This Week in the News

How President Trump Made the Decision to Withdraw from Syria and Why General Mattis Resigned

The Washington Post wrote on December 21:

“When he spoke to President Trump on the telephone a week ago Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s agenda had not changed from when they met two weeks earlier at the Group of 20 summit in Argentina. He repeated his inability to understand why the United States was still arming and supporting Syrian Kurdish fighters to conduct a ground war against the Islamic State…

“The Islamic State, according to Trump himself, had been defeated, Erdogan said. Turkey’s military was strong and could take on any remaining militant pockets. Why did some 2,000 U.S. troops still need to be there? ‘You know what? It’s yours,’ Trump said of Syria. ‘I’m leaving.’

“The call, shorthanded in more or less the same words by several senior administration officials, set off events that, even by the whirlwind standards of Washington in the Trump years, have been cataclysmic

“For those who cared to defend the decision, including some on Trump’s staff, a minority of lawmakers, and presumably a good portion of his unshakable supporters across the country, Syria withdrawal was a promise kept… But for many members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats — and the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, it was an unmitigated disaster. None was officially informed in advance of Trump’s announcement, made on Twitter early Wednesday. Most warned that Turkey, whose troops were poised on the border waiting for U.S. forces to leave, would slaughter U.S. Kurdish allies. Overall, they said, it was nothing less than a capitulation to the other two powers on the ground in Syria — Russia and Iran.

“For Trump it was an assertion of presidential prerogative that he had repeatedly been constrained from exercising. It came at a time when he was feeling a loss of control over a range of issues, from the special counsel’s Russia investigation to the falling stock market and a threatened government shutdown.

“In the days after the Friday call with Erdogan, Trump’s senior national security team tried, and failed, to get him to reconsider, saying it was the worst possible moment for such an abrupt action. On Wednesday evening, in the Oval Office with aides, Trump complained that Mattis and others were still trying to dissuade him from the withdrawal… The Syria decision, [Mattis] believed — along with Trump’s order to prepare for troop withdrawals from Afghanistan — was the epitome of the president’s careless way of operating.

“On Thursday afternoon…, Mattis sat in his Pentagon office and watched a video lasting one minute and 19 seconds that the president had posted of himself on Twitter the night before. ‘We have won against ISIS,’ the Islamic State, he said. ‘We’ve beaten them badly, and now it’s time for our troops to come back home… Having to call families of military casualties was ‘heartbreaking . . . no question about it,’ Trump said, and there was ‘nobody happier’ about his decision, he said, pointing up at the sky

“Mattis was done trying to talk Trump out of it. In a calm, 45-minute conversation with the president, he talked about their divergent views of the world and how to treat allies and partners. Trump, he said, deserved someone who thought more like he did. They thanked each other, and it was over…”

It is all over indeed. Another war has been lost by the USA, proving the accuracy of our prediction for many years that the US will NOT win another war. It’s certainly the beginning of the end…

Mattis’ Resignation Has the World on Edge

Bloomberg wrote on December 21:

“The abrupt resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has governments from Seoul to Brussels on edge, as the reliability of American alliances and the direction of policy under an erratic leader come under question.

“The former Marine general was widely seen as a moderating force against President Donald Trump’s hostility toward traditional American alliances and overseas troop commitments, and had come to be described as ‘the last adult in the room.’ Besides the immediate moves to pull forces from Afghanistan and Syria, Mattis’s departure could have ramifications for U.S. standing around the world…

“Mattis leaves at a perilous time for South Korea, which is grappling with the price of Trump’s outreach to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his decision to suspend joint annual military exercises with the south. Mattis worked to reassure South Korea that America’s commitment remained strong, while the president focused on questioning the necessity of having some 28,000 troops on the peninsula and pressed Seoul to pay more for its security…

“Mattis’s resignation and the announcement of a partial U.S. troop withdrawal undercut the recent efforts to finally end the 17-year-long conflict in Afghanistan. They’ve also left U.S. allies hanging. Germany, which has the second-biggest troop contingent in NATO’s Afghanistan mission after the U.S., is particularly miffed

“Even before the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, the Middle East had been jolted by a series of policy about-faces under Trump… While Trump justified the Syria move by saying the U.S. has scored ‘historic victories’ over Islamic State [which claim is largely disputed], he’s drawn bipartisan criticism from lawmakers who warn that it leaves Syria’s future in the hands of Russia and Iran, the primary backers of President Bashar al-Assad…

