Sharing The Presidents’ Messages

 

On September 11, 2013, exactly twelve years after the calamitous events of 9/11, 2001, which changed world politics forever, President Obama of the USA addressed the nation about the problems caused by the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.  At the end of his speech, he asked the recipients of his message to share it with others, “to make sure they know where I stand, and how they can stay up to date on this situation.”

Well, we are only too happy to put ourselves to the President’s service and share his message with our readers.  Few other publications reach as many people in as many nations as The Christian Herald.

These are momentous times in the history of this unhappy world.  World commentators try to make sense of world developments from a human perspective; we look at them from a spiritual perspective, making sense not only in what they mean in the short term, but where they take the world in terms of biblical prophecies. 

Our record over the two decades, since we’ve been doing this work, is unequalled by any publication.  It took us that long to make an impact on the world, but now the momentum take us forward in ways that a few years ago we could only dream of. 

The sad thing is that the world is not going in the direction wanted by our heavenly Father.  He wants to save all human beings, but unfortunately not all humans want to be saved.

 

Mat 18:11  For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

Mat 18:12  "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?

Mat 18:13  And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.

Mat 18:14  Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

 

With every passing day, the world inches closer to a catastrophe from which few people will survive.  The conflict in the Middle East is merely a stage in that direction. 

It is in this light that one must view the following statements from President Obama and President Putin of Russia.   

 

The White House, Washington

 

Good evening --

I just addressed the nation about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war in Syria. Over 100,000 people have been killed.

In that time, we have worked with friends and allies to provide humanitarian support for the Syrian people, to help the moderate opposition within Syria, and to shape a political settlement. But we have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else's civil war through force.

The situation profoundly changed in the early hours of August 21, when more than 1,000 Syrians – including hundreds of children – were killed by chemical weapons launched by the Assad government.

What happened to those people – to those children – is not only a violation of international law – it's also a danger to our security. Here's why:

If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these deadly weapons erodes, other tyrants and authoritarian regimes will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gases and using them. Over time, our troops could face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield. It could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons and use them to attack civilians. If fighting spills beyond Syria's borders, these weapons could threaten our allies in the region.

So after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use them, and make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.

Though I possess the authority to order these strikes, in the absence of a direct threat to our security I believe that Congress should consider my decision to act. Our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress – and when Americans stand together as one people.

Over the last few days, as this debate unfolds, we've already begun to see signs that the credible threat of U.S. military action may produce a diplomatic breakthrough. The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons and the Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons, and even said they'd join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.  It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force.

That's why I've asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I'm sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin. At the same time, we'll work with two of our closest allies – France and the United Kingdom – to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons, and to ultimately destroy them under international control.  Meanwhile, I've ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails. And tonight, I give thanks again to our military and their families for their incredible strength and sacrifices.

As we continue this debate – in Washington, and across the country – I need your help to make sure that everyone understands the factors at play.

Please share this message with others to make sure they know where I stand, and how they can stay up to date on this situation. Anyone can find the latest information about the situation in Syria, including video of tonight's address, here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/foreign-policy/syria

 

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

 

President Obama acknowledged the diplomatic role played by Russia’s President Putin in his decision to postpone his planed strike against Syria.

A couple of days earlier, world media outlets sung odes to President Putin for his efforts to solve the Syrian crisis diplomatically.  He won plaudits for convincing President Assad of Syria to give up his stockpile of chemical weapons. 

President Putin, however, seems to have a different agenda, and seeing a weakness in America’ position, he showed the world a different face just a couple of days later.    

 

Putin to Offer Iran S-300s, Another Reactor

Emboldened by US weakness? Russian president to make the offer at a meeting with Iranian President Hassan.  Russian President Vladimir Putin will offer to supply Iran with S-300 air defense missile systems, and to build a second reactor at the Bushehr nuclear plant, Russia's Kommersant business daily reported Wednesday.

Citing a source close to the Kremlin, the publication reported that Putin will renew an offer to supply Iran with five S-300 ground-to-air missile systems when he meets Iranian President Hassan Rowhani on Friday, at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization that is to be held in Kyrgyzstan.

Russia signed a contract in 2007 to supply Iran with five S-300 advanced missile batteries, which can be used against aircraft or guided missiles, at a cost of $800 million.

In 2010, Russia's then-president Dmitry Medvedev cancelled the deal, after the US and Israel applied strong pressure on him. The US and Israel worry that the S-300 would make Iran less vulnerable to attack by either one of them, and motivate Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.  The source told Kommersant that Russia's offer was conditional on Iran's withdrawing a $4 billion lawsuit that it has filed at an international court in Geneva against Russia's arms export agency, for balking on the original S-300 deal.

Kommersant wrote that Putin would offer to Iran a modified export version of the S-300 systems called S-300VM Antey-2500.  The source also said that Putin was ready to sign a deal with Iran on building a second reactor for the Bushehr nuclear plant, adding that the deal was not "particularly profitable from an economic point of view, but was rather political."

The reports of the impending deal with Iran, if true, appear to jibe with recent analyses that said that Putin has been emboldened by US President Barack Obama's weak and vacillating policies regarding the Middle East.  (Rowhani, IsraelNationalNews.com, Sept. 11, 2013)

 

Isn’t this remarkable?  Without wasting too much time, “emboldened by President Obama's weak and vacillating policies regarding the Middle East”, President Putin showed the world that his interests do not quite match those of the western powers.      

Now which is the real Mr Putin, the one who is trying to solve Syria’s chemical weapons impasse, or the one that is oiling Iran’s war machine and nuclear ambitions?

Or is it perhaps the one that the Scriptures speak about?

 

Psa 120:5  Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech, That I dwell among the tents of Kedar!

Psa 120:6  My soul has dwelt too long With one who hates peace.

Psa 120:7  I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war.

 

 

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 Modern Day Miracle That No One Believes In

 

They say that miracles don’t happen anymore.  Well, they may not happen the way Jesus Christ performed them in His time, but still they do in different ways. 

I grew up in communist Romania, at a time when the communists were laying the foundation for their ‘paradise of earth’.  They were troubled times, hungry times, and fearful times, because that is how communist luminaries thought they would build their utopia.  Anybody who was somebody before the War that brought the ‘liberating’ communists into the country, would be picked up in the night and vanish for years, or forever.  Whenever we would hear the rumbling Russian trucks in the middle of the night – gifted to the budding communists to clean up the country with – my family would stand to attention. Would they stop at our gate and pick us up as they did three of my uncles, or did they have someone else in mind?  God had mercy on us and spared us the ‘blessing’ of the communist reeducation camps. 

Although my grandfather was some kind of village leader before the War, he was probably considered too old for reeducation. My grandmother and mother had not been stained by bourgeoisie tendencies, and my father died in the war. So we survived those terror timers, and for a couple of decades we had reasonably quiet time, until the communists decided that they won’t wait any longer for people to make up their minds about their utopia and proceeded to force everyone into collective farms.   

I had finished a trade qualification and was working as an electrician in a factory, when one morning I was met at the gate by security people and told that I was no longer allowed to work because my parents in the country refused to join the collective farm. “Go home, convince them to join the collective farm, and then you can come back to work”.    

When I arrived to their home a few hours later, I found the house full of ‘honorable guests’, banqueting on the best that my family had to offer, things they usually kept for Holy Days and special occasions.  ‘I told you Mister that you would see your grandson before we leave your house!  Here he is. Thank you very much for your hospitality. We leave you now; he will have things to tell you.”  And left they did, after stripping bare the best my parents had in the house.  

