1. Guttenberg on a roll
Just a few months ago, German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was alone on what one newspaper called a “kamikaze mission”: ending conscription in Germany. Now Guttenberg’s proposals have been approved, giving him a major political victory.
The biggest U-turn came from the leader of the Christian Social Union (csu), Guttenberg’s own party. Just months ago, Horst Seehofer rejected plans to scrap conscription, saying they would go against a key component of German conservatism. In an interview published in Spiegel on September 13 he had completely changed his mind, saying “conscription is a major imposition on the freedom of young people and is only constitutionally justifiable” if the country is in danger.
The Financial Times called Seehofer’s about-face “a testament to the political cunning of Mr. zu Guttenberg, who at 38 is seen as a possible successor to Mr. Seehofer as csu leader and future contender to be chancellor” (September 14).
The cdu and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Social Union formally adopted Guttenberg’s position at a joint meeting of their leaders in September. “How quickly times change,” wrote Germany’s SüddeutscheZeitung.
Given such spectacular success, Guttenberg seems set to go far. Philipp Missfelder, head of the cdu youth wing, has highly praised the German defense minister, calling him the “best political guarantee of survival for the [conservative] union and defense against the Green zeitgeist. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, with his great credibility, appeals to many non-voters and former voters, so that in a very short time he has become an indispensable bearer of hope.”
Continue to watch Guttenberg.
2. Europe to Islam: Get lost
Germany may have reached a watershed moment over race and immigration.
A prominent former board member of the country’s central bank, Thilo Sarrazin, claims Muslim immigrants are destroying Germany’s prosperity in his new book, Abolishing Germany—How We’re Putting Our Country in Jeopardy. In it, Sarrazin details what he calls Germany’s “demise,” saying that with constant immigration and higher birth rates among immigrants, Germany is “turning Muslim.”
An Allensbach Institute poll found that 60 percent of Germans believe Sarrazin said “many things that are correct.” A mere 13 percent disagree with him.
Spiegel featured the author on its cover, calling him a “people’s hero.” A survey conducted by Emnid pollsters for Bild am Sonntag revealed that 18 percent of Germans would vote for a political party led by Sarrazin.
Considering the politically restrained atmosphere that has dominated Germany since World War ii, the broad support for Sarrazin is significant. Europe has tolerated the steady growth of Islam’s presence in society for decades. But that tolerance is rapidly evaporating.
Some in the Catholic Church are also starting to speak out against Islam. Piero Gheddo, a Catholic priest from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, said Europe needs to wake up to the threat. “[T]his challenge of Islam,” he said, “sooner or later will conquer the majority in Europe. The fact is that, as a people, we are becoming ever more pagan, and the religious vacuum is inevitably filled by other proposals and religious forces” (Zenit, September 7).
Watch for the Vatican to take the lead as Europe pushes back against Islam.
On August 31, just days before peace talks began between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility for an attack in the West Bank that killed five Israelis—two men and two women, one of whom was pregnant. The al-Qassam Brigades terrorists gunned down the Israelis in an ambush by a Jewish settlement near Hebron. Hamas has also stepped up its rocket attacks on Israel in an apparent attempt to wreck the peace talks.
3. Dear Taliban, please come back!
Representatives of the Taliban and the Afghan government have begun high-level, secret talks to negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan, according to Afghan and Arab sources cited by the Washington Post on October 6.
Though the talks are only preliminary, this is the first time that representatives have been given authority to officially negotiate on behalf of the Afghan Taliban organization that remains of the government the U.S. ousted in its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. It is now based in Pakistan.
The Post says the agreement under discussion would place Taliban officials in Afghanistan’s government. “What it really boils down to is the Americans both supporting and in some cases maybe even participating in talking with the enemy,” a European official said.
The Taliban is in a strong position. It is not being forced to negotiate out of fear of defeat; in fact, it has little to lose. What sorts of concessions would the U.S. and Kabul have to make to bring it to a political settlement?
When similar plans were pursued last year, we wrote on theTrumpet.com, “This policy is a defeat in all but name. The world’s greatest military power … cannot defeat the Taliban. This demonstrates what [we have] been forecasting for many years: America has won its last war.”
4. The secret nuclear program at America’s back door
Venezuela is “carrying out the first studies” toward building a nuclear energy program, President Hugo Chávez announced September 27.
“We’re taking on the project of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and they aren’t going to stop us,” Chávez told a news conference.
Venezuela also has a deal with Moscow for Russia to build a nuclear reactor in the country. Yet these are probably not the most concerning of Venezuela’s nuclear projects.
At a briefing on September 21, Roger F. Noriega, former assistant secretary at the State Department, unveiled evidence that Venezuela has been working closely to keep Iran supplied with uranium. “Chávez has been developing the program for two years with the collaboration of Iran, a nuclear rogue state,” wrote Noriega in Foreign Policy. “[T]hese documents suggest that Venezuela is helping Iran obtain uranium and evade international sanctions, all steps that are apparent violations of the UN Security Council resolutions meant to forestall Iran’s illegal nuclear weapons program” (October 5).