“The reshuffle at the Pentagon will exacerbate already deep concern in Europe, and in particular NATO. After Trump initially failed to recommit the U.S. to the alliance’s mutual-defense pact… it fell to Mattis to reassure allies… With him gone, allies are losing confidence that there’s any resistance within the administration to Trump’s ‘America First’ policies… Mattis ‘checked President Trump’s worst instincts and was a strong supporter of NATO,’ Guy Verhofstadt, head of ALDE in the European Parliament and a former Belgian prime minister, said in a tweet. ‘Europe stands unprepared & needs to speed up the establishment of a European Defense Community.’…

“Mattis struck a middle road on one of Asia’s biggest potential flash points, the South China Sea. He reassured China’s neighbors with more frequent naval patrols and tough rhetoric criticizing Beijing’s efforts to expand its military footprint on reclaimed reefs in the disputed water body… His talks with Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe helped ease tensions after a near collision in the South China Sea…

“Over the long history of postwar disputes between the U.S. and Japan, their security pact has often proved an anchor. Trump threw that into doubt by not only threatening to levy auto tariffs against Japan, but questioning its contribution to security. Since taking the job, Mattis has repeatedly visited to share reassuring words about the alliance with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe…

“For the Kremlin, Mattis’ announcement capped a sweep of wins the Kremlin had long desired but didn’t believe would ever happen. But the jubilation was measured in public statements, and some were tinged with anxiety about what the U.S. retreat might mean for conflict zones where Russia’s now left as the primary foreign power… Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov… said he couldn’t speculate on what decisions Mattis may have kept Trump from making, but warned that the unpredictability of U.S. policy was a growing risk.”

The world has become much less safe, even though it was never safe to begin with.

Angry Trump Responds

Newsmax wrote on December 23:

“Reportedly angry at the publicity that U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis was getting over his resignation letter, President Trump suddenly named a new defense secretary Sunday morning, ensuring that Mattis will leave months early. ‘I am pleased to announce that our very talented Deputy Secretary of Defense, Patrick Shanahan, will assume the title of Acting Secretary of Defense starting January 1, 2019…’ Trump tweeted… Shanahan is a former Boeing Co. executive

“Trump was enraged over the publicity and news coverage Mattis and his pointed resignation letter was receiving. Trump was also castigated by French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday… ‘To be allies is to fight shoulder to shoulder. It’s the most important thing for a head of state and head of the military,’ he said. ‘An ally should be dependable.’”

Europe knows that under Trump, the USA is clearly not dependable. And the appointment of a Boeing Co. executive with little military experience does not help to give Europe any sense of security. Note how Germany’s popular weekly magazine, Der Stern, described the situation on December 23:

“Donald Trump betrays his friends, accommodates his enemies such as Russia, and does not care about the chaos which he creates. His fans will celebrate him for that.  And of course Stephen Bannon, for whom it does not matter, presumably, who sets the world on fire. They don’t call him prince of darkness for nothing.”

Iraq Condemns Trump’s Surprise Visit; Demands Withdrawal of US Troops

The Guardian wrote on December 27:

“Iraqi lawmakers have demanded US forces leave the country in the wake of a surprise visit by Donald Trump, which politicians denounced as arrogant and a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. Politicians from both blocs of Iraq’s divided parliament called for a vote to expel US troops and promised to schedule an extraordinary session to debate the matter… Trump, making his first presidential visit to troops in a troubled region on Wednesday, said he had no plans to withdraw the 5,200 US forces in the country… But after defeating Isis militants in their last urban bastions last year, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders are speaking out against the continued presence of US forces in Iraqi soil…

“Qais Khazali, the head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that fought key battles against Isis in north Iraq, promised on Twitter that parliament would vote to expel US forces from Iraq, or the militia and others would force them out by ‘other means’… [Trump] left without meeting any Iraqi officials, though he spoke to the prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, by phone. Abdul-Mahdi’s office said in a statement after Trump’s visit that ‘differences in points of view’over arrangements led to a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders being scrapped.”

The USA is losing its allies, one after the other.

Germany and France Feel Threatened because of US Withdrawal from Syria

The EUObserver wrote on December 21:

“America’s Western allies have voiced dismay at US leader Donald Trump’s sudden idea to pull out of Syria…France and Germany spoke out against Trump’s move on Thursday (20 December)… The risk of an IS resurgence is especially frightening for France and Germany – the main targets of its overseas attacks. But the US pull-out from a part of Syria under Kurdish control also posed other threats for Europe.

