October 9, 2010

The Week in Review

October 8, 2010 | From theTrumpet.com

Radical Islam growing in the Balkans, Greece’s debt problem getting worse, Medvedev visiting China, and Chávez winning in parliamentary elections.

Middle East 
Iraq’s main Shiite parliamentary bloc has chosen incumbent Nouri al-Maliki as its candidate for prime minister, possibly bringing the country one step closer to ending seven months of political deadlock.
Anti-U.S. Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc, which won 39 seats in March’s parliamentary elections and has been seen as the kingmaker in forming a government, endorsed Maliki on October 1. This cleared the way for the National Alliance (NA) to announce its decision the same day. Sadr had previously opposed the incumbent. Maliki’s political rivals speculated that Sadr had come under intense pressure from Iran to endorse the prime minister. “The Iranians had dispatched a special team to Iraq to push the Sadrists and other parties to back Maliki,” the Los Angeles Times reported, citing an Iraqi politician. The NA is still four seats short of an absolute majority in the 325-member Council of Representatives and may yet need more seats, as two blocs within the Iraqi National Alliance—which joined with Maliki’s State of Law Alliance in May—did not participate in the discussions. One of those groups, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (isci), has reportedly refused to endorse Maliki. The isci, which was founded and long based in Iran and is currently the most pro-Iranian group in Iraq, is in talks with other Shiite Islamists who are considering forming a coalition with the secular-leaning Shiite politician Iyad Allawi’s Iraqiya bloc. Such a bloc would present a viable alternative for the other main bloc—the Kurds—to support. Either way, Iran will have strong influence within the government. 

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. The sources say that though the talks are only preliminary, this is the first time that Taliban representatives have been given the authority to officially negotiate on behalf of Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban organization made up of the remains of the Taliban government that was ousted by the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and that is now based in Pakistan. On September 28, Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced the names of 68 former officials and tribal leaders who comprise the High Peace Council, which is responsible for negotiations with the Taliban. According to the Post, Quetta Shura representatives are discussing a broad agreement that would include the inclusion of Taliban officials in Afghanistan’s government and the withdrawal of U.S. and nato troops according to a definite timeline. Afghan, Arab and European sources cited by the Post said the Obama administration is open to the talks after smaller-than-expected nato gains against the Taliban in the summer despite the increase in U.S. troops. Such negotiations call into question the purpose of the nine-year war in Afghanistan which ousted the Taliban in the first place, and demonstrate America’s lack of will to achieve victory. 

Gaza Strip terrorists launched more missiles into Israel in September than during any other month since the period immediately following Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in early 2009. IsraelNationalNews.com reports that the motivation appears to be a desire by Hamas to disrupt the peace negotiations between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. The Israel Defense Forces website reports that 30 missiles and shells were fired last month, more than double the preceding month. In the past nine years, terrorists have fired over 11,000 rockets at Israel. 
Iran is under a cyberattack that has forced it to delay opening its nuclear plant in Bushehr. Officials admitted that they had been hit by a computer worm but initially insisted the damage was minimal. Last weekend, however, a senior IT official said the Stuxnet worm was multiplying and causing serious problems within Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Security experts studying the malicious computer code say it is very sophisticated, the product of a well-funded, expert team—and additional clues embedded in the code have made Israel the top suspect. “Stuxnet is uniquely dangerous in that it can not only cause damage to a system, but can take control of facilities, producing physical, real-world results to an attack,” reported IsraelNationalNews.com. Has Israel found a way to handicap Iran’s nuclear progress without firing a shot? To date, no power has shown the will to confront Iran directly, and such tactics will only delay the inevitable. But it does appear the timetable for Iran to acquire a deadly nuclear arsenal has just been stretched.

Experts are worrying about a new strain of radical Islam growing in the Balkans. With Bulgaria a member of the European Union, and other nations set to join, these radicals could obtain EU passports, and easy access to the West. The rise of radical Wahhabi sects—the strain of Islam followed by al Qaeda and the Taliban—is even worrying “moderate” Muslims. On September 20, Suleyman Rexhepi, the leader of the Islamic Religious Community in Macedonia, called for the government, the EU and America to take “radical measures” against these groups. Jakub Selimovski, head of religious education in the same community, said, “Wahhabism in Macedonia, the Balkans and in Europe has become more aggressive in the last 10 years.” “They are in Bosnia, here, Kosovo, Serbia, Croatia, and lately they have appeared in Bulgaria,” he said. 

