The results of European parliamentary elections held June 4 to 7 show a marked shift to the right across the Continent. Both center-right and far-right parties made substantial gains. Europe has witnessed an economic crisis combined with the electorate swinging to the political right before—80 years ago (article, page 22).
May 23 was the 60th anniversary of Germany’s constitution. The flag-waving and patriotism shown that day reflects a marked change in Germany. “Sixty-four years after the end of the Nazi era and its atrocious crimes against humanity, Germans are no longer ashamed to wave their flag or sing their national anthem,” wrote United Press International May 21. A survey released earlier in May, titled “Being German: A newfound national pride in harmony with the heart,” corroborated upi’s report. The three-year study polled 2,000 Germans from age 14 up. Nearly 60 percent said they endorsed the statement, “I’m proud to be German.” Sixty-nine percent said Germany is more important than Europe or the international community. Past surges in German patriotism have produced deadly results—a fact worth remembering in light of biblical prophecies of Germany launching yet another world war.
Unemployment reached 9.2 percent in April within the 16-nation eurozone; 14 million people in the eurozone are unemployed. Spain’s unemployment rate is 18.1 percent, Austria’s 17.4 percent and Lithuania’s 16.8 percent. Italy, Austria, Spain and the Netherlands are suffering the worst slump since World War ii. Germany is in the deepest recession of any major economy. During the first three months of this year, Germany’s economy shrank by 3.8 percent, the largest drop since Germany began keeping gdp data in 1970. Austria and the Netherlands shrank by 2.8 percent, Italy by 2.4 percent, Spain by 1.8 percent and France by 1.2 percent. This is putting pressure on governments to cut spending. A total of 350,000 people marched in the streets of Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, Prague and other cities one weekend in May, calling for greater job protection. If Europe’s national governments cut spending, far more are sure to protest. As economic conditions worsen, watch for European dissatisfaction to grow.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier traveled to Moscow June 10 to 11 to visit with Russia’s top leaders. He said, “Russia is an indispensable partner for Germany and the European Union,” and commented on “German-Russian cooperation as a model of interaction, so that both sides will benefit if our potential is united.” Stratfor noted, “The last time Germany and Russia ‘united their potential,’ the result was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, which carved up Eastern Europe between the Soviet Union and the Third Reich in 1939” (June 11). Watch this alliance closely.
The European Commission announced May 27 that it wants to empower two new EU institutions to impose binding decisions on member states. Driven by Germany, the plans would create the European Systemic Risk Council and the European System of Financial Supervisors. Germany is leading a drive to move financial power from London to Brussels as part of a plan for the EU to become the world’s major financial powerhouse.
In Lebanese parliamentary elections on June 7, the governing majority—an alliance of pro-Western and anti-Iran, anti-Syria forces—beat the Hezbollah-led opposition. Hezbollah’s alliance dropped one legislative seat, winning 57 of the 128 seats. Though the election results were widely reported as a major defeat for Hezbollah, the real story is more complex and far less reassuring. Hezbollah in fact had no intention of taking over the government of Lebanon. It only stood 11 candidates, all of whom won. The Iran-sponsored terrorist group is perfectly satisfied with its current position in Lebanon: as the political opposition with veto power—which it will fight to hold on to. And Iran only wants to preserve it as a weapon for future use against Israel.
Pakistan’s military launched an offensive against the Taliban in the North-West Frontier Province’s Swat Valley in late April. On May 31, the Pakistani Army announced it had secured Mingora, the Taliban’s district headquarters. While the army has made progress, the battle is far from over. The Taliban is adept at melting into the populace only to regroup later, which is made easy by the fact that some 3 million people have been displaced by the counterinsurgency. In addition, the Taliban still largely holds the rural areas as well as the sympathy of much of the populace—who anticipate they will be under the rule of the Taliban once more when the military leaves. It will be a mammoth task for the Pakistani authorities to not only hold the captured areas, but also to rebuild and establish governance and security. Meanwhile, the Taliban has other safe havens in Pakistan, and time is on its side.