“Turkey reacted to Trump’s news by saying that it would attack Kurdish forces in the region, as part of its long-term campaign to stop the creation of a Kurdish state and to wipe out Kurdish separatism at home… A Turkish assault could create ‘thousands upon thousands’ of new refugees, Mehmet Tanriverdi, a spokesman for Kurdish Community in Germany [said]. The US pull-out could also embolden the Syrian regime and its main allies Iran and Russia to attack the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s Idlib province, prompting an even larger exodus to Europe…”

Europe is still struggling with the migrant crisis. A renewed influx is not in Europe’s perceived best interest, and President Trump will be blamed and hated for this.

Germany and France to Fill the Gap?

The EUObserver wrote on December 20:

“The decision by president Donald Trump to withdraw US forces from Syria has sent shock waves throughout… the entire globe. It has left many officials and observers, not the least in Washington, flabbergasted about what is going to happen…

“… there lies an opportunity for France and Germany to consider military options. At a first glance, such a move would appear totally improbable. However when studied, it is neither unachievable nor would it be controversial. Both France and Germany are part of the international coalition against ISIS…

“It is… time for president Emmanuel Macron and chancellor Angela Merkel to walk the talk on the idea of a European army by sending their troops to Rojava, filling the security gap the United States is leaving behind.”

The call for a powerful European army gets louder—thanks to President Trump and Vladimir Putin.

Politico wrote on December 21

“… European allies’ biggest fear is here to stay: In the case of a real crisis, Trump may well fail to defend them…”

Aljazeersa wrote on December 21:

“The chairman of the Munich Security Conference, Wolfgang Ischinger… believes that a more common European defence policy and the creation of a European army is inevitable. ‘It’s necessary … if there is a question mark about the reliability of our American partner (and) if we have a huge question mark about Russian intentions…’”

US Special Envoy Resigns

CBS News wrote on December 22:

“Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS… submitted his resignation on Friday… [He] was publicly left in the lurch by the president’s sudden declaration on Wednesday that he was pulling U.S. forces out of Syria…

“Just days earlier, McGurk had stood at the State Department podium to guarantee an ongoing U.S. commitment to the fight… At the time he made those remarks, the Trump administration’s policy was to remain in Syria to help stabilize areas under the control of U.S. allies and until Iran pulled out its militias…”

More resignations of highly qualified military personnel will follow, and competent replacements willing to serve under Trump will be hard to find.

“It’s Time to Be Worried!”

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 21:

“While the resignation of James Mattis was widely lamented in Washington, hopes for some kind of internal resistance against Donald Trump are misplaced… any kind of musings about this president resigning are wishful thinking…

“Trump is the commander-in-chief and people will salute

“The Trump administration and the world… have been fortunate until now that this president has not yet had to deal with the kind of national security crisis that a US president usually has to face in his tenure. But eventually… such a crisis… is likely to come.”

It will come, and will end badly for the USA.

The Shutdown (Night) Before Christmas

The Associated Press wrote on December 22:

“A partial federal shutdown took hold early Saturday after Democrats refused to meet President Donald Trump’s demands for $5 billion to start erecting his cherished Mexican border wall, a chaotic postscript for Republicans in the waning days of their two-year reign controlling government…

“The gridlock blocks money for nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice. The lack of funds will disrupt many government operations and the routines of 800,000 federal employees. Roughly 420,000 workers were deemed essential and will work unpaid just days before Christmas, while 380,000 will be furloughed, meaning they’ll stay home without pay. Those being furloughed include nearly everyone at NASA and 52,000 workers at the Internal Revenue Service. About 8 in 10 employees of the National Park Service will stay home and many parks were expected to close…

“The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, will not be affected because it’s an independent agency. Social Security checks will still be mailed, troops will remain on duty and food inspections will continue. Also still functioning will be the FBI, the Border Patrol and the Coast Guard. Transportation Security Administration officers will continue to staff airport checkpoints and air traffic controllers will also remain at work.

