Italian Comedian Faces Prosecution for Insulting the Pope

Italian Comedian Faces Prosecution for Insulting the Pope

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Italy is attempting to invoke a fascist-era law in order to penalize those who insult the pope.

Italian comedian Sabrina Guzzanti is facing possible prosecution and a prison term of five years for making controversial remarks about the pope at an anti-politics rally in Rome.

Guzzanti could be tried for this offense at the hands of Rome’s prosecutor, Giovanni Ferrara. If Ferrara obtains the authorization from the Italian justice minister that he has requested, he will start proceedings against Guzzanti for “vilification” of the pope. Under Italian law, courts are allowed to sentence people to up to five years in prison for “offending the honor” of the pope, the same punishment as offending the honor of the Italian president.

Another satirist at the same anti-politics rally insulted Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, but charges against him have been dropped after authorities deemed the comments to be straightforward satire. Apparently the pope was the only figure they felt like defending.

The interesting thing about this whole situation is that Ferrara has to invoke the Lateran Treaty in order to enforce this law. The Lateran Treaty was a concord between Italy and the Vatican signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Gasparri and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1929.

The civil government of Rome is attempting to bring into play a fascist-era law to justify imprisoning a secular comedian for insulting the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Paolo Guzzanti, Ms. Guzzanti’s father and a center-right Italian member of parliament, called the move “a return to the Middle Ages.”

Italy is indeed starting to return to the medieval practice of inviting Catholicism to dictate governmental policies and national politics. The separation between church and state is beginning to crumble. Watch for the Italian government to take an even harder line against those who insult or work against the Vatican hierarchy.

For more information on the increasing influence of the Vatican on the Italian political scene, read “The Kingbreaker.”

British Economy in for a “Horrible Surprise”

British Economy in for a “Horrible Surprise”

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British analysts paint a bleak picture for the future of the United Kingdom’s economy. Tens of thousands of workers could lose their jobs as the UK falls into a recession this winter, the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee’s David Blanchflower testified last week.

A “horrible surprise” is coming, Blanchflower told the Treasury select committee, predicting that unemployment will rise by 60,000 per month for several consecutive months, probably starting in October. “I believe we will see a deeper economic decline than other people think,” he said.

A few weeks ago, a Bank of England monetary policy committee member warned that house prices could fall by around 30 percent before the end of the year.

Already the numbers are not good for Britain. The pound has fallen to its lowest value in 2½ years against the dollar, at $1.75 to the pound. Unemployment has risen by over 20,000 a month for the past three months, the biggest jump since the early 1990s. In August, unemployment rose by 32,500, the largest increase since December 1992.

Both Blanchflower and the Confederation of British Industry are predicting unemployment of around 2 million by the end of the year, a jobless rate of around 6.5 percent.

With the global—and especially the U.S.—economy shaking, many are worried. Lehman Brothers is in bankruptcy, aig has been rescued by the U.S. government, Merrill Lynch is in difficulty, and rumors are flying that Halifax Bank of Scotland Group is on the brink of collapse. Speculation abounds as to whether Britain will see a slight fall in growth, a recession or an outright crash.

For years the Trumpet has forecasted a major crash, one of the biggest in history. It is a big claim. After all, major companies have fallen before, without causing catastrophe. What we are predicting is far more than a repeat of 1991, 2001, or even 1929. The troubling data currently appearing represent just the start of a gigantic crash. How do we know? For all the background and history of the Trumpet’s forecasting, see our article “Years of Economic Forecasting Coming to Pass.” Britain, and the whole world, is in for a “horrible surprise,” before things get better.

Tzipi Livni Wins Kadima Election

Tzipi Livni Wins Kadima Election

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Israel’s foreign minister will replace Olmert and try to stave off opposition Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to party election exit polls, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is the new leader of Kadima. Livni now has 42 days to form a coalition government. If she fails in that effort, national elections will follow three months later. Recent polls indicate that if a general election was held today, Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu would win.