Terrorist attacks against civilians are another ongoing part of the Taliban’s strategy in Pakistan. On June 9, a suicide bombing in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed 18 people and injured about 50 at a luxury hotel, with several foreigners being among the dead and wounded. Immediately after the attack, some Pakistani media started to question the value of the Swat offensive, as was the Taliban’s intention. Such attacks are likely to continue as the Islamist terror group seeks to convince the Pakistani public and government that the fight isn’t worth it.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, weapons and ammunition given to the Afghan security forces by the U.S. are falling into the hands of the Taliban, the New York Times reported May 19. Military officials and arms analysts say that poor Afghan oversight of arms inventories, together with corruption in the Afghan forces, may have helped keep the Taliban supplied with weapons and ammunition during the past eight years.
The leaders of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, gathering in Tehran to discuss the Taliban insurgency in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, issued a joint declaration May 24 in which they promised to find regional solutions. The fact that Iran hosted this summit gives it automatic significance. With doubts increasing in the region over whether the U.S. will stick it out in Afghanistan, Islamabad and Kabul are looking to Tehran—despite the fact that Iran has supported the Taliban. As Global Politician reported May 28, “in a very complicated dual policy, Iran has been able to extend its influence in both countries while supporting the enemies of both governments.” By establishing itself as a key player in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, Tehran is gaining leverage over Washington.
On May 26, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned an earlier ruling banning former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from running for public office. Currently the most popular politician in Pakistan, the Islamist-leaning Sharif is now in a position to become prime minister once again, whenever elections are held.
In Israel, a May 17 survey pointed to an increase in anti-Jewish sentiment among Arab residents. About 40.5 percent of Israeli Arabs believe the Holocaust never occurred, according to the University of Haifa poll—significantly more than the 28 percent who denied the Holocaust in 2006. Only 53.7 percent of Israeli Arabs polled said Israel has a right to exist; in 2003, that figure was 81.1 percent.
Pope Benedict XVI toured the Middle East in May, spending five days in Israel where he called for the creation of a Palestinian state. As the Trumpet has explained for years, however, the Vatican is not interested in the rights of Palestinians; it is exploiting them as a means of pursuing its own goals in Jerusalem.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told China June 1 that its money was safe. His Chinese audience broke out in laughter. Geithner was visiting China to allay fears that Washington’s bulging budget deficit and ultra-loose monetary policy are a veiled attempt to repudiate its debts by fueling inflation. Brazil, Russia, India and China have announced that they plan to invest in the new International Monetary Fund (imf) bond as they look for alternatives to the U.S. treasury bond. Russia announced June 10 that it plans to sell some of its $140 billion in treasury bonds in order to invest $10 billion in the imf bond. “Given the amounts involved—for instance, China has committed to buying about $50 billion of imf bonds—in a pool of $2 trillion of reserves, this is not going to make a big difference,” said Cornell economics professor Eswar Prasad. “But symbolically it’s still very important that these emerging markets are looking for an alternative to the dollar in the short term, and this might be a viable option” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, June 9).
On May 25, North Korea tested a nuclear bomb for the second time in 2½ years (article, page 16). One of the most significant aftershocks was how it motivated Japan to step up its talk of becoming a major military power. Tokyo is also using the pirate threat in waters off Africa to justify increasing its military capability. Japan announced May 28 that it has deployed two P-3 surveillance aircraft to Djibouti. This is yet another step in Japan shedding its post-World War ii military restraints.
Iran and North Korea have been working together to develop their ballistic missiles, the head of the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency said June 11. Lieut. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly stated that Tehran and Pyongyang are sharing knowledge on avionics, propulsion and materials, among other things. Considering that North Korea is a nuclear power, collusion between these two rogue states should be of tremendous concern to nations around the world.
The Kremlin has created a special commission designed to counter perceived anti-Russian propaganda within the former Soviet Union. In a decree made public on May 19, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the commission to investigate and counter “falsified” versions of history that could damage Russia’s international prestige. Critics are saying this commission represents a return to Soviet-era controls. The ruling United Russia party has also proposed new legislation that would mandate a jail term of three to five years for anyone in the former Soviet Union accused of rehabilitating Nazism. Russia is returning to authoritarianism and Soviet-era propaganda techniques. Biblical prophecy clearly describes the inevitable return of Russia as a great power. Under Vladimir Putin, this transformation is taking place before our eyes.
Five neo-Nazis were arrested on May 21 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, for plotting to detonate explosive devices in two synagogues. Authorities suspect the neo-Nazi group Neuland had committed 10 murders in the previous two months alone, confirming a new pattern of violence among neo-Nazis in Brazil.