The reason my parents and most of the village refused to join the collective farm was that the first people who joined it were the poor of the community. The communists had confiscated the best land and given it to them, yet the land lay in ruins. People, like my parents, were left with the worst and most unproductive land.  And yet, they managed to survive on that land while the best land of the community was not being put to use.  It was not for nothing that those people were poor; they were also lazy.  That’s why, in time, the communists’ ‘paradise on earth’ became hell on earth and the communist utopia collapsed in ruins a few decades later.  I often shake my head in disbelief that there are still many people in the world who extol the virtues of Left wing politics.   

Of the three uncles of mine that were picked up by the communists, one was a former mayor of the village, the other owned the local grocery store, and the third was the local priest.  Only the priest was well off, and could be said to belong to the bourgeoisie class; the others were average people trying to survive the best they could in extremely difficult times.   

The community really felt the absence of the priest. When he was freed some seven years later, he refused to work as a priest anymore.  He had been ‘reeducated’.  The church stood empty most of the time.  About once a month, an old monk from a monastery some seven kilometres away would come and keep service when he was not too sick.

My family was proud that there was a priest ‘in the family’ at one time, but when he was no longer available they began suggesting to me that I should consider becoming a priest.  I was about 12 or 13 years young when my mother gave me a Bible and kindly told me to read it and think about it. I tried to read it, but found its archaic language hard to digest, so I gave up after a few pages.   

I found it hard to understand how my parents would want me to become a priest when the priests were haunted everywhere and were a vanishing class in all communist lands.  I did not share their belief that communism would be a passing fad and that better time would come again.  I could not see how that could happen when the mighty Soviet Union was the ‘greatest power’ the world had ever seen and no one would ever be able to turn back the tide of history.  Communist utopia was the way of the future, they would tell us, and that was that.               

  Well, it was ‘that’, until I saw with my own eyes what that meant.  After the village was forcefully collectivized, the same old Russian trucks would come with armed guards at harvest time, pick up the best crops and leave without explanation and without recompense.  Families who did not have someone working in city factories for additional income were actually starving.  

It was then that I underwent a massive transformation in my political views: from one who believed in the future of communism to one who hated it with all my being. Although I was only a teenager, I made up my mind to escape that hell and dedicate my life to fighting it.  So at the age of 24, after working hard for seven years to educate and get myself a trade that would be useful in the West, I reached Vienna on the Danube River while working as a radiotelegraphic officer on a merchant ship.  I immediately went to police and asked for political asylum.  They did not think I was a political refugee but an economic one.  I did not know the difference and did not care as long as they did not send me back.

About five months later, I immigrated to Canada.  I preferred the USA, but for that I would have had to wait almost a year.  I thought that once in Canada, it would be just a small step to cross the border and settle in the USA.  But when I saw that country at close range, America looked very unappealing. 

A couple of years later, while working as electrician in Toronto, Canada, coming home one day, I heard Garner Ted Armstrong, of the Worldwide Church of God, talking about imminent war between Germany and the English speaking countries of the world.  That came as a shock to me, for I normally kept myself informed and I was not aware of any crisis in relations between those countries.  As it turned out, he was not talking of crisis in world politics, but how he understood biblical prophecies. Incredibly, his disciples still preach that fallacy.   

When Armstrong gave an address for ‘free’ literature on that topic, I quickly stopped the car on the side of the highway and jotted down his address.  Some two weeks later, I had a couple of booklets in my hand which in turn recommended additional materials for further reading. 

So I wrote to them again, and I included a check for what I thought would be a fair amount for all their free literature.  A few days later I had a reply from them, thanking me profusely for helping them in these difficult end days, as they were trying to inform the world of the coming calamity, and not many people were helping them. My check arrived at a time of great need for the Church.  It was an outrageous deception, for that was one of the wealthiest fundamentalist Churches around. I took their hook, and a few weeks later I was a ‘co-worker’ in the ‘one and only true Church of God in the world’.   What happened afterwards is well known to my readers, so I won’t bother you again with that story. 

Now comes the modern-day miracle.  And that has to do with the miraculous education that I received from my family in Romania.  Although we lived through difficult times, my parents always gave me good advice in spite of the fact that we were surrounded by ‘law breakers’.  Be fair, behave correctly, be respectful, be generous, help those in need, be kind to other people, be kind to animals, and so on.  The communist policy was to force people to break the law, mostly by stealing food to survive.  That was not meant to send them to prison, but to have them at hand, and manipulate them as they wished.  Another reason was to create a guilty conscience in them and distance them from the Church and cause them to lose faith in God.    

I was an only child, but had neighbors with many more children. One evening, some of them decided to raid someone’s yard for early ripening cherries.  Reluctantly, I went along.  After gorging ourselves, the other kids decide to take some home, so they filled their bosoms and their pockets. I hesitated to do the same, knowing that my parents would ask me where I got them from, but thinking that they would enjoy them and forgive me this time, I did the same.

It was the worst thing I could possibly have done; or perhaps the best thing, for my parents made sure I would never do that again. The next morning, they went to the owners of the orchard, and offered them compensation.  Of course, I had to dob in the other kids who never took me with them again. 

When I think back of how my parents brought me up, I am proud of them.  I just hope they would be in the Kingdom of God too, for although they were very good to me, I know that they were not perfect, in particular my grandfather, who had an eye for ladies.    

I regard my desire to be fair and offer compensation to the Worldwide Church of God for its free literature as having its roots in my upbringing.   This brings me to the work I am doing these days.  In the Purpose Statement of The Christian Herald, I state:

 

“This work is maintained wholly by voluntary contributions from its members, who believe that by serving, honoring, and worshipping their Creator God, He will draw more workers able to continue and expand this work of love to where it is needed in the world.” 

 

Well, they don’t make them anymore as they used to.  We live in the ‘get’ generation – get and never give. It is an unbelievable fact that although we have reached millions of people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, for twenty two years, since 1992, we have not received a single cent at this office. If this is not a miracle I would like to know what it is; in the negative sense of course. 

Not only that, but our competing Satanists have done everything in their power to derail this work and cause us great loses.  Be that as it may, the question is why has God not drawn in more workers able to support, continue and expand, this work of love to where it is needed in the world, as we hoped He would, and as we state in the Purpose Statement of every magazine? 

The answer could only be because we live in the end-days when the whole world would have fallen under Satan’s spell and way of life.  It is at this time that, according to the book of Revelation, the world would not only go after Satan, but take up arms and rise against the returning Christ.

This is where the preachers of today have brought this world to. And people don’t believe when we tell them that humanity is already with one foot in the grave. 

 

Rev 19:11  Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire,

Rev 19:12  and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.

Rev 19:13  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

Rev 19:14  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on

Rev 19:15  white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.   

Rev 19:16  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Rev 19:17  Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,

Rev 19:18  that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great." 

Rev 19:19  And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

Rev 19:20  Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Rev 19:21  And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

 

It makes you wonder about the true condition of this world.  If it doesn’t, it ought to.

 

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Paintbrush - alpha 3
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


                                                                                                                     

“This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.”

