“There is a risk of revolution in France,” declared former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin in April. The economic crisis has caused instability throughout Europe, and France has been hit especially hard. During April, workers caused power blackouts in the Paris region, kidnapped their bosses, blockaded channel ports and held large strikes. Protesters were especially vigorous before and during the 60th anniversary NATO summit held on the French/German border on the weekend of April 4 and 5. Between 10,000 and 30,000 protesters rampaged through Strasbourg, France. The rioters burned a hotel and two other buildings and attacked police; several were carrying loaded guns.
In Moldova, more than 10,000 protesters took to the streets during the first few days in April. They were protesting the Communist Party’s victory in the March 29 elections. Dozens were injured and one killed. Rioters ransacked and burned the parliament building and replaced the Moldovan flag with the Romanian. Some also took over the president’s office.
On March 23, Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany announced before parliament his “irreversible” decision to resign. The next day, the government of the Czech Republic narrowly lost a no-confidence vote. The economy played a major role in the fall of both these governments.
Spain also has been badly hit by the economic crisis. Unemployment hit 17.4 percent during the first quarter of 2009.
In Italy, the post-fascist National Alliance—a party founded by the political heirs of Benito Mussolini—merged with the conservative party of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Despite claims to the contrary, the March 22 merger shows that pro-fascist politicians are now being accepted into mainstream Italian politics. The greatest danger to Europe is not the neo-Nazi thugs who shout and jeer at a soccer tournament. It is the well-dressed extremist who sits in a position of power. The racist political activists of yesterday have become the respectable technocrats and politicians of today.
On March 16, the U.S. and Germany signed a treaty on scientific and technological cooperation in the field of civil security. The two countries will spend €10 to 20 million on four major projects by 2012. More importantly, German scientists will gain access to America’s top-secret laboratories, where Washington tests its latest counterterrorism technology. “Such openness would have been previously unimaginable,” Spiegel Online wrote. “Until now, the Americans have kept their efforts to develop new security technologies secret” (March 16)—yes, and for good reason. Security technologies are a matter of national security.
Plans to revise the European Union’s working time bill failed as members of the European Parliament gave up trying to reach an agreement on April 27. This legislation forces workers to work no more than 48 hours in a week. Currently, however, workers in Britain and some other EU member states can opt out of its provisions. The Trumpet has been closely watching the bill, as the Catholic Church has tried to use its influence to change the law so that it mandates a Sunday rest day for all. Expect the Vatican to continue its efforts through other means.
Croatia and Albania joined NATO on April 1. NATO is now entrenched in the Balkan Peninsula. Germany led NATO to attack the former Yugoslavia back in 1999. Now it is cementing that conquest. To learn more, request a free copy of The Rising Beast—Germany’s Conquest of the Balkans.
Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister on March 31 after building a coalition made up of right-wing and religious parties, along with the center-left Labor Party (article, page 10).
Tension is building between Israel and the Vatican over contested parts of Jerusalem. Negotiations between Israel and the Vatican have been ongoing for the past 10 years concerning the handover of sites in Jerusalem and elsewhere claimed by the Roman Catholic Church. Reports in the Catholic media and information from Israeli sources imply that these negotiations are nearing their conclusion. While Israel’s Foreign Ministry denied the reports, idf Army Radio said that President Shimon Peres is pressuring Interior Minister Eli Yishai to surrender six properties demanded by the Vatican. Though this is meeting with strong resistance by some in Israel, Bible prophecy reveals that the Vatican will be successful in its designs on Jerusalem (article, page 33).
A Palestinian university poll in April confirmed that Hamas is growing more popular in Israel’s West Bank. In student elections at Birzeit University in Ramallah, which are known as an indicator of public opinion in the territory, Fatah won just two more seats than Hamas out of the 51 up for grabs.
Turkey and Syria held unprecedented joint military exercises April 27 to 29 along their common border. Turkish and Syrian officials also signed an agreement for cooperation in the defense industry. Turkey is Israel’s closest Muslim ally, but relations between the two countries are becoming increasingly strained. These recent developments presage a future prophesied betrayal of Israel by Turkey.
In 2005, Lebanon’s anti-Syrian Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated—a stern message to Lebanese leaders that they must cooperate with Syria or suffer the consequences. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been held since 2005 for their alleged involvement in the assassination plot. Upon orders from the United Nations-backed international tribunal investigating the case, the generals were released from prison April 29. This is a victory for both Syria and Hezbollah, the political force that has gained from the intimidation of the Lebanese opposition. Together with other developments, this mean the tribunal will “effectively be paralyzed,” said Stratfor (April 30).