As foreign minister, Livni was the lead negotiator who worked with the Palestinians to develop a peace agreement by the end of this year. Her direct involvement in offering territorial concessions in exchange for peace may prove to be a sticking point with one of Prime Minister Olmert’s coalition partners. Already, ultra-Orthodox Shas Chairman Eli Yishai has stated, “If Livni wants a government, she needs to comply with our demands”—one of which is for Jerusalem to remain the undivided capital of Israel.

If negotiations with Shas break down, Livni may be forced to court a party on the left. For more on the Israeli elections, go here and here.

Power-Sharing Deal Reached in Zimbabwe

Power-Sharing Deal Reached in Zimbabwe

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But how much will power actually be shared?

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai reached a power-sharing agreement September 11, which was signed this Monday. Despite hopes for a new democratic era in Zimbabwe, however, Mugabe will retain much of his power, against the will of the people.

The power-sharing deal follows months of political turmoil and violence following March elections in which Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (mdc), gained the most votes. Mugabe, head of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (zanu-pf) and dictator of Zimbabwe for nearly three decades, refused to recognize the results, embarking on renewed violent intimidation of opposition politicians, their families and voters, and conducting a second-round poll in June. Tsvangirai boycotted the vote because of the violence against his supporters.

Under the power-sharing arrangement, Mugabe will stay on as president and retain control of the all-important army and intelligence services. Tsvangirai will be given the newly created post of prime minister—and with it, the country’s enormous problems. The new cabinet will slightly favor the two opposition parties, though Mugabe will retain overall control of it. Talks to form the new cabinet, originally scheduled for Tuesday, are now slated to be held today.

The deal, says Stratfor (September 12),

is more image management than a substantial shift in executive power from President Robert Mugabe to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. [T]he deal will not substantially alter Mugabe’s grip on power due to his expected continued control over the most significant cabinet positions and ministries. …Ultimately, given Mugabe’s control over the armed forces and a capable private militia (not to mention veto power in the country’s Senate over any untoward mdc moves in Zimbabwe’s lower house of assembly), his government will be able to contain Tsvangirai’s from several angles.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has been given credit for mediating the power-sharing deal, though, as the Christian Science Monitorcomments, “one wonders what might have emerged had he handled Zimbabwe’s dictator with anything rougher than kid gloves.”

Mugabe clearly only agreed to share power with his opposition because the deal was in his favor and—he hopes—will end Western sanctions on the country, which has been economically destroyed over the past decade. Ultimately, Mugabe’s prime motivation in acquiescing to the deal was simply self-preservation.

Mugabe’s ruinous rule of his once prosperous country has destroyed it. As Roger Bate at the National Review Online describes (September 15),

The suffering in Zimbabwe is tragic, millions have fled the country and thousands die weekly, defenseless against common diseases due to malnourishment. Most food aid is still unavailable to those in areas which have supported the opposition mdc. Property theft, reckless monetary policies, and total disregard for the rule of law have brought the economy to its knees. zanu pf imposed price controls but this failed to dampen inflation and drove trading to the black market. Inflation still surges—officially annualized at over 11 million percent, though perhaps much higher say independent observers like local economist John Robertson—and has become so bad that the government resorted to dropping 13 zeros from its currency last month in order to allow atm machines and calculators to handle basic transactions.

In the face of such economic humiliation, Mugabe relented to the power-sharing deal with his opposition. “[I]f the international community is pleased enough with the power-sharing agreement to come to Zimbabwe’s rescue with aid packages,” writes Bate, “it is doubtful that mdc will ever truly take power: Once the economy is back on its feet, the generals—with or without Mugabe—will reassert total control” (ibid.).

The tragic failure of democracy in Africa isn’t limited to Zimbabwe of course. Strongman rule has brought suffering and economic ruin to many African states. It is the way of the plundering dictator, the “Big Man,” that has dragged nearly all of Africa into rank poverty, economic and social collapse. As an experiment in democracy, Africa has failed abysmally. In the post-colonial generation between 1957 to 1990, “Not one African head of state, even in nations that tolerate a measure of democracy, has permitted voters to end his reign” (Blaine Harden, Africa: Dispatches From a Fragile Continent).