 

 Alpha and Omega Christian Foundation, P.O. Box 123, Berowra Heights, NSW, 2082, Australia,  Telephone: 041 6295  270; Email:  aocf@optusnet.com.au;  www.thechristianherald.info   

                                            Newsletter 27 (9/13)

1

                               Leaders Of The World,

     Hear The Voice Of One Crying In The wilderness

 

For years we have warned the world that this is what it will come to if it does not heed the voice of our Creator, but it does not look like many people have taken note of it. Prophecies about the end-time, foretold millennia ago are unraveling before our eyes, yet our wise men call them natural disasters.   

Our Newsletters are designed to inform the world of the publication of new editions of The Christian Herald in which we explain in detail world developments from a spiritual perspective. 

We see the world with different eyes – the eyes of the God we serve – and as such our views are radically different from those of world commentators, and more so from our religious counterparts.  At a time when the world is in desperate need of spiritual guidance, the voice of those who are supposed to speak for God had fallen silent, a clear sign that the great falling away from the truth of God, spoken of by the Apostles of Jesus Christ, had taken place.  The consequences are catastrophic for the world.  

Long ago, our Creator God said that He announces biblical developments via His prophets. Not through Churches or a multitude of prophets, but through single voices, as it happened at the time of John the Baptist before the arrival of Jesus Christ. 

 

Luk 3:2  while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

Luk 3:3  And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the

Luk 3:4  remission of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: "the voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'prepare the way of the lord; make his paths straight.

Luk 3:5  every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth;

Luk 3:6  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.' "

 

Jesus Christ acknowledged that John the Baptist was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, but not all those events were fulfilled at that time. Every valley was not filled; the crooked places have not been made straight, and all flesh has not seen the salvation of God. Those prophecies will be fulfilled at the arrival of another Elijah, one who will ‘restore all things’ in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ.  

 

Mat 17:9  Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead."

Mat 17:10  And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"

Mat 17:11  Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.

Mat 17:12  But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands."

Mat 17:13  Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

 

The Christian Herald has restored a Gospel that few people have known since the time of the Apostles; which means that the time is at hand for the return of our Savior, but before that some awful things will take place in this world. 

 

Mat 24:11  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many [plenty of them in the world at present].

Mat 24:12  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 

Mat 24:13  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Mat 24:14  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Mat 24:15  "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place"  (whoever reads, let him understand), . . .

 

Mat 24:21  For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.  And unless those days were

Mat 24:22  shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

 

For more than two decades, The Christian Herald has taken the true Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world, yet this also has been a voice of one crying in the wilderness. People from more than 145 nations now avail themselves of our online publications, yet no one has taken the plunge to turn to God in heartfelt repentance and genuine worship.

They are curious about it; they come to us and download our materials by large volumes, but no one seems to take the Word of God seriously: not the average person, not the ‘wise’ of this world, no preachers, and no Churches. This is why the world finds itself on the brink of the end-time Great Tribulation

 

Mal 4:1  "For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," Says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch.

Mal 4:2  But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; 

Mal 4:3  And you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.  You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this," Says the LORD of hosts.

Mal 4:4  "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments. [In other words, keep the Ten Commandments].

Mal 4:5  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

Mal 4:6  And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with ‘utter destruction’ [margin]. 

 

‘The great and dreadful day of the Lord’ did not come at the time of John the Baptist, but now the time is ripe for it.  Jesus Christ said that “because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold”.  Well, lawlessness abounds now more than ever, and there is hardly any love in families, let alone in the wider world. The generation gap has never been bigger, the elders are marginalized and their voice hardly ever heeded and appreciated.  And since the ‘wise’ of this world keep telling us that this world has no God, there is even less love between God and His creation.  Add to that the recent comments in a publication like The Sydney Morning Herald (28 August 2013), and you can see why humanity has little chance of being redeemed from the current worldwide morass.   

 

“Prostitution, Polygamy, Incest and Bestiality. I would argue that all of them should be legal.”

 

They don’t mention homosexuality anymore; this is widely accepted and passé as an issue now; what they advocate now are four new abominations.

Unbelievably, only three weeks later, Australia’s public television network, the ABC, showed graphic bestiality images in prime time television: first supposedly as ‘satire’ (Gruen Planet, Sep. 11), then as ‘critique’ of the satire (Media Watch, Sep.16).  The Media Watch reporter made the point that after the first airing of those sickening images the ABC received only one complaint. Not from a church, not from an institution, nor from a Member of Parliament, but from a lone individual.  Was it because the public has become so desensitized by the plunge into this unbelievable filth, or because few people are watching this highly criticized network?    

Remember how it all began some four decades ago?  They wanted ‘basic rights’ for homosexuals.  Then they changed that to ‘human rights’; then ‘equal rights’, ‘marriage rights’, and finally ‘brotherly love’; to which Barack Obama dutifully obliged from the pulpit of the White House in the hearing of the whole world. 

He was quickly followed by Britain’s Prime Minister, Cameroun, and the French President, Hollande.  Now they run the risk of being overtaken by others with even more ‘progressive’ views.  So let’s hear it, Messrs Obama, Cameroun and Hollande.  Those new abominations need their human rights, equal rights, brotherly love and marriage rights too.  After all, Satan got them for homosexuals, so why shouldn’t he get them for his new protégées.   

Now those who think that God will stand by and let Satan and his cronies plunge this world into such unspeakable depths of depravity without consequences have something coming their way.  As on cue, at the time and place that God’s prophecies have foretold long ago, the end-time Great Tribulation is now stalking the world and few people are aware of it. Those who ought to cry aloud the sins of their people, and warn them of their consequences, have not only fallen silent, but mounted a massive campaign against us in order to prevent the Gospel of the Kingdom being preached to all nations as Jesus Christ said that it must happen at this particular time in world history.  

They have not succeeded, and that Gospel is now being read in all corners of the earth – another sure sign that the end of this age, the Great Tribulation, and the return of our Lord Jesus Christ are now in the cards.  So turn to God now friends, turn to God while He may be found, for the time is shorter than you think.

You can find further details of our work and of world prophetic developments in our web site: www.thechristianheralf.info

 

In the service of Jesus Christ,

 

Grigore Sbarcea

Coordinator A.O.C.F.

 

 

 

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          A Panorama Of Modern ‘Truths’

 

Life has been good to me; it has acquainted me with many notions of truth.

I was brought up in Romania’s communist truth, but that did not last with me for very long. When I saw the blessings that the communist ‘paradise’ brought to people, I turned against it and escaped to the democratic West.   

There, I discovered a variety of truths: Catholic truth, Anglican truth, Salvation Army truth, Jehovah Witnesses truth, Scientology truth, Jewish truth, Islamic truth, Fundamentalist truth, etc.  We will have a look at some of these truths, beginning with the very first one that I knew.            

 

 

The Communist/Orthodox Truth

I put the communist and Orthodox truths together because they are virtually indistinguishable. It was in the Orthodox Church’s lands that the communist truth took roots.  Not surprisingly, throughout the existence of the Soviet Union, the Orthodox hierarchy supported it, and defended it whenever it came under attack in international forums.    

My High School colleagues used to say that “A communist historian is one who predicts the past”.  You could not discuss that with just about anyone, and only with the closest of friends.  If the nomenclature knew what was in our minds, it would have been the end of our careers.  We would have become “enemies of the people” and the only job we could ever aspire for would have been of the unskilled type.

Had the communists been as good at predicting the future as they did the past, they would have known better than to build their castle on sand.  A lesson from Jesus Christ could have served them well had they aspired towards God’s paradise instead of the Devil paradise.   