U.S. officials are considering whether to accept Iran’s pursuit of uranium enrichment. “As part of a policy review commissioned by President Barack Obama,” the Financial Times wrote, “diplomats are discussing whether the U.S. will eventually have to accept Iran’s insistence on carrying out the process, which can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons-grade material” (April 4). Since 2006, Tehran has blatantly ignored UN Security Council resolutions and sped up its program of uranium enrichment. Now it appears the Obama administration is ready to cede to Iran’s nuclear ambition, only demanding it not develop a nuclear weapon.
In order to retain its influence in Iraq, Iran seeks to shore up its support among Iraq’s Shiite parties. To this end, two of Iran’s most powerful political figures visited Iraq in March. On March 25, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani met with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite religious leader. Earlier in the month, Iranian Assembly of Experts Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, traveling with a 105-person delegation, met with a host of Iraq’s top figures including al-Sistani and the country’s three other grand ayatollahs, and the Iraqi president and prime minister. Watch Iran’s involvement in Iraq as the U.S. winds down its military presence there.
North Korea successfully launched a missile on April 12 capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States. North Korea has become a classic example of the futility of mankind’s attempts to stop nuclear proliferation (article, page 4).
A week after North Korea’s missile test, former Japanese Finance Minister Shoichi Nakagawa said that his nation should discuss building a nuclear arsenal. “It is common sense worldwide that in a purely military sense it is nuclear that can counteract nuclear,” said the conservative politician in a speech given April 19. “North Korea has taken a step toward a system whereby it could shoot without prior notice. We have to discuss countermeasures.” Back in 2006, Nakagawa proclaimed that a nuclear arsenal built for defensive purposes would not violate Japan’s pacifist constitution. Japanese opposition leader and chancellor candidate Ichiro Ozawa said in 2003: “We have plenty of plutonium in our nuclear power plants, so it is possible for us to produce 3,000 to 4,000 nuclear warheads.” All it would take to transform Japan into one of the deadliest martial forces on the planet is a final sidelining of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, in which Japan renounces the right to wage war. This move is already in the works.
For the first time since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, institutional investors from mainland China can invest in Taiwanese money markets. An announcement made by Taiwan’s financial regulator on May 1 ended a decades-old ban imposed amid fears that Chinese investment would make Taiwan economically dependent on the mainland. For years, Beijing has claimed the island of Taiwan as a renegade province and threatened to use military force to bring it under Chinese rule. Now it appears that Beijing is cleverly taking advantage of the global economic downturn in order to interlace Taiwan’s economy with its own—thus making it more difficult for Taiwan to declare de jure independence at any point in the future.
From an economic standpoint, swine flu struck at the worst possible moment for Mexico, which was already in danger of collapsing because of its floundering economy, debilitating drug war and collapsing oil revenues. All non-essential government agencies and private businesses were ordered to cease operations May 1 to 6 to combat the spread of the virus—in essence, Mexico was shut down, causing its domestic economy to tank even further and crippling the tourism industry. Before the outbreak, Caracas had already turned to the International Monetary Fund for help by opening a line of credit worth $47 billion. Mexico is the largest country to do so.
President Obama visited Latin America for the fifth Summit of the Americas, which ran April 17 to 19. Before the meeting, he published an op-ed in 15 Latin American newspapers that offered a relationship “freed from the posturing of the past.” While there, he was photographed smiling and shaking hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Wall Street Journal observed that despots must work to maintain “the legitimacy of their authority, which by definition is always on thin ice. To Mr. Obama and his handlers perhaps it was just a photo-op. For Mr. Chavez it was priceless. Merely being seen or photographed in the presence of civilized society—at summits, negotiations, in state visits—empowers the autocrat and discourages his opposition” (April 23).
Despite Obama’s overtures, Chavez continues to develop his country’s relationship with Iran. He met with an Iranian delegation on May 2, then with the Iranian defense minister on May 6. The two countries are establishing a joint development bank, funded with $200 million.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo on March 26. The bbc reported that French nuclear firm Areva took advantage of Sarkozy’s visit to sign a deal to exploit uranium in DR Congo, which has major uranium reserves. President Sarkozy said his plan for DR Congo’s mineral wealth is to use it to help bring peace to Central Africa. The reality, though, is that the deals are intended to benefit France and the rest of Europe. Expect further EU involvement in Africa as the global race to secure African resources continues.