For more on the failure of democracy in Africa and how the continent’s woes will end, read “The Failure of African Democracy,” “Kenya Exposes Democracy’s Flaw” and “The Big Men.”

America’s Next President Will Be In Over His Head

America’s Next President Will Be In Over His Head

Is this the most important election of our lifetime?

Last month, at a campaign rally in Michigan, Barack Obama called this “the most important election of our lifetime.”

Weeks later, at the Republican convention, Rudy Guiliani also called it “the most important election of our lifetime.”

The implication—by both sides, and by anyone who says it—is that if Americans choose the wrong man, the consequences could be disastrous. If they choose the right man, however, all will be well.

Is it true? It’s certainly easy to get swept up in the hype. The media are expert at turning presidential politics into a sporting event. And the candidates are making every conceivable pitch to convince us that utopia is just a vote away.

Like every presidential aspirant, John McCain is making some big promises. He has pledged, among many other things, that if elected he will combat hunger nationwide, save the Everglades, work to rid Africa of malaria, and win the war in Iraq. He will end dependence on Middle Eastern oil, capture Osama bin Laden, expand the military, and ensure the nation has high-quality intelligence. He promises to restore people’s trust in the government, inspire greater public service in Americans, help smokers quit, protect doctors from lawsuits, ensure that students have access to excellent schools, secure America’s borders, fix fema, train workers for the new economy, and make U.S. employees more globally competitive. He also plans to balance the budget, stop wasteful government spending, rescue Medicare, and save Social Security without raising taxes. And this is just the short list.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable to see a president achieve all that? But wait. As far-reaching as these promises are, they don’t even touch those of his opponent.

Barack Obama has promised, among many other things, that if America elects him, he will safeguard all nuclear material worldwide within his first term, stop new nuclear weapons development, finish the fight in Afghanistan, crack down on al Qaeda in Pakistan, end the Darfur genocide, and create a Palestinian state that exists with Israel “side by side in peace and security.” He aims to cut the world’s extreme poverty in half and boost international aid. He will help revitalize inner cities, overhaul immigration laws, outlaw discrimination against transsexuals, ban racial profiling, make the criminal justice system into one that will inspire every American’s trust and confidence, and even attract more doctors to rural areas. He will provide free college for those who want to become teachers, supply health care and broadband Internet access for every American, preserve Social Security, rebuild aging infrastructure, and build a 21st-century VA hospital—all while slashing federal waste and cutting taxes for 95 percent of working families. He will “make sure our economy is working for everybody,” and generate “nothing less than a complete transformation of our economy.” He pledges to reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050, to reduce electricity demand even as the population increases, to “end the age of oil,” and to “work to solve this energy crisis once and for all.” Again, this is just cherry-picking from a much larger list of his campaign pledges.

It gives you a good idea of how socialistic the nation is becoming: The only serious remaining contenders for its highest office are seducing voters with the lure of more government programs, more entitlements, and more regulations and laws.

But how much do Americans believe either of these men could actually keep these promises? Hard to say. Generally, politicians aren’t held too hard to account for their soaring campaign rhetoric.

It’s a good thing, too, because those promises are about to be absolutely shredded.

The reason goes far beyond the limits imposed on a president by a system designed to prevent executive overreach—limits that alone would prevent most of those promises from ever being fulfilled.

It has more to do with priorities. Already, the concerns that many of those promises address are being overtaken by far more pressing, even existential concerns.

Right now, the American economy is embroiled in what Alan Greenspan is calling a “once in a century” crisis. The most vaunted names in the financial industry—Bear, Fannie, Freddie, Lehman, Merrill, aig—are tanking, or requiring unheard-of bailouts that are burdening the government with untold debt. The economic damage caused by the housing disaster is spreading worldwide and irreparably decimating America’s already shaky standing as global financial leader.