 

Mat 7:21  "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

Mat 7:22  Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'

Mat 7:23  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice

Mat 7:24  lawlessness!'  "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:

Mat 7:25  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

Mat 7:26  "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came,

Mat 7:27  and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."

Mat 7:28  And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His

Mat 7:29  teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

 

Jesus Christ built His authority on good teachings and good deeds, not on the power of arms as do those wh0 have no God. But how could Romania’s preachers build their authority on good deeds when, according to recent media revelations, all of them were informers of the dreaded Securitate. They trampled underfoot the most inviolable of religious acts - the confession. 

In the Orthodox faith, the Church is the heart of the community. Nothing happens without the knowledge and approval of the priest, especially celebrations and social events that bring people together. 

I always wondered how it was possible that a regime that controlled people’s lives from cradle to the grave would leave priests alone to practice their religion as they wished.  Well, they didn’t, but that would not be known until decades later when the communist paradise imploded upon itself.

For a while, after the revolution that toppled the communist regime, Romanian media seemed to serve the cause of democracy and truth, but as of late a spirit of conformity seems to have gripped them.   

We have been the target of Romania’s secret services throughout the life of this work which began immediately after the Revolution that was supposed to bring democracy and freedom of speech. Not surprisingly Romanian media has made us their target too. 

A few years ago, we reported how we got a nasty virus from a Romanian newspaper that we used to read on line.  We never logged on to that newspaper’s web site again.  Unfortunately, as of late, whenever we log on to other Romanian newspapers, our antivirus/firewall protection immediately shuts down our internet connection.  They tell us that they do so in order to protect our computer.  It appears that late last year they were too slow in doing so, and our computer was hacked, causing us considerable damage and loss of some files.  This edition was delayed because of that.   

In any democracy, the media would clamor to investigate the assault, rape and murder of a woman in her 70’s by government agents, but not in Romania’s “original democracy”. 

We warned western leaders that if they remain silent in the face of such unspeakable crime and shake hands that are stained with blood, their hands will get stained too, and their people will pay the price of tolerating evil. They did not believe it.  Even now that the spectre of nuclear annihilation hangs over their heads, they still do not believe it.     

They will believe it when they see their capitals reduced to nuclear ash.  Before this decade is over!      

Then they will know that a voice has cried out in their midst and they did not listen. 

And yet for all that, God has produced an extraordinary turn of events in recent years.  The atheist “Evil Empire” of yesteryear has become the upholder of God’s Law while the Christian West has become the defender of Satan’s practice of homosexuality.  The consequences are catastrophic for the world. 

 

Mal 4:1  "For behold, the day is coming, Burning like an oven, And all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up," Says the LORD of hosts, "That will leave them neither root nor branch.

Mal 4:2  But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves.

Mal 4:3  You shall trample the wicked, For they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet On the day that I do this," Says the LORD of hosts.

Mal 4:4  "Remember the Law of Moses [the Ten Commandments], My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.

Mal 4:5  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of

Mal 4:6  the LORD.  And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with ‘utter destruction’.   

 

Not only have the hearts of the fathers not turned to the children and the hearts of the children not turned to their fathers, but the world has descended into an unimaginable level of violence, terror, and immorality. 

Only a heartfelt repentance before God and a return to righteousness and truth could save the world from terminal catastrophe.  But will human beings do it?  How could they when those who ought to be our fellow workers have turned against us and become our implacable enemies?

 

Psa 36:1  A Psalm of David the Servant of the LORD. An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes.

Psa 36:2  For he flatters himself in his own eyes, When he finds out his iniquity and when he hates.

Psa 36:3  The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; He has ceased to be wise and to do good.

Psa 36:4  He devises wickedness on his bed; He sets himself in a way that is not good; He does not abhor evil.

Psa 36:5  Your mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

Psa 36:6  Your righteousness is like the great mountains; Your judgments are a great deep; O LORD, You preserve man and beast.

Psa 36:9  For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.  Oh, continue Your

Psa 36:10  lovingkindness to those who know You, And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.

Psa 36:11  Let not the foot of pride come against me, And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.  There the workers of iniquity have fallen;

Psa 36:12  They have been cast down and are not able to rise.

 

Isa 66:4  So will I choose their delusions, And bring their fears on them; Because, when I called, no one answered, When I spoke they did not hear; But they did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight."

 

We move now to other versions of truth.

 

The Catholic Truth

 

Pell blames media 'smear'

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 A DEFIANT Cardinal George Pell has blamed a smear campaign against the Catholic Church for public pressure that led to a royal commission into child sex abuse.  The Archbishop of Sydney said a commission into the Catholic Church was not needed, but he welcomed the broader inquiry announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday night as ''an opportunity to clear the air, to separate fact from fiction''. He attacked a ''persistent press campaign'' and ''general smears that we are covering up and moving people around'', and suggested that abuse by Catholic priests had been singled out and exaggerated.

 

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He also suggested that cynicism about the church's handling of abuse was confined to the press, and the public understood that the church was serious about tackling the problem. Advertisement

''We are not interested in denying the extent of misdoing in the Catholic Church. We object to it being exaggerated. We object to being described as the only cab on the rank,'' Cardinal Pell told a press conference in Sydney.  ''We've been unable to convince public opinion for basically the last 20 years that, whatever our imperfections in individual cases, we've been serious about this … Because there is a persistent press campaign focused largely on us, that does not mean we are largely the principal culprits.''

At the weekend, Cardinal Pell - defying statistics presented to the Victorian state inquiry into how the churches handled child abuse that Catholic clergy committed six times as much abuse as the rest of the churches combined - insisted the church was no worse than any other. He said it had been unfairly vilified because of anti-Catholic prejudice.  On Tuesday he again defended church practices and said the royal commission - whose terms of reference and head have yet to be announced - would judge whether the claims were true or a ''significant exaggeration''.  ''We acknowledge, with shame, the extent of the problem, and I want to assure you that we have been serious in attempting to eradicate it,'' he said. Cardinal Pell, who launched the Melbourne Response abuse protocol used only in that archdiocese when he was archbishop in 1996, described how then premier Jeff Kennett had called him to his office and said ''clean it up!''   Retired bishop Geoffrey Robinson, the principal architect of the Towards Healing protocol used in every other diocese, had some sympathy for Cardinal Pell's position, saying he would rather have a royal commission conducted by a judge than the media, as was happening now.

But Bishop Robinson, 75 - who was abused as a child and headed the Australian church's efforts to tackle clerical sexual abuse for a decade, until he retired in 2004 because he was so disillusioned - had a different tack on the solution.

He said the abuse crisis was doing massive damage to the church but the changes needed were in Rome. ''Until things improve by 10,000 per cent over there, everything done here will be second best. But I'd prefer all the dirt to come out now rather than dribble out over the next 20 years,'' he said.

Cardinal Pell suggested media coverage of abuse, which rehashed the same stories, might open old wounds among abuse victims. ''I wonder to what extent the victims are helped by this ongoing furor in the press,'' he said.  Asked whether priests who were told about abuse in the confessional should report it, he said: ''The seal of confession is inviolable.'' But if the priest suspected that he would be told of such events, he should refuse to hear the confession. ''That would be my advice, and I would never hear the confession of a priest who is suspected of such a thing.'' 

