January 21, 2012

The Week in Review

January 20, 2012 | From theTrumpet.com
Troubling politics in Egypt, the European Union’s feelings about Israel, the eurozone can’t get any credit, China and Russia’s expanding militaries, and cartel violence crosses the border—northbound.

Middle East
Islamist to lead Egypt’s new parliament: A Muslim Brotherhood leader will be installed as speaker of Egypt’s newly elected parliament under a temporary agreement concluded Monday between the country’s political parties. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has nominated its party secretary-general, Mohamed Saad Katatni, for the position. The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood is expected to control as many as half the seats in the People’s Assembly. Under the power-sharing agreement, representatives of the ultraconservative Salafist Nour party and the liberal al-Wafd party would be deputy speakers. The Coptic Christian-led Egyptian Bloc is worried that the Islamists will dominate parliament, with one of its legislators saying a neutral person should have been selected as parliament speaker rather than the decision being made through a political deal. The bloc controls just 10 percent of seats, however, so it has little say. The parliament’s first session is scheduled for Monday.
ElBaradei pulls out of presidential race: A further indication of the direction Egypt is headed is the decision of Mohammad ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to drop out of the Egyptian presidential race. With ElBaradei’s announcement on January 14, the likelihood of an Islamist president greatly increases. Though ElBaradei said the reason for his decision was the continuing influence of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egyptian sources say his motive was more self-serving: He simply conceded defeat to the Islamists, given their overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections.
Attacks in Iraq kills dozens: A suicide bomb attack targeting Shiite pilgrims in Basra last Saturday killed at least 53 people and wounded more than 135. The following day, at least 18 people died when insurgents launched a coordinated attack on a jail in Ramadi in order to free terror suspects. On Monday, car bombs exploded in Shiite areas of two Iraqi cities, Mosul and Hillah, killing at least 11 people. Sectarian violence in Iraq has surged since the last U.S. troops left the country last month, with at least 150 killed since the beginning of the year. A sectarian political crisis has also erupted, with the country’s Shiite-dominated government issuing an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Sunnis fear being shut out of politics by the Shiite majority.
EU report slams Israel: The European Union has issued another report highly critical of Israeli policies in the West Bank. Authors of the report, titled “Area C and Palestinian State Building,” were criticized by Israeli diplomatic sources for not getting any input from the Israeli government, according to the Jerusalem Post. The EU has decided to pursue a series of steps that may undermine Israel’s control over “Area C” in the West Bank, according to Ynet, which has obtained a copy of the internal report. Area C makes up 62 percent of the West Bank and is the portion that, under the Oslo Accords, is fully controlled by Israel. The report says that Europe will support building, infrastructure, educational and other projects in this region in order to “support the Palestinian people and help maintain their presence” there. A Western diplomat, commenting on the document, said the EU had decided to ignore Israeli regulations: “What Europe is essentially saying here is that because Area C is vital for sustaining a viable Palestinian state, we will support whatever needs to be done for the sake of Palestinian development in the area regardless of Israel’s planning policy.” The EU report is just the latest of ongoing criticism Israel has received from Europe regarding its policies.
France’s credit rating down, Greece nearly out: Nine eurozone nations had their credit rating downgraded by ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) on January 13, causing the euro to fall to its lowest level against the dollar since 2010. France and Austria lost their flawless aaa ratings and are now rated AA+. Portugal’s and Cyprus’s ratings were cut to “junk.” Greece poses a potentially bigger threat to the European Union after a breakdown in talks over its debt threatened to deny Greece the next stage of bailout cash. As a condition for receiving the money, Greece has to negotiate a “haircut” from its creditors—a voluntary agreement for them to forgive a large chunk of its debts. Naturally, the creditors aren’t keen to do this. Butforcing them to accept losses could, according to the New York Times,“unleash violent market reactions that could conceivably produce another market cataclysm like the 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and throw the world into another recession.” During negotiations last Friday, one body representing the creditors announced a “pause for reflection”—stoking fears that Greece was having trouble forming an agreement. But even if it does manage to, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund are not sure they want to give Greece the loan. Greece needs money by March 20—when it must pay €14.4 billion of debt. It has a lot of hoops to jump through before then to get the cash. Downgrades and troublesome Greek debt show that the eurozone hasn’t come close to solving its financial problems. Expect things to get worse, until Europe is forced to accept all of Germany’s conditions in return for a financial lifeline.
German dairy giant buys UK’s biggest milk supplier: German dairy company Müller Group bought Robert Wiseman Dairies, Britain’s largest supplier of fresh milk, for almost €338 million (us$428 million), the two firms announced on Monday. The Glasgow-based Robert Wiseman Dairies operates seven separate dairies across Britain and employs 5,000 Britons. In 2010, it supplied around one third of the UK’s fresh milk, and had a turnover of more than €1 billion (us$1.27 billion). More than half of the company’s shareholders have already accepted the offer from Germany’s 116-year-old Müller Group. Two of the primary end-time trends Bible prophecy foretells are the decline of Anglo-America and the rise of a German-led European empire. Müller Group’s acquisition of the UK’s largest milk supplier advances the fulfillment of both of these foundational prophecies.
Postwar Italy and Germany let Nazis go free: Italy’s Christian Democratic government and the German Foreign office collaborated to let Nazis go unpunished for massacres committed in Italy, according to documents published earlier this week by German historian Felix Bohr. The Italians didn’t want the massacres investigated because they didn’t want other countries to start looking into Italian war crimes. Nor did they want to upset relations with Germany, or bring its attention to the fact that the Italian Communists fought against the Nazis. Meanwhile, the German Foreign Office was full of ex-Nazis, who were happy to let their former colleagues get off scot-free. This is yet another example of how foolish the Allies were to let Germany de-Nazify itself.