The next American president will face a drastically altered economic landscape. His term could well be consumed with trying to manage the vortex of related trends sucking the economy down: sagging stock market, falling home prices, mounting job losses; failing corporations. The bounce in the dollar—caused not by a stronger U.S. but by a weakened global economy—will prove temporary; inflation will increase; consumer spending will slump. To finance his grand plans, the next president will need cash. But he will face increasingly miserly foreign lenders. As America’s credit risk grows, their premiums will go up. Higher interest rates will create additional problems: less corporate spending, fewer home buyers, anemic consumerism. The president’s other option—printing money—will further hollow out the dollar’s value. He will find it impossible to spend the nation out of recession simply because of its already historic indebtedness.

It is difficult to calculate the pressures these economic woes will put on the already strained social integrity of this nation. The next president will face far more significant social problems than his predecessor did. Unemployment, inflation, recession, food shortages—these will find corollaries in the fracturing of families and neighborhoods, the increase in substance abuse, domestic violence and urban crime. Consider as well the economy’s unprecedented dependence on alien workers, and how the levels of immigration have weakened social cohesion and created pockets of hostile foreigners within the nation. Racial tensions are rising and could well be compounded by the outcome of this election, regardless of who wins.

And as much as the next president would like to restore America’s former prestige in industry, science and technology, he will not be able to do so by pledging additional money—if it could be found—to attract better teachers and improve education. The younger generations are suffering measurable deficits in emotional maturity, intellectual capacity, work ethic, self-sacrifice, ambition and will. These crippling problems have a number of causes that America has rendered itself incapable of confronting, including societal moral decline, sloth, and family breakdown. On top of these is the sense of entitlement and complacency produced by socialistic governmental programs—a malaise that cannot be remedied by more government programs.

Compounding these problems, the next president will find himself struggling with the irrefutable uptick in environmental disasters. Just take a peek at fema’s declared disasters webpage. Ronald Reagan saw an average of 23 major disaster declarations each year he was president. His successor saw 39 each year. Bill Clinton dealt with an average of over 47. President Bush has seen 54 annually. Hurricanes Gustav and Ike brought this year’s total, only halfway into September, to 56. That’s a new disaster requiring governmental intervention every five days. The drain on federal resources is growing greater all the time. And those figures don’t even include the far-reaching drought that, along with widespread flooding, has ravaged food production in the U.S.

The presidential candidates, though they may differ with some of these specifics, nevertheless accept the general premise that the nation’s problems are worse than ever. In response, they each say, That makes it all the more important that you vote forme.It’s because of all those troubles that this is, in fact, the most important election of our lifetime.

But there is a darker reality that both candidates and their supporters, caught up in the commotion of the campaign, are ignoring.

The reality is that the next president will be taking the helm of a cursed nation.

One can already see most of the problems described above besieging America. As much as one may want to believe that a new president will reverse the trends, simply following their present trajectory shows it very likely that next president will be overwhelmed.

But when you look at what the Bible prophesies for America in the near term, the true horror of the picture emerges.

The scenario we’ve already looked at is forecast in the Bible to continue and get far worse. The economic, moral and familial failures are prophesied to keep trending downward. The weather disasters are prophesied to grow more frequent and more catastrophic. The pressures on food supplies are prophesied to intensify. Immigration- and race-related hostilities are prophesied to heat up and explode into violence. The national loss of vigor and willpower is prophesied to become even more obvious. Not only that, these issues are prophesied to be compounded by still more crushing crises, including devastating disease epidemics, more lethal terrorist attacks, pestilence and famine.

In addition, God prophesied the loss within America of strong, masculine leaders to shepherd the nation through such tribulations (Isaiah 3:1-4). The resulting national weakness and wreckage will leave America imminently vulnerable to the prophesied nuclear attacks by a foreign nation that leave cities without an inhabitant—and subsequent national captivity. For a thorough scriptural study of how these prophecies apply to the United States, and to see the ultimately inspiring reason for which God is bringing them to pass, read Herbert W. Armstong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.

This is how the Bible describes America’s coming days. These are the curses that are progressively befalling this nation that has turned itself so completely away from the God who gave it such abundant blessings.

The tempo at which this sequence of curses is already beginning to ravage the United States is accelerating. Exactly how much will occur during the term of the next president is not certain. What is certain, however, is that the curses will not lighten up. They will only grow worse.