“Trump has openly savored a shutdown over the wall for months, saying last week he’d be ‘proud’ to have one and saying Friday he was ‘totally prepared for a very long’ closure… GOP lawmakers have wanted to avoid one, since polling shows the public broadly opposes the wall and a shutdown over it

“Despite saying last week he’d not blame Democrats for the closure, Trump and his GOP allies spent the last two days blaming Democrats anyway. Trump said now was the time for Congress to provide taxpayers’ money for the wall, even though he’s said repeatedly that Mexico will pay for it — something that country has repeatedly rebuffed…

“Republicans conceded that one of their biggest hurdles was Trump’s legendary unpredictability and proclivity for abruptly changing his mind…”

No End in Sight

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 22:

“The shutdown… is the third since the president took office less than two years ago…  no votes will take place for another five days.”

Some claim that the shutdown could even last until sometime in 2019.

Project Syndicate commented as follows, on December 24:

“With no compromise in sight to end the federal government shutdown, and no one left in President Donald Trump’s cabinet who can restrain him, Americans and their allies are staring into the abyss that has been looming since the 2016 election.”

Limbaugh and Fox Changed Trump’s Mind

The Huffington Post wrote on December 20:

“Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)… criticized President Trump’s tendency to be controlled by the opinions of talk-radio hosts… alluding to talk radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh and ‘Fox & Friends’ hosts throwing a fuss when they learned Trump would sign a bill to fund the government that didn’t include $5 billion for a border wall.

“Trump changed his mind Thursday and announced that he wouldn’t sign the bill passed by the Senate Wednesday, angering many Republicans… in the process.”

Now THAT is VERY troublesome and incredible, given the FACT that he had PROMISED to sign the bi-partisan bill.

The Unpredictable Stock Market

The Week wrote on December 26:

“The Dow Jones Industrial Average spiked over 1,080 points Wednesday, a nearly 5 percent gain and the largest rise since 2009. The S&P 500 jumped nearly 5 percent and the Nasdaq Composite gained 5.6 percent, largely thanks to oil and retail stock hikes in the wake of the holidays. The massive gains come after the biggest Christmas Eve trading slump in history, which continued the stock market’s worst December since the Great Depression

“Markets also seemed placated after White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s job is ‘100 percent safe.’”

The Perils of the US Economy

The Associated Press wrote on December 22:

“… the partial shutdown of the government that began Saturday has added another threat to a growing list of risks. The stock market’s persistent fall, growing chaos in the Trump administration, higher interest rates, a U.S.-China trade war and a global slowdown have combined to elevate the perils for the economy…

“The world economy is showing clear signs of a downshift… Several other global risks abound. There is Britain’s turbulent exit from the European Union… China, the world’s second-largest economy after the U.S., is trying to manage a slowdown in growth that is being complicated by its trade war with Trump…”

The Washington Post wrote on December 22:

“… the closure of the government… was barely a blip on the radar amid the many other storms buffeting the nation…These chaotic events have rattled world markets and sparked concern that the next crisis could tip the nation into recession – with no certainty that the Trump administration and feuding lawmakers are up to the task of correcting course…

“Diane Swonk, chief economist of accounting and advisory firm Grant Thornton, called the shutdown ‘another straw on the camel’s back – and the straws are piling up.’ She said she was already worried about a recession hitting in late 2019 or early 2020, ‘and something like this could make it happen sooner.’

“Americans are more concerned about their finances than at any time in the Trump presidency…”

Will Demise of the Dollar Begin in 2019?

Money Morning wrote on December 24:

“It’s been a grim year for markets – the worst since 2008. But the drama’s not over yet… Could 2019 be the year the demise of the dollar begins?…

“The tricky thing about the debt ceiling is that, while it’s entirely artificial, if it’s breached, it means that the US can’t borrow any more money. In other words, it can’t issue any more Treasuries (government bonds). If that happens, then the US would only be able to use incoming tax money to repay any debts. It would have to start prioritising the various payments it has to make every month. And eventually it’d run out of money to pay its bills – including the interest payments due on government debt… If the US government actually defaulted on its debts – even once – that would send a shockwave of epic proportions across global financial markets….”

US Supreme Court Rejects Trump Asylum Ban

The Associated Press wrote on December 21:

“A divided Supreme Court won’t let the Trump administration begin enforcing a ban on asylum for any immigrants who illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Chief Justice John Roberts joined his four more liberal colleagues Friday in ruling against the administration… New Justice Brett Kavanaugh and three other conservative justices sided with the administration…

“The court’s order leaves in place lower court rulings that blocked Trump’s proclamation in November automatically denying asylum to people who enter the country from Mexico without going through official border crossings. Trump said he was acting in response to caravans of migrants making their way to the border…

“The ban conflicts with an immigration law that says immigrants can apply for asylum regardless of how they enter the U.S., [superior court justice] Tigar said… The ruling prompted Trump’s criticism of Tigar as an ‘Obama judge’ and led to an unusual public dispute between Trump and Roberts, who rebuked the president with a statement defending the judiciary’s independence.”