Mr Kennett said he remembered meeting Cardinal Pell as the new archbishop of Melbourne. ''I said, 'You are new to the job, your challenge is to clean up these allegations as quickly and best you can for the sake of the victims and in defence of the very good work the church does.'''  Asked if he had told the archbishop that ''if you don't fix it I will'', he said he could not remember but it sounded like his language. ''I charged him, though I had no authority to do so, to clean it up.''  Mr Kennett said the abuse crisis ''broke the spirit'' of Cardinal Pell's predecessor in Melbourne, Archbishop Frank Little. ''I don't think he could bring himself to believe that in his flock people had committed these deeds.''  Mr Kennett said the royal commission would take years and might cost hundreds of millions of dollars, ''but so be it. It has to be done.''  He suggested witnesses might need financial help.   (Barney Zwartz, SMH, November 14, 2013)

 

 

Cardinal George Pell has confessed to creation of false documents and 'reprehensible' cover-ups of child sex abuse

The most prominent Catholic in Australia was grilled by a Victorian parliamentary committee for 4 1/2 hours about systemic failings by the church to deal with abuse.

Cardinal Pell said the fear of scandals drove much of the reaction to rampant abuse in the 1970s and '80s, but that a concern about money was also involved.  "I am fully apologetic and absolutely sorry," he said.  'I would agree that we've been slow to address the anguish of the victims and dealt with it very imperfectly," the cardinal said.  In a victory for victims, Cardinal Pell said he would ask the Vatican to send all documents it holds on Victorian sex abuse accusations to the inquiry - a promise he had also made to the federal royal commission into abuse.

Cardinal Pell defended the church's compensation scheme, saying it abided by the "law of the land".  But he opened the door to greater compensation for some victims saying a $27,000 payment to a man raped 10 times was "miserable". Abuse victims at the hearing said they were unconvinced by the cardinal's apology. Some walked out soon after he began speaking.

Anthony Foster, whose daughters, Emma and Katie, were abused by Melbourne priest Kevin O'Donnell in Oakleigh in the 1980s, said he wasn't satisfied. "It's another apology. It's the same words again. It's just not backed up with the actions that we need.  "What we need is real care for victims," he said.  Mr Foster also hit out at Cardinal Pell's repeatedly saying he was not responsible for changing the church structure and was not the "Catholic prime minister of Australia".  National MP David O'Brien said letters showed that one abusing priest should "submit a resignation as parish priest on health grounds", and asked if that was further evidence of church cover-ups. "Yes, it is," Cardinal Pell said.

Asked if it was totally un-Christlike, the cardinal replied: "I would have to agree with you."

"He (former Archbishop Little) got the bloke out but the way he did it was reprehensible," he said.

Cardinal Pell insisted that the Melbourne Response he initiated in the 1990s had helped address problems.  After 242 cases of abuse were uncovered in the 1970s, Cardinal Pell said there were 82 in the 1980s and then up to 24 in the 1990s.  By the 2000s he said there were only a handful.

"The Catholic environment at the moment is very safe, that is what the evidence suggests to me."

There is a cap of $75,000 on payments at the moment, compared to payouts of about $1 million on average in the US, the inquiry heard.  MPs probed Cardinal Pell's decision to appear at court with infamous paedophile Gerald Ridsdale - with whom he had lived briefly.  "At that stage nobody knew - well, I certainly didn't - what proved to be the full extent of his infamous career," Cardinal Pell told the inquiry.  "I did know that there was a very significant number of charges but I had no idea about all the other things that would unfold," Cardinal Pell said. (Matt Johnston, Herald Sun, May 27, 2013)

 

Church lobby in win over charities watchdog

Illustration: Matt Golding.

Illustration: Matt Golding.

 

If Tony Abbott is elected prime minister on Saturday he will abolish the watchdog established by Labor to keep an eye on the billions of dollars received and spent by Australian charities each year. Why?

The answer, in part at least, may be the lobbying power of church conservatives, the Catholic Church in particular, and the office of Sydney Cardinal George Pell, more particularly still.  And their focus has not been the Coalition alone. Labor insiders acknowledge the impact of Cardinal Pell's office as it reduced the scope of its new national regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.  Charity leaders, church heads and political insiders have told The Sunday Age about the lobbying campaign over charities regulation by the Sydney archdiocese, notably Cardinal Pell's business manager and chief political envoy, Danny Casey.  The pressure applied by the Sydney church through the charities debate has raised the question of the access and sway it may enjoy under Australia's first Catholic Liberal prime minister and his Catholic-strong frontbench that includes Kevin Andrews, Barnaby Joyce, Joe Hockey, Malcolm Turnbull (a convert), Andrew Robb and Christopher Pyne.  . . .

In 2010, the Productivity Commission slammed the regulation regime shared by the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the states as too complex, too costly, and too short on transparency.  Labor's response was the new charities commission, which opened for business in January. It is meant to be a one-stop shop that keeps a register of charities - there are 60,000 large ones and 600,000 not-for-profit groups in all - helps them meet their obligations, and investigates them when they don't.

Given the Liberals' ideological commitment to the idea of small government, suspicion about a national regulator is arguably consistent with the Liberal philosophy. Mr Andrews says Labor's commission is an unnecessary level of bureaucracy established to hunt down ''mischief'' it has never identified.  ''We don't believe that any real mischief was made out to justify a whole new bureaucracy. It is total overkill for what is required for the charities sector,'' he says.

Notable among the changes was a watering-down of clauses requiring small religious bodies - local parishes - to account for their income.  Another was to remove the onus on organisations to prove they work in the public interest.  The Sunday Age is aware of frustration among some Labor insiders that some of the amendments allowed the churches greater cover when, arguably, they should be facing more, not less, scrutiny.  Senator Stephens says that, as Labor shaped its charities bill, the Catholic Church in particular pressed hard for modification in countless meetings with Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury.  Did the church have a major hand in softening Labor's charities regime? ''Yes they had a victory there,'' says Senator Stephens.  (Royce Millar, SMH, September 1, 2013)

 

Decades of Catholic cover-up

EVIDENCE of more than 50 years of Catholic Church cover-ups, including a paedophile priest sent overseas to escape scrutiny, is to be aired finally at a special commission of inquiry in Newcastle.

The inquiry's second chapter got under way yesterday. The senior counsel assisting the commission, Julia Lonergan SC, said documents from the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese showed that as far back as 1953, paedophile priest Denis McAlinden sexually abused a young girl. Her parents reported the abuse to the church to no avail.  A later victim - a boy who was abused for years from the age of five at the hands of McAlinden - told his own parish priest what was happening during one of his first confessions, but it never went further. "This boy was given penance, apparently for his sin in being abused by that priest," Ms Lonergan said.  The inquiry heard a handwritten letter in 1976 from then diocesan vicar-general, Monsignor Patrick Cotter, to Bishop Leo Clarke talked about McAlinden's paedophile tendencies, but they were dismissed as "not extremely serious".  "He feels no such inclination towards the mature female but towards the little ones only," Monsignor Cotter wrote.  (Neil Keene, The Telegraph, July 02, 2013)

 

UN condemns Vatican over child sex abuse

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The Vatican must remove all child sexual abusers from their posts and turn them over to the police, the United Nations children's rights watchdog said on Wednesday.   The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the Holy See to "immediately remove all known and suspected child sexual abusers from assignment and refer the matter to the relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution purposes".  In a hard-hitting report, the committee said that the Roman Catholic Church was still failing to do enough to live up to its stated commitment to stamp out child abuse by priests and lay employees, including in schools.

