carried hand-held radios. Sources close to Hezbollah reported the drill was “a real exercise to test the readiness of any such plan to takeover Beirut and its periphery, including entries, the port, waters, and the airport.” This threat comes at a time when Prime Minister Saad Hariri is struggling to form a new government after Hezbollah ministers and their allies resigned last week. The dispute is over Lebanon’s support of the UN tribunal that is expected to indict several Hezbollah members for the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The terrorist group said it would treat the political deadlock differently after the UN tribunal released its report, raising fears that Hezbollah will use violence to impose its will—just like it did in 2008.
The Obama administration is out of ideas to keep the Palestinian-Israeli peace process afloat. In order to seek out fresh initiatives, the government has initiated two independent task forces that will advise on how to proceed. This outsourcing of policy creation reveals the discouraging state of U.S. diplomacy in the region. Politico reports, “The solicitation of ideas comes as the administration’s peace efforts are ‘utterly stuck,’ as one outside adviser who consults the administration on the issue told Politico Wednesday on condition of anonymity. ‘There’s no pretense of progress. With the State of the Union coming up and the new gop Congress, they are taking a few weeks [to regroup and solicit] ideas to push forward and … to give a real jump-start to what would be meaningful negotiations,’ the adviser said” (January 13). Since the 1970s, the United States has burdened itself trying to strike a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Decades later, a peaceful solution is as far out of reach as when it started. As the Bible reveals, Jerusalem is a burdensome stone for any nation trying to bring it peace man’s way (Zechariah 12:3). To discover the stunning prophesied conclusion of American-led peace initiatives in the Holy City, read Chapter 8 of our free booklet Zechariah: The Sign of Christ’s Imminent Return.
The Palestinian Authority announced Sunday that it will ask the United Nations Security Council to deliver a resolution condemning Israel’s construction of settlements in the West Bank, the Jerusalem Post reported. The bold move disregards a U.S. plea for the PA to refrain from presenting the proposal to the Security Council. “The Americans don’t want us to present anything to the Security Council,” chief plo negotiator Saeb Erekat said. “But we made it clear to them that, for us, the Security Council was a gate to international legitimacy.” This stealthy maneuver by the PA further exposes its unwillingness to conduct serious negotiations with Israel. Historically, the UN has never been a great ally to Israel, and has repeatedly been a willing instrument in the hands of Arab and other anti-Israel states seeking to undermine, marginalize and persecute the Jewish state. Based on its track record, it wouldn’t be surprising if the UN once again casts aside objectivity and sides with those seeking Israel’s destruction. Continue to watch as the Palestinians garner greater international support in their case for statehood, in the process sidelining the U.S. as a legitimate broker for peace and turning the world more against the Jewish state.
The rift between the Catholic Church and Islam continued to grow this week as scholars from Al Azhar University, a leading Sunni establishment in Egypt, suspended talks with the Vatican “in response to the position taken by Pope Benedict xvi on Islam.” On January 20 a spokesman for the Islamic Research Academy said they were suspending talks because of the pope’s 2006 Regensburg speech, as well as “the recent unacceptable interference” of the pope “who sought protection for Coptic Christians” after they were murdered in Alexandria. The group disliked the pope’s “interference in the affairs of Egypt.” This comes after Egypt recalled its ambassador from the Vatican on January 11. Expect tensions between the Vatican and Islam to continue to grow.
The pope is supporting Europe’s last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. Since protests against Lukashenko took place on December 19, secret police have been establishing his hold over the country through violence, rape and threatening his opponent’s children. Yet the Vatican has remained silent on the issue, issuing no protests nor breaking off diplomatic relations. Why? Because the Vatican “is seeking a concordat with a state that still has a kgb and statues of Lenin on its streets, just as it sought accommodation with Nazi Germany in the 1930s,” wrote Nick Cohen in the Observer on January 16. The Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has actually praised Belarus for allowing “freedom of religion,” and has said that sanctions against Lukashenko would be “unacceptable.” Cohen writes: “Belarus has a large Catholic minority and the pope has cold-bloodedly sought to legitimize the dictator in its eyes, not just with his political interventions, but also by inviting Lukashenko to an audience at the Vatican.” This is another example of the Roman Catholic Church showing its true colors.
The Vatican advised Irish bishops not to report priests suspected of child abuse to police or the government according to a newly disclosed document dating back to 1997. “The document appears to contradict Vatican claims that church leaders in Rome never sought to control the actions of local bishops in abuse cases, and that the Roman Catholic Church did not impede criminal investigations of child abuse suspects,” writes the New York Times. The Vatican claims that the letter “has been deeply misunderstood.”