The public dispute between Trump and Roberts might very well have had some underlying repercussions.

Witchcraft Grows in the USA

The Telegraph wrote on December 21:

“Witchcraft is thriving in the US, with an estimated 1.5 million Americans now identifying as witches – more than the total number of Presbyterians. As Christianity declines across the country, paganism has swung to the mainstream, with witchcraft paraphernalia for sale on every high street and practises normalised across popular culture…”

How much more can Americans drift away from God?

Cybersecurity–Taking Entire Countries Offline

Business Insider wrote on December 22:

Gatwick Airport is Britain’s second busiest by passenger volume, and Europe’s eighth. And yet it was brought to a standstill for two days by two people and a single drone…

“The criminals who break into the web sites of banks or chainstores and steal personal data or money are not the scariest people out there… The hackers we really ought to be worrying about are the ones trying take entire countries offline. People who are trying to take down the internet, switch the lights off, cut the water supply, disable railways, or blow up factories.

“The West’s weakness is in the older electronics and sensors that control processes in infrastructure and industry. Often these electronics were installed decades ago. The security systems controlling them are ancient or non-existent. If a hacker can gain control of a temperature sensor in a factory, he… can blow the place up, or set it on fire… The problem people don’t realise is it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. You can take down a whole country. It can be done…

“In December 2017, three men pleaded guilty to causing the largest internet outage in history – a distributed ‘denial of service’ attack that blacked out the web across most of the US and large chunks of Northern Europe for about 12 hours… And then, in April 2018, the African country of Mauritania was taken offline for two days when someone cut the single undersea cable that serves its internet… The Mauritania attack was probably done by the government of neighbouring Sierra Leone, which was trying to manipulate local election results by crippling the media.

“… In June 2018, Atlanta’s city government was hobbled by an attack that wiped out a third of its software programs. The FBI told Business Insider earlier this year that it believed terrorists would eventually attempt to take America’s 911 emergency system offline…

“[During] the December 2015 blackout in Ukraine… three major power suppliers were simultaneously taken over by hackers. The hackers gained remote control of the stations’ dashboards, and manually switched off about 60 substations, leaving 230,000 Ukrainians in the cold and dark for six straight hours. The hack was almost certainly done by Russia, whose military had invaded Crimea in the south of the country in 2014… Hackers don’t need to control an entire plant, the way they did in Ukraine. They only need to control an individual censor on a single machine…

“2010 was the year that cybersecurity experts really woke up to the idea that you could take down infrastructure, not just individual companies or web sites. That was the year the Stuxnet virus was deployed to take down the Iranian nuclear program… Then, in 2017, the Wannacry virus attack happened. Like Stuxnet, Wannacry also spread itself through the Microsoft Windows ecosystem… During its brief life, Wannacry became most infamous for disabling hundreds of computers used by Britain’s National Health Service… By December 2017, the US government confirmed that the North Korean government was responsible for the attack…”

This is a real danger. And the USA seems to be unprepared for such attacks. It is also a FACT that America is lingering far behind other sophisticated countries when it comes to their Internet capabilities and reliabilities.

The Russian Bear Is Back

The Sun wrote on December 21:

“Russia’s empire is expanding around the globe as Putin warns of ‘catastrophic’ global war. The Russian bear is back as strongman Putin re-arms his country’s military and expands his powerbase across the globe

“Once he dubbed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as a geopolitical disaster. And during Vladimir Putin’s 18 years in power, he has been on a mission to revive Russia’s empire — and yesterday he even threatened a ‘catastrophic’ World War 3 if any nation defies him.

“Describing the re-arming of his nation as a ‘priority’, the ultra-nationalist strongman wants to have one million serving personnel by 2020. Missiles, planes and ships have been upgraded and modernised. Meanwhile, bases have been improved or established all over the globe… From the cold wastes of the Arctic to tropical islands, his power is spreading across the world.”

Russia, together with China, India, Japan and other Far Eastern countries, will form a military power bloc with massive capabilities.