It underlined its "deepest concern about child sexual abuse committed by members of the Catholic churches who operate under the authority of the Holy See, with clerics having been involved in the sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children worldwide".  "The Committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators," it added.  It blasted the practice of transferring child abusers from parish to parish within countries, and even across borders, in an attempt to cover up their crimes and remove them from the clutches of justice authorities.  "The practice of offenders' mobility, which has allowed many priests to remain in contact with children and to continue to abuse them, still places children in many countries at high risk of sexual abuse, as dozens of child sexual offenders are reported to be still in contact with children," it said.

The report followed a landmark hearing last month during which members of the committee - made up of 18 independent human rights experts from around the globe - grilled senior Churchmen and repeatedly called into question the Vatican's resolve.

 

       Child sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church:

Australia: Scandals include sexual abuse in the 1970s and 1980s in a Catholic school in Bathurst, west of Sydney. A national probe launched in April 2013 is expected to hear from some 5,000 presumed victims in religious, associative and public institutions.

Canada: The Mount Cashel Orphanage in St. John's, Newfoundland was closed in 1990 after it emerged that staff had systematically abused 300 residents over several decades. In 2002, associations representing more than 10,000 self-declared victims joined forces to seek compensation.

United States: In 2004 a criminal investigation found that 4,400 priests had sexually abused minors between 1950 and 2002, and that the abuse had affected about 11,000 children. The former archbishop of Boston, Bernard Law, was forced to resign in 2002 for having protected paedophile priests, and former archbishop of Los Angeles Roger Mahony agreed to pay $US660 million to 500 presumed victims.

Ireland: In one of the most staunchly Catholic countries in Europe, a priest admitted to sexually abusing more than 100 children, while another said he had abused minors regularly over 25 years. A total of 14,500 Irish children are reported to have been victims of abuse by clergy.

Germany: In early 2010, hundreds of alleged cases of child sex abuse in church institutions emerged, notably at the Jesuit college Canisius in Berlin where about 20 cases were reported. In late 2012, a report said at least 66 church officials had been accused of sex abuse.

Belgium: Former bishop of Bruges Roger Vangheluwe resigned in 2010 after acknowledging that he had abused two nephews. Thousands of other potential cases have emerged since then. The Commission on Church-related Sexual Abuse Complaints, set up by the Catholic Church, has probed hundreds of cases of sexual abuse.

The Netherlands: In late 2011, a report said "several tens of thousands of minors" had been abused within church institutions between 1945 and 2010, and around 800 suspects have been identified.

Austria: A series of scandals, including years of abuse by a priest in a Salzburg monastery, has revealed some 800 cases in all.  (Sydney Morning Herald, February 6, 2014)

 

Christian Brothers spent $1 million to defend paedophile

The Christian Brothers Catholic order spent more than $1 million defending serial paedophile Robert Best, the order has told the Victorian inquiry into how the churches handled child sexual abuse.

The order also paid $10,000 to a private investigator to spy on a victim of another abuser, Ted Dowlan. It paid for legal advice to protect Dowlan’s assets from being paid to victims in civil lawsuits, and gave him $125,000 when he left the order.

But the brothers appearing on behalf of the order denied there were cultural problems within it.

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It apologised for the "repulsive" and "inexcusable" betrayal by the abusers, and said most of the offenders had themselves been abused earlier. "I cannot defend and will not try to defend the indefensible," said Brother Julian McDonald, deputy leader of the order in Australia and the region.

The Christian Brothers ran St Alipius Parish School in Ballarat where four paedophile members taught in the early 1970s and where another paedophile, Gerald Ridsdale, was parish priest.

Brian Brandon, the executive officer for professional standards, agreed that the order had paid $1.2 million defending Best in three cases – in 1996, 1998 and 2010.

The last case cost $980,000, but Brother Brandon suggested this had saved the taxpayers, including victims, the cost and could be seen as generosity. Committee member Nick Wakeling: "You spend nearly $1 million defending Best after the previous cases and him pleading guilty to abusing three children."

Brother Brandon: "Including GST."  Asked how the Ballarat situation was possible, Brother McDonald said he had no explanation, describing it as "an accident of history".

He said leaders at the time saw child sex abuse as a moral failure rather than a criminal matter.

Committee member Andrea Coote said that until 1949 "buggering children" attracted the death penalty – how could Christian Brothers leaders not realise it was a serious crime?

Brother McDonald replied that he had no explanation.

He said sexual abuse had always been a crime - "a terrible, terrible crime that’s ruined lives and we know that and we knew that and every leader of the Christian Brothers should have known that".

Challenged by committee member David O'Brien about the severance payment and other support for Dowlan, Brother McDonald said it was caring for people who would otherwise "end on the scrap heap".

Mr O'Brien said the order's defence of Dowlan, including misleading police, showed that, far from being repentant, it was protective of Dowlan, Best and others. Brother McDonald said the order, which had worked in Victoria since 1868, had received 266 complaints, of which 20 were not pursued. It paid $10.5 million in compensation.  Six brothers had been jailed, of whom four remained members. Police had investigated six more, but they were not convicted. "Any institution is as sick as its secrets, and there was a culture that kept things secret," Brother McDonald said. Though he denied there had been a culture of covering up, he admitted "in hindsight, certainly that's what it looks like". He said there was no evidence that the order had been infiltrated by paedophiles, though there had been "mistakes" in moving two known paedophiles from parish to parish.  (Barney Zwartz, The Age, May 3, 2013)

 

 

Catholic clergy the worst abusers, inquiry told

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 CATHOLIC clergy commit six times as much abuse as those in the rest of the churches combined, ''and that's a conservative figure'', a child protection expert says.

Patrick Parkinson, a Sydney University law professor, told the state inquiry into how the churches handle sex abuse yesterday that the figures for the Catholic Church were strikingly out of proportion.

He proposed a 12-month amnesty from charges of perverting the course of justice if the church opened all its files on offenders alive and dead, but said those involved in cover-ups would have to resign.

Earlier, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton set the inquiry's opening day alight with more broadsides against the Catholic Church's systemic obstruction of police inquiries over five decades. Advertisement

He said police had statistics for sexual offences by clergy and church workers since January 1956, uncovering ''shocking'' figures: 2110 offences against 519 victims, overwhelmingly perpetrated by Catholic priests and mostly against boys aged 11 or 12. But in all that time the church had not reported a single crime to police.  Savaging the church's Melbourne Response protocol for dealing with complaints, Mr Ashton said: ''If a stranger were to enter a church and rape a child it would be immediately reported to police. But if the stranger were a member of the clergy, their special process would be wrapped around him. What is different about the clergy? It is the reputation of the church that creates the difference.''

He said the Melbourne Response was ''based on a flawed notion of independence'', with independent commissioner Peter O'Callaghan, QC, appointed and paid for by the church.

Mr O'Callaghan replied: ''Much of Mr Ashton's evidence and the police submission, both made under the cover of parliamentary privilege, are grossly misconceived, damaging and plainly wrong.'' He said he would ''correct and refute'' police evidence if he was called before the committee.

Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Denis Hart also came to Mr O'Callaghan's defence, with a public statement saying for the past 16 years the church had been ''honest and open'' in co-operating with police.

''Any suggestion of a lack of independence of the independent commissioners is a very serious attack on the professional integrity and competence of senior members of the Victorian bar,'' he said. ''I reject any such suggestion.''  Professor Parkinson, who chaired a review of child protection laws in New South Wales and twice reviewed the church's national Towards Healing abuse protocol, said he broke with the Catholic Church over its cover-up of his independent report on the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Speaking under parliamentary privilege, he said the order sent three priests overseas to avoid police questioning, then suppressed his report on their actions.