Serbia arrested 12 Muslims last year for planning attacks, with targets including the American Embassy in Belgrade. Organizations accused of having links to Wahhabism have been pouring money into Bulgaria since the mid 1990s. They have built over 150 mosques and teaching centers. They are spreading their brand of Islam in cities and villages in the south and northeast parts of the country, according to reports in local newspapers. With its easy access to Europe, extremists in the Balkans pose a significant security risk to the Continent. Germany has led a campaign to bring the Balkans under Europe’s control. It is not about to let the region be subdued by Islam. 
The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert on October 3, warning its citizens of a potential terrorist attack somewhere in Europe. EU interior ministers supported the advisory, and several European governments issued their own terrorist warnings. Officials gave few details, but it is a reminder that Islamic terror could still strike Europe, at some point provoking a devastating response. 
Greece’s debt problem will get worse this month, with the true amount of the debt and deficits from 2006 to 2009 set to be published. “The Greek deficit and debt figures will be revised upwards, the figures will be bigger,” said Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, spokesman for Olli Rehn, the EU’s economic affairs commissioner. Ireland, too, took a hit as ratings agency Fitch downgraded its credit rating to “A+” from “AA-” on October 6. Fitch also gave Ireland a negative outlook—meaning further downgrades over the next two years are more likely than not. “The downgrade of Ireland reflects the exceptional and greater-than-expected cost associated with the government’s recapitalization of the Irish banks, especially Anglo Irish Bank,” said a director of Fitch’s sovereign group, Chris Pryce. “The negative outlook reflects the uncertainty regarding the timing and strength of economic recovery and medium-term fiscal consolidation effort.” Europe’s financial problems may not be in the headlines as much, but they are still far from solved. 
Meanwhile, the EU voted to increase its entertainment budget by 85 percent, from €1.1 million to over €2 million, on September 29. “I am appalled that this week the EU budget committee allowed an increase of 85 percent in the entertainment budget,” said United Kingdom Independence Party mep and EU budgetary commission member Marta Andreasen. “These people are thinking about champagne and oysters while 100 people have come to Brussels to complain against the austerity measures they are going through in different countries of the EU.”

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (sco), comprised of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, concluded a major 16-day joint military exercise in Kazakhstan on September 25. 

The exercise, called “Peace Mission 2010,” was officially labeled a counterterrorism drill, but its scale—it involved around 5,000 troops, 1,600 armed vehicles, 100 cannons and mortars, and 50 combat aircraft—suggested an exercise in conventional warfare. The exercise was the seventh joint drill conducted by sco member nations, and was the largest of its kind ever held. It included an unprecedented level of participation of the member states. The drill also marked the first time that China’s most-advanced aircraft, the J-10 fighter jets, flew directly to a foreign nation to engage in a military mission. At the event’s concluding ceremony, officials said the drill revealed the determination of sco nations to conquer challenges that may arise in the region, and that the exercise demonstrated the member states’ desire to maintain peace, stability and security, and to promote development and prosperity in the region. “Peace Mission 2010″ provides evidence of a congealing Asian power which the Trumpet has long predicted. For more information, read our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev undertook a three-day visit to China from September 26 to 28, indicating warming ties between the two nations. Speaking to Russian and Chinese war veterans on the first day of his trip, Medvedev said Moscow’s friendship with Beijing “was sealed by blood years ago,” and that the “friendship between Russian and Chinese peoples cemented by the military events will be indestructible and do good for our future generations.” Following a round of high-level talks, Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao issued a joint statement calling for “comprehensively deepening strategic cooperation.” The document also emphasized mutual support for the two nations’ primary interests—Moscow’s support for China’s sovereignty over Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang, and Beijing’s support for Russia’s “efforts to promote peace and stability throughout the Caucasian region and the Commonwealth of Independent States.” Expect political cooperation between Moscow and Beijing to continue to increase, and for that cooperation to pave the way for military alliance.

Latin America/Africa 
Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chávez narrowly won his country’s parliamentary elections on September 26. Despite closing down opposition news sources and fixing the election rules, 52 percent of voters chose Venezuela’s opposition party. However, due to the way the election districts are drawn up, Chávez’s party has a majority in parliament, though it lost the two-thirds majority it had previously that allowed it to impose the president’s will on the country without opposition. Chávez plans to get around this by taking power away from parliament and giving it to local communal councils that he controls. Of course, Chávez’s usual tactics of bullying and intimidation will also continue. On October 3, in his first television program after the election, the president announced that he would nationalize land owned by the subsidiary of a British company called Vestey. 
Venezuela is “carrying out the first studies” toward building a nuclear energy program, President Chávez announced on September 27. “We’re taking on the project of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and they aren’t going to stop us,” he 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 and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, unveiled evidence that Venezuela has been working closely with Iran in order to keep the rogue Middle Eastern power supplied with uranium. Venezuela is not the only Latin American country doing nuclear deals with Iran. The Israeli Foreign Ministry published a document with evidence that Bolivia is supplying Iran with uranium. These nations have strong links with drug smugglers, and they hate America. They are willing to deal with any of America’s enemies, be it Russia, China, Iran or any other that may arise. These nations represent a grave danger to the U.S., especially when allied with America’s more powerful enemies, as they can offer any enemy of the U.S. a foot in America’s back door. 
Up to 15 people died in bomb attacks in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Nigeria’s independence day, October 1. The militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (mend) claimed it planned the attacks. It used two improvised explosive devices in cars, and a grenade. As the country gears up for elections in 2011, mend wants to make its presence known.