In June, Venezuela’s government approved an additional $6 billion of spending this year, reversing cutbacks established in March and perhaps indicating that the government expects the price of oil to continue rising. About half of Venezuela’s revenue comes from oil profits.
Brazilian and Chinese officials signed 13 strategic accords during a Brazilian delegation’s visit to Beijing in May. Beijing agreed to loan $10 billion to state oil company Petrobras, which will deliver 200,000 barrels of oil per day to China for the coming decade. The two governments are considering conducting trade in their own currencies instead of U.S. dollars. China’s aggressive moves to secure global resources is isolating the United States and is certain to provoke serious competition with Europe—competition that the Bible prophesies will turn violent.
In South Africa, African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma was sworn in as president on May 9. Zuma is a controversial figure who acts in classic African Big Man style. Zuma has listed land redistribution as one of the five priorities of his new administration. The land redistribution program was a primary cause of Zimbabwe’s economic ruin. South Africa is following in the unsuccessful footsteps of its northern neighbor—a travesty in a tremendously blessed nation.
The cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe has affected about 100,000 people, killing 4,000. The United Nations has appealed for $718 million to provide immediate aid to the country. Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai visited U.S. President Barack Obama in June to try to raise money for his country; he is asking for $2 billion, a figure that could reach $10 billion total, to spur job creation and infrastructure development. The reality, though, is that his opponents—President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF—yielded little real power to him, and Western governments are unlikely to commit significant funding to the prime minister while the president still holds the steering wheel. This could allow Mugabe to portray the new prime minister as ineffective—although Mugabe himself will have both originated and perpetuated Zimbabwe’s horrific national calamities.
The president of the United States proclaimed June “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.” The June 1 proclamation commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn riots, which marked the beginning of the lgbt rights movement in America. President Obama called himself a “partner” of the “lgbt community” and issued the strongest, highest-level endorsement the radical homosexual agenda has ever received in America. Obama pledged to support civil unions and federal rights for lgbt couples, enhance hate crime laws, crack down on workplace discrimination, allow homosexuals more freedom in the military and ensure that lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals can adopt children.
The U.S. government will have to borrow nearly 50 cents for every dollar it spends this year, exploding the record federal deficit past $1.8 trillion, under White House estimates released in May. “Budget Office figures released [May 11] would add $89 billion to the 2009 red ink—increasing it to more than four times last year’s all-time high as the government hands out billions more than expected for people who have lost jobs and takes in less tax revenue from people and companies making less money,” Associated Press reported (May 11).
EUbusiness.com reported in May that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada could become Europe’s gateway to North American markets thanks to a new EU-Canada free-trade agreement. Ottawa and Brussels want to boost trade an estimated €20 billion (us$27 billion) per year over the first seven years. Harper said the agreement would help Canada decrease its trade reliance on the U.S. while offering foreign investors the lowest tax rates on the continent. Thus, an American neighbor boosts Europe’s bid to become the financial capital of the world.
British youths are contracting sexually transmitted infections (stis) by the thousands. Government figures show that the number of young people under age 16 diagnosed with stis rose 58 percent from 2003 to 2007, to nearly 4,000. The response? Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said, “The number of youngsters contracting stis is very disturbing. Children must be informed about the risks involved in sexual relationships and taught how to be safe”—which somehow never involves encouraging young people to obey God’s clearly wise and sensible law against committing fornication.
An online poll in Britain of 3,000 families, conducted by YoungPoll and OnePoll, found that the British family spends an average of 45 minutes per day together. Most families spend much of that time watching television or eating. The correlation between the nation’s impoverished family life and the rise of problems among the nation’s youth is not difficult to recognize.
Britain is giving up its domestic tank manufacturing capacity.
In late May, an icm/Taxpayers’ Alliance poll found that 60 percent of Britons believe Britain should refuse to pay any fines the EU imposes on it. Almost 70 percent want the government to actually start breaking EU rules; only 28 percent disagree. Three out of four say any decision to grant more powers to Brussels should go to referendum. The Daily Mail Online called the majority Euroskeptics “ripe for revolt.” The Trumpet continues to watch for the fulfillment of the Bible’s prophecy that Britain will not remain a part of the European Union.