He told the committee an American child safety expert had called the order ''the most defiant and unrepentant group'' in the church.  Professor Parkinson said: ''The lies were breathtaking, and [former Australian head] Father [Frank] Moloney was absolutely at the centre of all the untruths.''

Monash University child protection expert Chris Goddard lashed the ''partial and tokenistic'' mandatory reporting laws in Australia that carried no meaningful consequences for those who ignored them.  Professor Goddard, director of Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia, said only two people had been prosecuted since the law was introduced in 1993 for failing to report suspected abuse, and ''many times loss of life has followed'' that failure.  He also criticised training for child protection workers, saying that ''if we had the same disorganised approach for drink-driving there would be a public outcry. There should be independent visits to church homes, independent assessments of organisations, and compulsory training.''  Dr Daryl Higgins, deputy director of research at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, said victims were often not believed until they had reported the abuse five times.  (Barney Zwartz and Jane Lee, SMH, October 19, 2012)

 

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Damning statistics revealed at abuse inquiry: One in 20 priests an abuser

AT LEAST one in 20 Catholic priests in Melbourne is a child sex abuser, although the real figure is probably one in 15, the state inquiry into the churches' handling of sex abuse was told yesterday.

RMIT professor Des Cahill said his figures, based on analysing conviction rates of priests ordained from Melbourne's Corpus Christi College, closely matched a much larger American analysis of 105,000 priests which found that 4362 were child sex offenders.

The intercultural studies professor also told the inquiry that the Catholic Church was incapable of reforming itself because of its internal culture. He said the Church's Melbourne Response abuse protocol had to go, and the state would have to intervene to achieve it.

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Professor Cahill said that 14 of 378 Corpus Christi priests graduating between 1940 and 1966 were convicted of child sexual abuse, and church authorities had admitted that another four who had died were also abusers, a rate of 4.76 per cent.  But the actual figure was much higher when under-reporting was taken into account, along with cases dealt with in secret by the Catholic Church. "One in 20 is a minimum. It might be one in 15, perhaps not as high as one in 10," he said.

He suggested that, though the Church tried to "fudge the figures" by including other church workers, Catholic priests offended at a much higher rate than other men. If the general male population now over 65 offended at the same rate, there would be 65,614 men living in Australia who had been convicted of child sex abuse — very far from the case.  Professor Cahill said the Church's "culture of caste clericalism" and its pyramid structure rendered it incapable of the systemic reform needed. The organisational culture was "verging on the pathological".  "Bishops are caught between canon law and civil law, and Rome has put a lot of pressure on bishops to make sure canon law and the rights of priests are being observed, but canon law has nothing to say about the rights of child victims," he said.

The Melbourne Response — the internal protocol used by the Melbourne archdiocese — was designed to protect the image and reputation of the church and to contain financial liability, and had to be changed. "The church is incapable of reform, so the state will have to do it," he said.

He suggested a new structure involving the Office of the Child Safety Commissioner and a new "eminent Catholics task force", appointed by the Government, to work with Church leadership. Possible candidates included former Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent, La Trobe professor Joseph Camilleri, former Geelong mayer Frank Costa, former deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, Mrs Diana Grollo, state chief health officer Rosemary Lester, retired Ballarat bishop Peter Connors, retired Melbourne priest Eric Hodgens and Australian Catholic University professor Gabrielle McMullin.

Professor Cahill said child sex abuse had existed in all ages, cultures and religions, shrouded in secrecy and poorly responded to by religious authorities. He said a church council in 309 AD was concerned about child sex abuse in monasteries. [Roman Catholic monasteries, as there were no other Christian denominations then.  A tradition well explained by Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans. Catholic homosexuality has been in the world from the very beginning].

One in 11 Victorians identified with a religion other than Christianity, up 68 per cent in 10 years, and Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews all had issues to do with sex abuse, especially in other countries.

In Sri Lanka, child sex abuse was rampant in Buddhist monasteries, and more than 100 monks had been charged in the past decade. Child sex abuse had been called "India's time bomb", especially the plight of street children, while many Muslim communities were in denial, he said. Melbourne Jewish groups were making their own submission to the inquiry.  (Barney Zwartz, SMH, October 23, 2013)

 

Ex friar says half of priests are gay

HOMOSEXUALITY is a ''ticking time bomb for the church'', according to a gay British journalist and former friar, Mark Dowd.  In a television interview, Mr Dowd said the official church teaching, repeated by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, was that same-sex attraction was intrinsically disordered, yet ''half, if not more, priests are gay''.  Mr Dowd said the former pope's brother, German priest Georg Ratzinger, told him the clergy sexual abuse crisis had taken a great emotional toll on Benedict while he was pope. ''He was lying awake at night, sweating,'' Mr Dowd said he told him.

Homosexuality in the church has attracted international attention twice this month, first with claims of a gay sex ring inside the Vatican that is allegedly vulnerable to blackmail, then with Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien withdrawing from this month's conclave after allegations of inappropriate behaviour against three priests and a former priest. But many other cardinals under fire from victims for their handling of abuse claims have refused to withdraw.

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Italian newspapers reported that three cardinals had given Benedict a 300-page report about the gay sex ring, and speculated that this was the final straw in his decision to resign, to the fury of Vatican spokesmen.  Mr Dowd said Benedict, whose handling of clergy sex abuse has been criticised by victims as too little too late, tried to speed up the process and make it more transparent when he headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Pope John Paul II.

''He said all cases should come to his desk, but the Vatican machinery cannot process it fast enough.''

Benedict spent his last day as Pope on Thursday farewelling the cardinals at Castel Gandolfo near Rome.  (Barney Zwartz SMH, March 2, 2013)

 

Pope Francis and gays: A misinterpretation or a hint of the future?

Pope Francis reached out to gays, saying he won’t judge priests for their sexual orientation in a news conference Monday.

One must always be careful to interpret Vatican rhetoric in context. When Pope Francis answered a question on ‘the gay lobby’ at the Vatican with ”Who am I to judge?” the media focused on gays and judgement and missed some important points about Francis’s theology.

The first point was that this rhetorical question was not an answer to a question about gays but about rumors of a ‘gay lobby.’ Note both words, ‘gay’ and ‘lobby.’ The first part of his answer diffused the emphasis on ‘gay’ by saying he’d not met any card-carrying gays at the Vatican. Instead he focused on ‘lobby.’ Given Francis’s emphasis on the church not being a corporation or an NGO, the word ‘lobby’ is even more sinister in Vaticanese than in American political lingo. For Francis the word–whether connected with ‘gay’ or not–would imply that the lobbyists were not centered on the Gospel but on a particular ideology, i.e., they interpreted the Gospel in terms of some ideology and did not think of the church in terms of the Gospel. They were in effect creating a politics or ideology in place of the Gospel. He is not going to tolerate this whether the lobby is gay or straight.

The second point the media missed is the theological context for Francis’s remark. His pastoral approach focuses on the person not the orientation. He redirected attention to highlight a person’s quest for a genuine relationship with God. He is very concerned about developing a healthy theology of the human person in which to situate that relationship with God. He even admits that the Catholic Church doesn’t have an adequate theology of ‘woman.’ In that context who is he to pass judgment on the genuine relationship of any person, gay or straight?