In South Africa’s elections held April 22, the African National Congress (anc) won 65.9 percent of the vote—a clear majority, but not the two thirds required to make changes to the country’s Constitution. The anc, the dominant force both politically and legislatively, appointed Jacob Zuma as president on May 9.
Madagascar joined the ranks of African nations in chaos when its legitimately elected president was ousted by a man six years too young to constitutionally hold the country’s highest office. After a week in which tanks took over the presidential palace, Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana resigned from office and turned authority over to a navy admiral on March 17. Andry Rajoelina became president on March 18. The new leader suspended parliament and set up transitional bodies to run the country.
May 1 brought the first “Big Three” automaker bankruptcy in history as Chrysler went into federal bankruptcy protection. The government organized a deal to keep the bankrupt company afloat by loaning it up to $8 billion more and merging it with Italian automaker Fiat. The deal also includes replacing the company’s board of directors and commits the federal government as a powerful company investor. The Treasury will select four of the new directors. The U.S. government, which once bragged about the superiority of pure capitalism, is now a powerful partner not only in the banking business, but the auto business as well.
Americans chose the April 15 tax-filing deadline as an opportunity to express outrage against the federal government and its gigantic spending bills, calling their rallies “tea parties.” Congress signed off on the president’s $3.6 trillion budget in late April. The budget will launch the national debt from $11.2 trillion to $17 trillion by 2014.
States are reacting against the federal government’s increasingly expanding power. In mid-April, Texas Gov. Rick Perry backed a Texas Legislature resolution that rebukes Washington for violating the Bill of Rights, which says that powers not specifically assigned to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved to the states. Calling it oppression in terms of size, intrusion into personal lives and state affairs, the governor said he wanted to reject strings-attached federal stimulus money and indicated that secession from the union was not off the table.
Labor Department statistics published in May revealed that 539,000 jobs were cut in April for a total of 5.7 million since the beginning of 2008. The unemployment rate for the month hit a 25-year high.
The commercial real-estate market may be beginning to collapse. The second-largest mall owner in the country, General Growth Properties, declared the biggest bankruptcy in U.S. real-estate history on April 16 after amassing an astounding $27 billion in debt.
Fortune 500 companies, the nation’s top corporations by revenue, experienced their worst year ever in 2008. Overall profits plunged 84.7 percent. Thirty-eight financial titans disappeared from the list altogether due to bankruptcy, mergers or foreign takeovers.
China has “canceled America’s credit card,” House Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman Mark Kirk said in late April. The federal deficit is now more than $956 billion, one seventh of the nation’s gross domestic product and the biggest since World War II. China owns $1.7 trillion in dollar-denominated assets, but has dramatically reduced its purchases of treasury bonds and has indicated it is interested in moving away from investing in the dollar.
In April, the House approved a bill to enhance the federal government’s authority to prosecute “bias-motivated violence.” House Minority Leader John Boehner described the legislation on “hate crimes” as charging someone “for what we think they were thinking.” Others warn that the bill is basically a gag order for religious figures who criticize homosexuality.
Lebanese immigrants, including Hezbollah terrorists, have been pouring across the Mexican border into the U.S. The Washington Times reported in April that Hezbollah has partnered with Mexican drug cartels to smuggle operatives and material into the country.
Britain has ended its combat operations in Iraq. British troops began pulling out of Basra on the last day of April. Meanwhile, Britain’s bae Systems, the last heavy-duty combat vehicle manufacturer in the United Kingdom, is shutting down its tank-building plant and armor operations because it does not anticipate any new government orders.
Babies now come before marriage for most young women in Britain, the Office for National Statistics found. Women under 25 are more likely to become mothers before they consider getting married. Currently, about 45 percent of children in the UK are born to unmarried mothers.
On May 2, the public version of the Australian Ministry of Defense’s 2009 white paper was released by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, which outlines the country’s defense priorities. These priorities include projecting Australian influence and power north into Indonesia, which is a far-flung and fractious nation that boasts the world’s largest national Muslim population (240 million)—and a place that a hostile power could easily coerce into hosting a military base that would project its power straight into Australia. For more on Australia’s defense capabilities, read Chapter 8 of our online booklet Australia—Where to Now? on theTrumpet.com.