Noriega says Iranian and Venezuelan officials signed a secret science and technology agreement formalizing nuclear technology cooperation two years ago. “The week after the agreement was signed, Venezuela’s Ministry of Energy and Petroleum prepared a presentation for the International Atomic Energy Agency documenting the establishment of a ‘nuclear power program’ in Venezuela. That presentation, obtained from sources within the Venezuelan government, reveals that an ‘Atomic Energy Committee’ has been managing the nuclear program since 2007.”
Venezuela has strong links with drug smugglers, and it hates America. It is willing to deal with any of America’s enemies, be it Russia, China or Iran. This represents a grave danger to the U.S., as it can offer any enemy of the U.S. a foot in America’s back door.
5. Making Canada safe for prostitution
Prostitution in Canada got a big legal boost on September 28. Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel struck down three key sections of the Canadian Criminal Code dealing with prostitution, saying the code was “not in accord with the principles of fundamental justice.”
The three laws struck down pertain to operating brothels, procuring a prostitute or earning money off prostitution, and communicating in public places for prostitution.
As a result, “sex workers cannot only form guilds, hire bodyguards and pay taxes,” noted the Chronicle Herald, “but men and women who trade sex for money can better count on police protection, and street prostitutes can conduct their business in less shady spots …” (October 2).
In other words, Ontario’s illicit sex trade will likely expand and become more mainstream. And many believe it’s only a matter of time before Himel’s decision ripples beyond Ontario. If the ruling withstands appeal, the Calgary Herald noted on September 29, “the ruling could have implications across the country … and could help set similar precedents in other courts.” Many fear the ruling could touch off a national trend whereby prostitution laws across Canada are watered down or repealed.
On October 10, Carl Paladino, a candidate for New York governor, said he opposed indoctrinating children with pro-homosexuality views and would veto any same-sex “marriage” legislation. The criticism he received linked to a just-released Pew Research poll: For the first time, fewer than half of all Americans are opposed to homosexual “marriage.” In 1995, 65 percent were against the policy and 27 percent supported it. In 2010, just 48 percent are opposed, and 42 percent are in favor.
The Catholic Church has found itself in hot water once again, in both Belgium and Germany. In the first half of this year, 475 cases of sexual abuse by priests were reported, said a Belgian commission in a September report. In August, it was confirmed that the former head of the Catholic Church in Belgium, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, advised a victim of sexual abuse to keep silent about his treatment until after the bishop who had abused him retired. On August 31, the German Catholic Church published new guidelines saying all allegations of abuse must be reported to authorities. The old guidelines simply “advised” the church to report abuses if the allegations were “proven.”
Once again Europe has been hit by a series of strikes. French unions walked out in a national strike on September 7 as parliament debated raising the retirement age from 60 to 62. Refinery workers and students joined similar protests October 12 to 14, raising fears of fuel shortages. Britain was hit by strikes on September 7 as train station and maintenance workers, signalers and some drivers protested plans to cut 800 workers. On October 13, protesters blocked off the entrance to the Acropolis in Greece, claiming they were owed two years of back pay. Romanian tax employees also went on strike from October 13 to 14, until the Finance Ministry gave in to their demands.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Lebanon in mid-October in what was seen as a major boost to Iran’s ally and proxy Hezbollah. He received an enthusiastic welcome in Beirut, toured a Hezbollah stronghold in southern Lebanon, and gave a speech predicting Israel’s demise. Ahmadinejad and his Lebanese counterpart, Michel Suleiman, signed a number of agreements in the areas of health, tourism, energy and water. The visit demonstrated Iran’s growing clout and confidence within the region.
Iran announced September 7 that it has reached self-sufficiency in producing petrol and no longer needs foreign imports, thus foiling sanctions. Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi said Iranian refineries are pumping out 66.5 million liters of petrol daily. New sanctions by world powers have targeted Iran’s petrol imports; major oil companies have stopped selling petrol to Iran in recent months. The gap has been largely filled, however, by Turkish and Chinese companies. Combined with Tehran’s claims of refining self-sufficiency, the willingness of such companies to continue supplying the rogue state demonstrates the futility of sanctions in pressuring Iran.
Turkey and Iran should increase their cooperation and solidarity, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said September 16. “I think that there are initiatives we can launch together to ensure welfare, peace, stability and confidence in the entire region,” he said, adding that the two countries’ geographical closeness offered unique opportunities for them to boost economic relations. Turkey’s increasingly friendly relations with Iran mean trouble for Israel, which has relied on its defense agreement with Turkey inked in 1996 to help stabilize the region.