Outspoken German elected EU parliamentary president: German Socialist mep Martin Schulz was elected the new president of the European Parliament January 17. His victory was no surprise—the Socialists and the European People’s Party had agreed to split the five-year presidency. Schulz is known to be easily angered, and is an outspoken critic of Britain. “I doubt in the long term whether Britain will stay in the EU,” he said last month. “The EU can, if necessary, do without Britain, but Britain would have more difficulty without the EU.”
IMF wants more cash for eurozone: Directors of the International Monetary Fund (imf) agreed to try to gather funds to help the eurozone on January 17. A report published the next day said they would seek “up to $500 billion in additional lending resources.” The imf currently has $300 billion. The EU pledged another $200 billion last month. If they can raise this next set of loans, it will bring the total to $1 trillion.
China boosts military ties with Asian neighbors: 2011 saw China’s military diplomacy significantly boost ties with foreign forces, the China Daily reported on Tuesday. “Senior officials of the Central Military Commission and the People’s Liberation Army headquarters paid visits to 14 neighboring countries including Vietnam, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore and the Philippines in 2011,” the publication reported. “China attended meetings to exchange views on defense and security issues such as the 10th prime ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.” The report also emphasized the Chinese military’s “profound achievements” in cooperating with the militaries of neighboring nations, and highlighted eight joint military exercises China conducted with foreign forces during 2011. These joint drills included China-Pakistan anti-terrorist exercises, China-Indonesia special forces drills, and China-Belarus parachute troop training. In June this year, China’s army will join forces with troops from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for military drills in Tajikistan. 2011 was a significant year for cooperation among Asian military forces, and 2012 is poised to further accelerate the trend.
Russia increases military aid to Kyrgyzstan: The Kremlin has started pumping extra military aid into Kyrgyzstan to boost security along the Central Asian country’s borders before nato withdraws from Afghanistan in 2014, the Telegraph reported on Wednesday. Russia and many Central Asian nations believe nato’s departure from Afghanistan will allow the Taliban to push northward and destabilize the region that has become a major energy supplier to Europe. The most recent Russian aid package to Kyrgyzstan is worth $15.5 million and is intended to secure its southern border with Tajikistan, which Moscow wishes to control. The Central Asian region has taken on increased importance in recent months because of unraveling ties between the U.S. and Pakistan. This deteriorating relationship has forced nato to channel three fourths of Afghanistan-bound supplies traveling by land through Central Asia rather than Pakistan. The Kremlin wants to reassert itself in Central Asia, and its increased aid to Kyrgyzstan indicates that it is gearing up to fill the void there that nato will leave.
Africa/ Latin America
Famine worsens in the Horn of Africa: Six months after a food crisis was declared in Somalia, the United Nations says that tens of thousands are likely to starve by the time the famine finally ends. In addition to the grim effects of a two-year drought, ongoing violence perpetrated by radical Islamic militias is devastating the region. Islamist militants have cut off emergency food delivery for an estimated 240,000 people in the central and southern regions of Somalia, according to relief workers. Biblical prophecy foretells an increase in famines as one of the signs of Christ’s return. Also watch for instability in Somalia to potentially spill over into Ethiopia.
Venezuela’s bishops get involved in politics: As October’s presidential elections loom large in Venezuela, the country’s Conference of Catholic Bishops is stepping up its political profile. In a pastoral letter released this week, the bishops gave their thoughts on the coming elections. The letter acknowledged that “building unity among Venezuelans is not an easy task,” but added that “the progress and welfare of this country can only be achieved with the participation of all citizens.” It then explained that the election should be viewed “from the human and Christian standpoint of national reconciliation.” Considering the past history of conflict between dictator Hugo Chavez and Venezuela’s Catholic bishops, such comments could indicate Catholic support for opposition movements. It is rumored that Chavez’s cancerous condition may give him only a year or so more to live, so what better time for the bishops’ conference to declare a year of “national reconciliation.” Regardless of exactly how things play out, the Roman Catholic Church is a force to be reckoned with, and is once again growing in power.
Scottish referendum divides Britain: Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond is preparing Scotland to hold a referendum on independence, which is leading to clashes between the devolved government in Scotland and the national government in Westminster. Salmond wants to boost his chances of winning the referendum by holding it in 2014 while nationalist emotions are high as Scotland celebrates the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. British Prime Minister David Carmon wants the referendum to be held within 18 months, be overseen by the Electoral Commission and contain two clear choices. According to recent polls, the majority of Scottish people don’t want independence. Even if Scotland ultimately votes to stay, however, months, if not years, of campaigning and arguing isn’t going to help the unity of the United Kingdom. All kinds of details will have to be decided. For example, currency. Originally, Salmond said an independent Scotland would join the euro. These days, joining the euro isn’t that popular, so now he wants to keep the pound. But the euro crisis has just proven that a currency union without political union can’t work. How much would an independent Scotland’s share of the national debt be? What about its share of North Sea oil? These kinds of questions could be expected to be accompanied by combative rhetoric, accusation and even court cases from both sides. In other words, a “No” to independence could still leave the two sides bitter and divided. Just the act of holding a referendum will result in Britain becoming even more divided and inward focused over the next few years, when there are serious external challenges to confront.
Mexican cartels beheading Americans in America: Three beheadings in Arizona and Oklahoma over the past year look like the work of Mexican drug cartels, according to a statement made this week by former Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor Phil Jordan. One headless body was found lying on the side of North Reservation Road near Tucson earlier this month. Another victim was found headless, stuffed in a bag and left in a parking lot in Oklahoma. Both incidents appear to be the work of Mexican drug cartels. “This is one of the ways they do it in Mexico, Colombia and other places,” said Jordan. America’s problems with both drug trafficking and illegal immigration are getting worse. 


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