Putin Lectures Brits on Democracy

The Guardian wrote on December 20:

“Vladimir Putin has said the UK should not hold a second referendum on Brexit, insisting Theresa May must ‘fulfil the will of the people.’ Offering public support that the embattled British prime minister could probably do without, Putin said he understood May’s position in ‘fighting for this Brexit.’

“Britons may see some irony in a lesson on democracy from a fourth-term president who has co-opted or crushed any substantial opposition in his home country…”

“Putin Tests New Missile to Frighten Europe”

The EUObserver published the above-quoted headline and continued to write on December 27:

“Russia has tested a ‘hypersonic’ missile capable of a nuclear strike anywhere in Europe in what Russian president Vladimir Putin called ‘a great New Year’s present for the country’. The ‘Avangard’ system, to be deployed in 2019, travels at 20 times the speed of sound and has a range of 6,000km.”

Europe is most certainly concerned about these developments.

Non-Citizens in the World’s Militaries

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 27:

“The news that the Bundeswehr is tentatively considering recruiting non-German European Union citizens has naturally triggered concerns… but this is hardly a new idea… Many countries have foreign nationals in their military ranks…

“EU citizens aged between 18 and 34 have been allowed to join Belgium’sarmed forces since 2004. The Danish military allows foreign recruits, as long as they are already living in Denmark and can speak Danish, and Luxembourgalso allows EU citizens to join, as long as they have been living in the country for three years and aged between 18 and 24. Ireland allows any citizen of the European Economic Area (the EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway) to join its military, while other foreign nationals can also apply as long as they have been living in Ireland for three years.

Britain has traditionally sourced military recruits from the former colonies of its empire, which in the first half of the 20th century morphed into an international organization of 53 nations known as the Commonwealth, now a bloc of some 2.3 billion people that includes Australia, India, Canada, Kenya, and Fiji… The Ministry of Defense announced in November that it would no longer require Commonwealth citizens to have lived in the UK for five years before joining up…

“The French Foreign Legion remains unique as the oldest foreign-only military branch still active. Founded in 1831, foreign nationals are still commanded by French officers, and can apply for French citizenship after three years’ service… Spain has allowed foreigners into its military since 2002, when it began recruiting citizens from ex-colonies (a measure that some branded as imperialist)…

Russia has… made the army a fast-tracked route to citizenship: non-Russians who speak Russian can sign five-year contracts to join the military, with the option of applying for citizenship after three years.

“The US allows permanent residents and Green Card holders to join the military… a path that is also seen as a fast-track to US citizenship. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed an order allowing citizenship procedures to be accelerated for non-US soldiers in the military. Now, around 8,000 non-citizens join the US military every year, with the two biggest countries of origin being Mexico and the Philippines.”

All true, but Germany’s desire to do so shows a remarkable shift from its previous pacifistic attitude after World War 2.

Germany’s Role in Tackling Global Conflicts

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 27:

“[Germany’s] Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stressed again that the UN’s highest decision-making body, the Security Council, needs to be reformed to include more than the current five permanent members… insisting that Germany should hold a permanent seat. The UN Security Council currently has five members, the US, the UK, France, China and Russia…

“Maas stressed that Germany’s global ‘responsibility is growing’ and that his country is prepared to take a greater role in tackling global conflicts… ‘We won’t be able to shun big decisions anymore,’ he said, especially regarding conflicts in the Middle East, including those in Syria and Yemen… Germany starts its latest two-year stint on the UN Security Council on January 1.”

Germany will get involved more and more in international conflicts, especially in the Middle East… including militarily.

A Mosque Tax for German Muslims

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 26:

“Lawmakers from Germany’s grand coalition government said on Wednesday that they were considering introducing a ‘mosque tax’ for German Muslims, similar to the church taxes that German Christians pay… In Germany, church taxes are collected by the state [from practicing Catholics and Protestants] and then transferred to religious authorities.

“In the absence of a similar tax, mosques in Germany are reliant upon donations, raising concerns about possible financing by foreign organizations and governments

“Several European countries, including Austria, Sweden, and Italy, also use church taxes to fund Catholic and Protestant institutions. It has also been criticized for being compulsory for practicing Christians and, as it is collected by the government, for blurring the lines between church and state.”

While couched in language sympathetic towards Muslims in Germany, the ulterior goal and motive of Germany’s grand coalition is quite obvious: To supervise, control and restrict Germany’s Muslim community.