The only question is how quickly. That is essentially the question that may be decided in this “most important” election.

America: More Socialist Than Canada?

America: More Socialist Than Canada?

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The proud United States capitalism experiment is withering under the test of time. Here’s why it is fundamentally flawed.

For years, many Americans have smiled and chuckled at their poorer Canadian neighbors and their quaint ideas about government and economy. Things are so different up north—with all the funny-colored paper money, national health care and the amusing accents. Then there are all those inefficient, government-owned “Crown Corporations.” And how do all those good-natured citizens put up with tax rates so high they would send most other North Americans into deep depression?

Even Canadians living in the U.S. often crack jokes about conditions in the land of great northern expanse. Most Canadian conversations eventually get down to two things: the weather (an important topic in a land where one bad choice means you can end up with your tongue frozen to a metal pole or lose fingers to frostbite—yes it happens), and the Canadian economy—specifically how it would be so much better if it wasn’t for such big government and high taxes.

So it is quite astounding to see so many Americans now looking to Canada as a model for America’s economy!

The most recent example of America’s move toward Canadianomics was the federal government’s decision to nationalize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the country’s two gigantic—and heretofore private—mortgage holders.

Uncle Sam is now the proud owner of almost half of all mortgages in the nation. Did you get that? The government owns one out of two mortgaged homes in the country—and all the extra debt too.

Never mind Canada; this situation invokes visions of Russia.

Over the past couple of years, U.S. officials have cried foul over Vladimir Putin’s state-orchestrated takeovers of the private sector—repeatedly criticizing him for grabbing oil and energy companies and military manufacturers. But in a way you have to give Putin credit. At least he seized companies that boosted government revenues. Fannie and Freddie have the potential to become a black hole sucking up hundreds of billions of tax dollars.

The $5.2 trillion takeover of Fannie and Freddie is “the greatest nationalization in the history of humanity,” reports Nouriel Roubini’s Global EconoMonitor (September 9). Although that assessment is a bit sensationalistic, the seizure so far dwarfs anything Putin ever did, and makes socialist Hugo Chavez’s asset grabs look like peanuts.

For the last two decades “after the collapse of the ussr, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the economic reforms in China … the world economy has moved away from state ownership,” says Professor Roubini. “This trend was aggressively supported by the United States that preached right and left the benefits of free markets and free private enterprise” (ibid.).

But this year, the “free market for all” rhetoric is questionable. In America it seems more like socialism for the rich—where the profits go to capitalists in the good times, and then in the bad, the government comes to the rich people’s rescue, and taxpayers get stuck with the bill.

No, America isn’t just becoming more Canadian. It is going a huge step further, according to Roubini. Federal officials “have now turned the usa into the ussra (the United Socialist State Republic of America). Socialism is indeed alive and well in America …” (ibid.).

But it is not just the fact that the Treasury is putting the taxpayer on the hook for massive fallout from corporate greed, while giving domestic and foreign bond holders a trillion-dollar free ride.

It is not just the fact that the Federal Reserve Bank has swapped hundreds of billions of U.S. treasuries for practically worthless junk subprime mortgage-backed securities with banks like Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers to try and keep them afloat. It is not just the fact that the Federal Reserve itself provided the money for J.P. Morgan Chase to buy failing investment bank Bear Stearns either.

And it is not just the fact that for the first time since the Great Depression the government has created a whole host of other bailout facilities (taf, tslf, pdcf) to socialize the losses of non-bank financial institutions, or the fact that the government has become the insurer for all individual bank deposits up to $100,000.

Now a whole other host of industries are lining up for government lines of credit too: $50 billion for GM, Ford and Chrysler, billions more for the airline industry. Going forward we will see the line of billion-dollar handout-seekers stretching on into the distance.

Legendary investor Jim Rogers calls it “madness.” “[T]hey have more than doubled the American national debt in one weekend,” Rogers says. He believes there are now clear comparisons between America and Communist China, where it is common for big companies and banks to be state-owned or have state partnerships.