The European Union will try to grab the power to set “the most primary elements of national budgetary frameworks,” according to the Daily Telegraph’s Bruno Waterfield. “The Daily Telegraph understands that the ‘really big step’ will regulate how and when the Treasury forecasts growth and impose ‘numerical fiscal rules’ on all Whitehall departments,” he reports. “The measures, according to British officials, will aim for ‘tighter budget coordination and direction from the center’ in Brussels and could endanger Britain’s ‘fiscal independence.’” The Telegraph’s anonymous source stated, “The rules also set out how much expenditure can or cannot increase in a time of slow growth.” Watch for Brussels to continue to try to grab more powers from Britain, and expect Britain’s resentment of this power grab to grow.
Europe is the “Fatherland of peace,” said European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, in what is possibly the most absurd statement by any politician since Silvio Berlusconi declared, “I am without doubt the person who’s been the most persecuted in the entire history of the world and the history of man.” “Europe is the best guarantee for peace,” said Van Rompuy. “It was and is a work of peace. That’s why I am so strongly in favor of a European perspective for the western Balkans, the last remnant of the Cold War and the last place where a war was waged.” That war, incidentally, was caused by Germany and the EU. “The bloody battlefields from our history have been replaced by Brussels negotiating rooms,” Van Rompuy said. He is right about Europe’s bloody battlefields. Violence has been a constant part of European history. But the EU is not the happy ending of thousands of years of violence. The human nature that caused that violence has not change. Rather, the EU is a continuation of that violent history, and will cause much more violence of its own soon.
French far-right party The Nation Front chose a new leader on January 16. Marine le Pen was elected to replace her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, to lead the party, which came second in the 2002 French presidential elections. Marine has more mainstream appeal and is not outspokenly anti-Semitic like her father. This could give the party a wider appeal and the power to win the next elections. France is simmering with hatred for the government, and the anti-immigration far-right party could do very well indeed. More, it could lead to far-right victories in other countries. “Marine Le Pen could present a ‘proof of concept’ of a far-right leader with mainstream appeal that catches on in the rest of the Continent,” writes Stratfor (January 15).
Leaders of Nordic and Baltic nations met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron in London on January 19 and 20 for the first-ever summit of Nordic and Baltic heads of state. The leaders met to discuss social policies, as well as technology, innovation and green energy. However, these nations all share an opposition to Franco-German leadership of the EU. Cameron hinted that these meetings could become a regular event, meaning that these leaders would have plenty of time to discus other common interests. The emergence of a coordinated block of dissenters resisting France and Germany could fracture the EU and lead to the emergence of a 10-nation combine that the Trumpet has long forecasted.
On January 16, the evening before he left for Washington, Chinese President Hu Jintao made the boldest statement to date about the U.S. dollar’s position as the global reserve currency, saying “the current international currency system is the product of the past.” Hu went on to lambast the U.S. Federal Reserve for pumping dollars into the global market, which led to inflation in China and India, and he rejected the U.S.’s argument that Beijing keeps the yuan artificially low to boost China’s exporting power. The timing of Hu’s bold comments, just a day before he was received in Washington for a summit, reveals that China’s fearlessness is on the rise. The etiquette of diplomacy would dictate that Hu reserve his belligerency toward the U.S. until after such a visit is complete. Hu and the nation he leads are decreasingly concerned about such protocol. When Hu arrived on U.S. soil on Tuesday, he was unapologetic on such key issues as China’s currency manipulation, its human rights violations, the illegal obstacles Beijing erects in the way of U.S. firms wishing to do business in China, and the Middle Kingdom’s stealing American intellectual property. The fact is, China cares less and less what America thinks as it increasingly invests its money—and its confidence—in Europe instead.
Russia and China were the primary sellers of U.S. treasuries in November 2010 as bond yields soared higher that month, according to U.S. government data released on Tuesday. China remains the world’s largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, but it dropped $11.2 billion in November, bringing its total holdings to $895.6 billion. Some analysts see these fluctuations as evidence of profit-taking because China increased its U.S. debt in the months leading up to the Federal Reserve’s announcement of its new bond-buying program. In the same month, Moscow cut its treasury holdings from $131.6 billion to $122.5 billion, Russia’s lowest level since April 2010. “I worry that we could be at a tipping point,” said Eswar Prasad, former International Monetary Fund official. “If the Chinese say ‘We’re not buying any more treasuries,’ this could act as a trigger around which nervous market sentiment coalesces. People could start wondering how the U.S. is going to finance its deficit.”