A survey released September 28 reveals that “Large numbers of Americans are uninformed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions—including their own.” In fact, atheists and agnostics gave more correct answers in the survey of 3,412 American adults conducted from May 19 to June 6 than “Christians” or any other group. “While every group did better with questions specific to its own religion,” wrote the Washington Times, “once questions about church and state and other world religions were factored in, nonbelievers wound up doing the best overall.” The conclusion drawn by the president of the American Humanist Association, who says that unbelievers tend to be better educated than believers, is that “The more dogmatic that one is, almost by definition, the less critical thinking is happening.” Certainly, this is generally the case. As Herbert Armstrong wrote in Mystery of the Ages, “Most people … accept or reject a belief on careless assumption due to whatever they have heard, been taught, or assumed without proof.” This Pew survey confirms that reality, with results showing a “surprising lack of knowledge even about the tenets of people’s own religions,” according to the Times
According to some Wall Street economists, the world economy will no longer catch a cold when the U.S. economy sneezes. These economists project dismal forecasts for U.S. growth compared to the global economy for 2011. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predictedpredicted in September “positive but low growth in advanced countries,” with developing nations expanding at a “very high” rate. that growth in the U.S. will fall from 2.6 percent to 1.8 percent, while worldwide growth will only slow by 0.2 percent, to 4.6 percent
Three years after the bust, rising unemployment, a depressed housing market and declining orders in U.S. factories are underpinning the bleak outlook on the U.S. economy. Meanwhile, the rest of the world, dragged into its deepest recession in 70 years, is on a quicker path to recovery. The chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Olivier Blanchard, predicted in September “positive but low growth in advanced countries,” with developing nations expanding at a “very high” rate.
Prostitution in Canada got a big legal boost last week. On September 28, Ontario Superior Court Justice Susan Himel ruled to strike down three key sections of the Canadian Criminal Code dealing with prostitution. “The conclusion I have reached is that three provisions of the Criminal Code that seek to address facets of prostitution … are not in accord with the principles of fundamental justice and must be struck down,” wrote Himel in her 133-page ruling. The decision comes with far-reaching consequences. By repealing these laws, “sex workers cannot only form guilds, hire bodyguards and pay taxes,” noted Lezlie Lowe, “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 …” (Chronicle Herald, October 2). In other words, Ontario’s illicit sex trade will expand and become more mainstream. 

Britain recognized Druidry as an official religion under charity law on October 2. This means it gets tax exemptions, just like a Christian religion. “Elevating them [druids] to the same status as Christianity is but the latest example of how the bedrock creed of this country is being undermined,” writes Melanie Philips in the Daily Mail. “The whole thing is beyond absurd. But it is also malevolent. For it is all of a piece with the agenda by the oh-so politically correct Charity Commission to promote the fanatical religious creed of the left—the worship of equality.” 

Britain’s new, supposedly family-friendly, Conservative coalition government announced that it would put families where the father works and the mother both stay at home at a financial disadvantage. On October 4, British Chancellor George Osborne announced that those earning over approximately ₤44,000 (us$70,000) would no longer be paid the Child Benefit. Under the Child Benefit scheme, mothers receive ₤1,000 (tax-free) for the first child, and ₤700 for each subsequent one. Osborn’s plan is seen my many as a reasonable response to Britain’s budget problems. However, what has provoked outrage is the way it will be implemented. If both parents in a family work and earn, for example, ₤43,000 each, they will still receive the Child Benefit—despite the fact that their combined income is ₤86,000. However, if only one parent works, and earns, say, ₤45,000, they will lose the benefit. The new government may claim to be family friendly, but it falls short of encouraging a robustly strong family structure. 

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). Good news? Probably not. 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.” It continued: “Treatment data suggests few people so far have needed help for these new drugs. It could take some time for those using legal highs to develop problems that would call for formal treatment. So it’s too early to tell if there is an emerging treatment need, although reports from A&E units suggest these new drugs do cause significant harm.” In their search for escape and new pleasures, young people are turning to new drugs, with completely unknown side effects.