Government of Israel Collapses

JTA wrote on December 24:

“Israel will hold new elections in April after the heads of all six coalition parties announced Monday that they were dissolving the government…

“According to Jerusalem Post political correspondent Gil Hoffman, the ‘coalition heads decided to go to elections at the beginning of April because they couldn’t reach agreement on the ultra-Orthodox enlistment bill’ — legislation addressing a judge’s order that could mean that all members of the haredi Orthodox community are subject to the military draft.

“Israel had appeared to have narrowly avoided a coalition collapse last month following the resignation of Yisrael Beiteinu party head Avigdor Liberman, the defense minister, and his call for new elections over what he described as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ‘capitulation to terror’ in accepting a cease-fire with Hamas.

“With Yisrael Beiteinu out of the government, the coalition led by Netanyahu still had the narrowest of majorities in the 120-member Knesset with 61 seats. Further cracks began to form when Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the Jewish Home party leader, threatened to leave unless he was appointed to replace Liberman. Instead, Netanyahu kept the defense portfolio for himself and Bennett backed down. Netanyahu is currently in charge of the foreign affairs, defense, health and immigration absorption ministries…

“The new elections could also forestall American efforts to negotiate a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. The White House is reported to have decided to hold off on launching its peace initiative until after the election.”

It will be interesting to see whether Netanyahu can hold on to power or whether another leader will emerge who will be more orthodox, conservative and militaristic.

Austria’s Mixed Bag

The EUObserver wrote on December 26:

“When Austria took over the EU presidency, for the third time, on 1 July 2018, Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz declared that his government – in a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) – would use its six-months tenure to promote what he called ‘a Europe that protects’… Six months later, it is clear that this goal was achieved only partially… Kurz’s much-repeated promise to act as ‘bridge-builder in the EU’ could not be kept.

“Austria’s decision on 31 October to withdraw from the UN migration pact left many European partners alienated and caused great damage to the international reputation of the country. Most observers believe that Kurz gave in on this to demands by the far-right FPO coalition partner… Similarly, many European partners were taken aback by the attendance of Russian president Vladimir Putin at the wedding of Austrian foreign minister Kneissl in August. This reduced the country’s credibility to act as bridge-builder between Russia and West.

“On 1 January 2019, Romania will take over the EU presidency from Austria and with it thus inherit a mixed bag of challenges.”

Huge Tsunami in Indonesia

ABC News wrote on December 23:

“[Hundreds] were left dead and hundreds more injured in Indonesia early Sunday as a tsunami hit the island nation following [and caused by] a volcanic eruption… Krakatau, a volcano located between the islands of Java and Sumatra, is known for the historic eruption in 1883 that blew the island apart and killed 30,000 people, but it has erupted regularly since…

“Indonesia was struck by a massive earthquake and tsunami in late September. The disaster hit Sulawesi, an island hundreds of miles northeast of Java. The disaster killed over 2,000 people and displaced 70,000 more.”

Deutsche Welle added on December 22:

“Saturday’s tsunami was reminiscent of several similar disasters that have struck the vast archipelago, including the massive earthquake and seismic sea wave [at Christmas time] in 2004 that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.”

Mount Etna Erupts, Triggers Earthquake

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 26:

“Volcanic activity on Mount Etna has continued after a 4.8-magnitude earthquake struck the nearby region… The mountain has been shooting ash, smoke and lava stones into the air over recent days…

“The eruption began on the side of Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, on Monday… The mountain is the largest of Italy’s three active volcanoes at 3,300 meters (10,800 feet) high… The last major eruption was in the European winter of 2008-2009…

“‘Etna remains a dangerous volcano, and this country of ours is unfortunately fragile,’ said government undersecretary Vito Crimi…”

Trump Hates Christmas Parties

The New York Magazine wrote on December 17:

“By the 26th, he will have attended 21 Christmas parties, clocking in at more than 52 hours of festivities in total, or about 10 percent of his waking hours this month. This is the life of a modern president of the United States in the month of December — and Donald Trump hates every minute of it… Making Christmas great again may have been a pillar of his presidential campaign — ‘We’re going to start saying “Merry Christmas again,” he often promised — but the war on Christmas is now raging inside of him… Trump hates the entire production surrounding Christmas…

“For his first Christmas as president, the White House parties featured a procedure for guests to enter a line and take a photo with Donald and Melania, an excruciating and monotonous ritual endured by most modern presidents since the early 1960s. It can, and often does, go on for hours. But Trump seems to have less patience for it than his predecessors. At one party, Trump grew so annoyed that he began complaining openly to one of his aides… He said, ‘I’m supposed to be the president, but now all I do is stand there and take pictures all day. There’s no telling what’s going on in the world right now. I’d never know’…

“Christmastime was not always a season of forced merriment for the president. The first White House Christmas party was held in 1800 by President John Adams and his wife Abigail… but it wasn’t until the administration of President John F. Kennedy, well after American concerns about paganism had given way to the commercial embrace of the holiday and all of its symbols, that celebrating became a matter of First Family tradition. President Ronald Reagan even dressed up as Santa Claus in 1983.