Africa/Latin America
The Tunisian government collapsed last week. Former Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country on January 14. Fouad Mebazaa, the speaker of Parliament, is now the interim president. But Tunisia’s future is uncertain and the military, or even radical Islamists, could take over. Meanwhile, the violence could spread to other North African countries. As of January 17, four Algerians, one Egyptian and one Mauritanian had set themselves on fire, copying the act that sparked the uprising in Tunisia. If the violence spreads to Egypt, it could usher in a pro-Iranian Islamic regime, something the Trumpet has predicted for years.
A faction in Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (mdc) party accused President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (zanu-pf) of cracking down on mdc supporters around the countryside using security forces on January 18. On January 20, Attorney General Johannes Tomana said he was considering pressing charges for treason against former opposition politicians who were named in the WikiLeaks cables. Treason in Zimbabwe carries the death penalty. Expect more violence and abuse of power as the country gears up for elections this year.
Venezuela now has the world’s largest oil reserve, with 297 billion barrels of certified deposits by the end of 2010, the government announced on January 15. However, unlike crude oil in places like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela’s crude is heavy and tar-like and requires longer processing times. Also, some have accused countries like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela of exaggerating their oil reserves.
U.S. law enforcement arrested 127 people on Thursday in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Italy. The huge sweep targeted members of the mafia and involved 800 federal and local officers. Individuals in custody are accused of belonging to New York’s prominent criminal organizations and are charged with conspiracy, extortion, arson, drug trafficking, illegal gambling, labor racketeering and murders dating back as far as 1981. Attorney General Eric Holder said some of the killings were targeted assassinations of rival gang members, others senseless murders such as a double homicide in a bar over a spilled drink. A dozen of those charged were union officials who extorted money from dock workers after they received their annual bonuses. Analysts are divided over whether the crime “families” are fading or resurging, but concede that that the region’s dockyards are still the stomping grounds of criminals and killers looking for a buck. For that reason, organized American crime is a threat not only to personal security, but also national security.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul law passed last year. The vote is largely a symbolic measure by Republicans, who don’t appear to have an alternative available and who know that the Senate and the White House will stop the repeal. The vote does set up Washington for more bitter division and infighting.
A January 13 report by the Pew Research Center found that Americans now consider Asia as the region of the world most important to U.S. interests, eclipsing Europe. Americans consider Asia more important by 47 percent to 37 percent, a flip-flop from attitudes in the 1990s. Of those polled, 34 percent were very interested in news from China, compared to France (6 percent), Germany (11 percent), Italy (11 percent) and even Great Britain (17 percent). In spite of flying under the radar of the average American, Europe is destined to come on the scene suddenly as an unexpected superpower.
Besides eight convenient locations in the downtown area, a Google search for “Philadelphia abortion doctor” this week returned Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell and his staff were charged Wednesday with a horrific litany of monstrous crimes. Gosnell’s so-called Women’s Medical Society clinic was a filthy, unsanitary hovel that had documented health violations as early as 1989. Officials continued to discover violations thereafter, but stopped checking abortion clinics altogether in 1993 for political reasons. For almost two more decades, Gosnell continued to hire unlicensed workers and allowed them to administer anesthesia and even perform operations when he was not present. When law enforcement finally visited the clinic last year, they found a dirty clinic, gruesome areas where operations took place and jars and bags stuffed with dead fetuses. Gosnell and his staff are known to have performed late-term abortions and on at least seven occasions, when the baby was born healthy, his or her neck was cut using scissors. State officials received numerous complaints about the “clinic,” but did not shut it down or suspend Gosnell’s license, even after a woman died of an anesthesia overdose. Only when the state finally investigated reports of the doctor selling pain pill prescriptions that were valuable on the black market did police stumble on the horror show.
U.S. aerospace giant Boeing said Thursday that it will cut about 1,100 jobs over the next two years as it slows production of the C-17 military transport aircraft. About 900 of the planned job cuts are expected to be made at Boeing’s C-17 final assembly facility in Long Beach, California. The remainder of the cuts will probably occur in Arizona, Georgia and Missouri. According to a Gallup study released Wednesday, U.S. unemployment is now higher than unemployment in Britain, Russia, Japan or Germany. Watch for civil unrest to rise as people get more and more desperate for money. Many economists predict that unemployment will continue to rise in the near future. Historically, mass unemployment has led to mass unrest—and political and social upheaval.