Where does it stop? This past weekend, the government allowed Lehman Brothers to go bankrupt, but this was expected. Coming so soon after the Fannie and Freddie rescue, a nationalization of Lehman might have had investors questioning the credit-worthiness of the U.S. government itself. But if the damage spreads much further, the government may decide it has no choice but to step in and rescue more firms.

The funny thing is that while the U.S. is trying to become more Canadian, Canada has actually become less socialist of late. For example, Canadian politicians sold off the nationally owned oil company—right before the biggest run-up in oil prices in history. Similarly, they sold off the national gold reserve—at the time gold was reaching multi-decade lows. Ditto for many of the other provincially owned Crown Corporations.

But Canada is hanging on tight to its socialized health care. And that is something Canadian that the U.S. wants too—only America doesn’t want to pay for it. At least the average citizen in Canada knows the costs of national health care. They are reminded every time they see how little remains for them on their paycheck. But in America, politicians make promises—to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars’ worth of future Medicare and Medicaid services—and then borrow money from the Chinese and Japanese to “pay” for it. It is an unsustainable situation that can only go on for so long. The only question is whether Canada’s or America’s will crack first.

It will probably be the system that is most inefficient and corrupt. Take your pick.

I am reminded of a medical event that took place in Canada last year. A Canadian couple had quadruplets, but because a couple of other people had premature babies, not a single neonatal facility was available anywhere in Canada. So the mother was flown 500 kilometers in a twin-prop airplane to Great Falls, Montana, to be cared for. “There you have Canadian health care in a nutshell,” wrote Canada-born author Mark Steyn. “After all, you can’t expect a G-7 economy of only 30 million people to be able to offer the same level of neonatal intensive care coverage as a town of 50,000 people in remote, rural Montana.”

The point is: As much as Canadians like a national health care program, which forces everyone to pay into a system that lets parents take their children to the doctor for “free” every time they have a sniffle, Americans should be careful what they wish for. That said, the U.S. system that ends up with thousands of people going broke each year over unexpected medical conditions isn’t so hot either.

But perhaps the most compelling evidence that America is trying to follow the Canadian socialist model is found in the employment reports.

As told by Steyn, last year one of Canada’s monthly employment reports announced that the economy had created 56,100 jobs. Of those 56,100 new jobs, 13,100 were private sector, and the remaining 43,000 were on the public payroll. “In other words, 77 percent of the new jobs were government jobs and paid for by the poor slobs working away in the remaining 23 percent. So it wasn’t good news, it was bad news about the remorseless transfer of human resources from the vital dynamic sector to the state” (Imprimis, January 2008).

The latest U.S. government employment statistics show that the economy is shedding jobs. But get this: Of the seven sectors tracked in the report, it is only in government and education/health care that employment is rising! That is not a cherry-picked example. Michael Hodges reports in his Grandfather Economic Report that in 1946, there were 2.3 state and local government employees per 100 citizens. Today there are 6.5—a new record high (May 2008).

What does this all mean for the average American? It means that the once-vaunted beacon of capitalism is in serious trouble—and the recent trend toward socialist policies is a dangerous and frustrated grasp for straws in a system that is failing almost as fast as its leading financial institutions. Taxes are going to go up, and the standard of living for most people is going to go down—and so will the dollar.

The sad aspect about this whole mess is that it could have been avoided.

When America was founded, the economy and society in general were based upon the principles outlined in the Bible. As a result, blessings that came as a natural consequence of following those biblical principles compounded the national blessings God gave America in fulfillment of a promise He had made to the patriarch Abraham (which you can prove from our book The United States and Britain in Prophecy).

An economy cannot function for long once trust is broken, and it is pretty hard to trust your business partners when greed has become the motivating factor in high finance. And that is the problem with capitalism. The primary focus is on increasing profit margins. Pretty soon that is all everyone thinks about: money and getting more of it.

The solution for America’s economic problems is something much more simple and far less expensive than the multi-billion-dollar bailouts and rescue packages flooding Wall Street. You can read about it here and here.