“But Trump is not the first president to bristle at the hostile, tinsel-draped takeover of his schedule. In 2012, Vanity Fair published a bizarre item in which the writer… criticized Obama for not shaking as many hands or posing for as many photos as his predecessors did during the holidays… As an example of someone Obama should have tried to emulate, [the magazine] shared a horrifying story about Abraham Lincoln holding, ‘near-constant public receptions during the depth of the Civil War (including one on the night his young son, Willie, lay dying upstairs).’…

“The oddest parts of the events were when people who thought Obama was the anti-Christ — like Sean Hannity and Darrell Issa — would show up to eat some Bo-shaped cookies and get a picture with the president.”

Please read our Q&A in this issue, asking and answering the question as to whether Donald Trump or Barack Obama could be the Antichrist.

German Christmas Celebrations

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 22:

17 million people in Germany do not celebrate Christmas, and some of that can be chalked up to Germany’s immigrant population, which is largely Muslim. However, there are fewer than 5 million Muslims in Germany. Immigrant families only accounted for about 20 percent of respondents who told researchers that they avoid Christmas celebrations.

“The poll found that the majority of the people not partaking in the holiday were young adults between the ages of 18 and 30, and overwhelmingly male… One key reason that may account for the drop in Christmas celebrations could be economic

“However, the survey also found that Christmas remains Germany’s biggest festival of the year, both in economic and personal terms.”

Can’t Get Rid of Christmas?

Mosaic Magazine wrote on December 24:

“Around the time of Thomas Balazs’ confirmation into the Lutheran church, his father sat him down and explained that he and Thomas’s mother had been born and raised as Jews, survived the Holocaust in Hungary, and converted to Christianity upon their marriage to spare their children the danger and indignity of growing up Jewish. Thomas returned to Judaism in the fifth decade of his life. But it was several years later—ice-skating with his own son to the sound of Christmas carols the day before Thanksgiving—that he first found himself missing the Gentile holiday of his youth:

“‘Until that moment, the first ten years without Christmas had been surprisingly easy for me. . . . So it was odd when I found myself singing [‘Jingle Bell Rock’] along with Bobby Helms as [my son] and I skated around the rink…

“If it’s true, as some say, that one can never stop being a Jew, it’s also true that you can never quite shake off Christmas once it has worked its way into your system… And it’s a consequence of there being some really great Christmas songs.”

With God’s help, it IS possible to leave Christmas observance behind.

Pope Francis Realizes Great and Widespread Sexual Abuse Problem in His Church

The Guardian wrote on December 21:

“Pope Francis has vowed the Catholic church will ‘never again’ cover up clerical sexual abuse and demanded that priests who raped and abused children turn themselves in… after a year of revelations of sexual misconduct and cover-ups that rocked his papacy and caused a crisis of confidence in the Catholic hierarchy… His remarks capped a difficult year for the Catholic church, which began with the pontiff’s botched handling of a sexual abuse scandal in Chile and ended with US state prosecutors uncovering decades of cover-ups.

“… The pope has summoned church leaders from around the world to an abuse prevention summit in February, indicating that he has come to realise the problem is far greater and more widespread than he had understood at the start of his pontificate five years ago… [He claimed] there were priests who, ‘without batting an eye’, were ready to enter into a ‘web of corruption’ by abusing those in their care. ‘Often, behind their boundless amiability, impeccably activity and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls,’ he said.”

If one could only know how serious and committed Pope Francis is about all of these and others challenges.

Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

These Current Events are compiled and commented on by Norbert Link. We gratefully acknowledge the many contributions of news articles from our readership. The publication of articles in this section is not to be viewed as an endorsement or approval as to contents or accuracy of the selected articles, but they are published for the purpose of pointing at worldwide developments in the light of biblical end-time prophecy and godly instruction. Our own comments are provided in italics.

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