After Kyrgyzstan’s October 10 parliamentary elections, five political parties opened discussions on forming a coalition government. Several Russia-backed parties, like the staunchly nationalist Ata-Zhurt, campaigned on closing America’s Manas military base near the nation’s capital of Bishkek, a crucial hub for U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan. Last year, under pressure from Moscow, Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted to close the base, but it then settled for quadrupling the U.S.’s rent payment instead. Russia, which views Kyrgyzstan as being within its sphere of influence, dislikes America’s presence in the country and will likely exploit Kyrgyzstan’s shaky political situation to try to oust the U.S.
Beijing and Moscow announced plans on October 13 to begin trading in each other’s currencies by the end of this year, which would shrink the dollar’s role in global commerce. Amid the global financial crisis, both China, the world’s largest energy consumer, and Russia, the world’s largest energy supplier, have called for the dollar’s role in the financial system to be diminished, and are taking concrete steps toward that end.
An increase in intra-Asian commerce and improving liquidity of Asian currencies bode well for the usage of regional currencies, and cast ominous clouds on the greenback. On August 27, Malaysia’s central bank liberalized its foreign exchange rules to allow non-residents to convert foreign cash into its currency, the ringgit. China has also moved to allow yuan/ringgit exchanges, within a 5 percent reference band. The U.S. dollar has been the primary currency in the region for so long that it still carries weighty market advantages. But dependency on the dollar is diminishing with every passing month. Gone are the days when the greenback was the only currency option for international trade.
Emerging-market economies in Asia and South America have been barely affected by the “global” economic slowdown. In Brazil, for example, the economy is booming at a 7.55 percent growth rate and unemployment is at a record low of 6.7 percent. In Argentina, the economy is growing at 8.1 percent, in Peru, 8.3 percent and in Paraguay, 9 percent. The contrast to America’s 1.7 percent growth rate illustrates just how bad things are in the U.S.
One exception to the rule is Venezuela, which is suffering from 30 percent annual inflation and sporadic food shortages. Nevertheless, Socialist President Hugo Chávez is pushing ahead with his controversial nationalization program. In October, he ordered the seizure of a major fertilizer plant, a motor lubricants maker, more farmland and agricultural supplies company Agroislena. Upon taking over the fertilizer producer, Chávez immediately slashed fertilizer prices by 40 percent. Without government funding, the plant will now most likely shut down and fertilizer shortages will result. Almost every major industry Chávez has nationalized is operating in default, with the result that shortages are commonplace. If not for Venezuela’s vast oil deposits, the economy would probably have collapsed long ago.
Thirteen people were killed in riots in Mozambique at the beginning of September as the government raised the price of food, water and electricity. Over 400 people were arrested in connection with the riots. Police opened fire on the thousands of demonstrators as they lit tires, looted food warehouses and did around $3.3 million worth of damage. Wheat prices have soared some 70 percent on international markets since last year, largely because of fires and drought in Russia.
Five hundred women were raped in eastern Congo in July and August, UN officials announced on September 7. Speaking in front of the Security Council, officials said this shows that both rebel groups and the government use rape as a weapon. They also said that over 15,000 rapes were reported in both 2008 and 2009.
Floods forced nearly 60,000 people out of their homes in south Sudan in August. The torrential rains left most of the state capital of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, Aweil, underwater. Around 2 million people have been killed in a decades-long civil war in the area. Almost half of the 8 million in south Sudan are thought to be short of food. The floods are just one more in a long line of catastrophes for the country.
On October 12, a California federal judge ordered the U.S. military to end its 17-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prevents open homosexuals from serving in the military. Judge Virginia Phillips ruled the act was unconstitutional on September 9. If the administration does not appeal the ruling or loses an appeal, open homosexuality will be permitted for all personnel in all U.S. military branches serving all over the world.
The deputy chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has said that intelligence agencies have wasted billions of dollars through mismanagement and underperforming programs that have fallen behind, some of which have been cancelled. “The American public would be outraged if they knew,” Sen. Christopher Bond said.
In early October, Britain recognized Druidry as a legitimate religion under charity law, meaning it qualifies for tax exemptions. “Elevating [druids] to the same status as Christianity is but the latest example of how the bedrock creed of this country is being undermined,” Melanie Philips wrote in the Daily Mail (October 4).
The number of British 18-to-24-year-olds undergoing treatment for drug addiction decreased substantially in 2009-2010, with the one exception of cannabis, according to Britain’s National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (nta). But this is not exactly good news. The nta report stated: “Despite this apparent step away from the most harmful street drugs, there is some evidence of a corresponding move towards new synthetic compounds (sometimes known as legal highs) such as mephedrone. The nature of the legal highs market means that new substances are continually emerging, bringing with them renewed concerns about their actual chemical composition and the potential harmful effects.” In their search for escape and new pleasures, young people are turning to new drugs, with completely unknown side effects.