Third, Francis does not see his own ministry as pope as that of a top-down executive. He has not used the most famous Petrine/papal text, one that calls Peter the rock on which the church is built. Rather he uses a text from the gospel of Luke where Jesus charges Peter to be supportive of his fellow Christians. Francis takes that ministry seriously. He refers to himself not as pope but as bishop of Rome, bishop among his brother bishops.

So Francis’s statement on gays, “Who am I to judge?” reveals more about his theology of church, ministry, and human nature in relation to God than of any thoughts on sexuality of any kind.

However, Vatican rhetoric needs to be interpreted not only in the context of words but also of action. Francis is something of a maverick among bishops on the question of gays. When he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he is known to have supported a civil union for the sake of pastoral ministry and civil rights–though he was voted down by his fellow bishops. He is bringing his support for gays to his ministry in the Vatican. More important than his comment at the airline press conference is his action. The day after he spoke those memorable words the Vatican announced the resignation of Bishop Simon Bakot of Yaoundé, former president of the National Bishops’ Conference of Cameroon. Bishop Bakot did not resign for reason of age as Catholic bishops are required to do when they reach 75; he is only 66. Nor is he known to have been in ill health or under scrutiny for financial reasons or his own sexual misconduct. The sole reason he is famous is for his staunch opposition to gays. He lumps them with pedophiles and practitioners of bestiality and calls them an affront to God’s creation. He threatens to ‘out’ clergy he opposed by revealing their sexual orientation. He has even been a vocal public supporter of Cameroon’s national day of hatred of gays. The fact that his resignation was accepted the day after Francis’s now famous utterance casts new light on the Vatican’s stance toward gays.

So what are we to make of Francis’s declaration “Who am I to judge?” The first thing is to see it in a theological context that puts the person and the person’s relationship with God to the forefront–not sexual orientation of any sort. But in addition, one should not miss the historical context of Francis’s own program as bishop in Argentina, one just recently reinforced in his office as bishop of Rome. He may not judge a gay’s quest for God–though he would support it–but he surely has passed judgement on a fellow bishop utters terribly negative judgments on gays, judgements that will no longer be tolerated as long as Francus is pope. Given Francis’s theology of the papacy as ministry to his brother bishops, Francis just may be suggesting that they too should see the office of bishop as one whose prime duty I that of shepherd, bringing people, all people, into a closer relationship with God. (Maureen A. Tilley, The Washington Post, August 7, 2013)

 

Pope confirms ‘gay lobby’ at heart of the Vatican

ROME: A scandal that dogged the Vatican in the weeks leading up to Pope Francis’s election has reemerged after the Pontiff was quoted in a memo from a church group discussing he existence of a “gay lobby” within Vatican ranks.  

Since the election, Pope Francis has been under pressure to move forward with an overhaul of the Roman Curia, the Vatican administrative body. A year before resigning in February, Pope Benedict XVI ordered three cardinals to conduct an extensive internal investigation into published leaks that raised questions about the Curia’s conduct, including alleged financial impropriety.  Benedict locked the investigation’s findings in a safe so that only his successor could read them.  Days before he stepped down, however, Italian media reported the inquiry had revealed the existence of a “gay lobby” of sexually active Vatican clerics.    

The Vatican swiftly denied that the inquiry mentioned such a group, and the issue faded from public view with the election of a new Pope. [Who promptly declared homosexuals to be his brothers and told the world that they must not marginalised but included in society, and regarded as equals].   

On June 6, Pope Francis met inside the Vatican with members of the Latin American and Caribbean confederation of religious men and women, known as CLAR by its Spanish acronym, and discussed the report commissioned by his predecessor, according to a CLAR memo of the meeting. “The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there.  We need to see what we can do,” Pope  Francis is quoted as saying in the memo, which was leaked to Chilean website, Reflection and Liberation. CLAR issued a statement confirming the authenticity of the memo while emphasising it had been written from memory by the meeting’s attendees.  “The presidency of CLAR deeply regrets the publication of a text referring to a conversation held with the Holy Father Francis in the course of this past June 6,” CLAR leadership said in the statement. A Vatican spokesman did not deny the report of Pope Francis’s remarks to CLAR, but declined to confirm them.  Since his election, Pope Francis has made Curia reform a priority, appointing a special advisory group of cardinals from around the world to help him draw up a plan to modernise one of the world’s oldest bureaucracies.

Pope Benedict’s papacy was overshadowed at times by infighting and dysfunction within Vatican ranks – tensions that exploded into public view when the pontiff’s former butler leaked sensitive documents to an Italian journalist documenting power struggles among top Holy See officials and internal complaints that the Vatican was mismanaging its finances.

The Vatican confirmed the authenticity of the documents. “In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there is also a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true,” Pope Francis is quoted as saying in the CLAR memo.  The reform of the Roman Curia is something that almost all cardinals asked for in the congregations preceding the conclave.  I also asked for it,” the memo quotes the Pope as saying.  The Pope, whose humble leadership style won him praise around the Vatican and beyond, acknowledges he cannot overhaul the Curia on his own.

“I cannot promote the reform myself, these matters of administration . . . I am very disorganised, I have never been good at this. But the cardinals of the commission will move it forward,” he is quoted as saying. (Stacy Meichtry, The Wall Street Journal, June 14, 2013)  

     

Pope on gay priests: 'Who am I to judge?'

In an impromptu 80-minute plane press conference, a candid Pope Francis talked about gay priests, women and what he carries in his little black bag.

ROME: In another act of the kind of humble outreach that has marked the early months of his papacy, Pope Francis has called for the integration of gays into society, remarking that even as leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, he has no right to ''judge'' gay people.  "If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalised,'' Pope Francis said during a wide-ranging and candid back-and-forth that took place aboard his flight back to Rome from World Youth Day in Brazil. The comments, which were greeted with particular enthusiasm by gay and liberal Catholics, were in response to journalists' questions about allegations of corruption within a ''gay lobby'' of priests at the Vatican.

 

Pope Francis talks with journalists as he flies back to Rome after his visit to Brazil.

Pope Francis talks with journalists as he flies back to Rome after his visit to Brazil. Photo: Reuters

 

''When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby,'' Francis said, according to a transcript of the remarks published by the National Catholic Reporter.  Advertisement

He added that ''the tendency is not the problem . . . they're our brothers.''  While many commentators pointed out that nothing that Francis said changed church teaching on homosexuality, many also saw a consequential shift in tone that focused on God's mercy for sinners, rather than the sin.

The news conference marked the first time Francis had addressed controversial social issues such as homosexuality during his papacy.  Although he had called on Catholics to show ''great respect for [gay] people,'' Pope Benedict XVI, Francis's predecessor, also oversaw the publication of a church document that called homosexual inclinations ''disordered'' and called for men with ''deep-seated'' gay tendencies to be barred from the priesthood.  Although Francis also commented on the role of women in the church, the Vatican Bank and numerous other topics both high-profile and more pedestrian during the news conference, his remarks on homosexuality generally and gay priests in particular set off a stream of reaction by Catholics.  ''Pope Francis's brief comment on gays reveals great mercy,'' said the Reverend James Martin, an influential Catholic commentator. 

''That mercy, of course, comes from Jesus Christ. And we can never have enough of it. The pope's remarks also are in line with the catechism, which teaches that gays should be treated with 'respect, compassion and sensitivity.' ''  Chad Pecknold, an assistant professor of theology at Catholic University who has written on the papacy, said that ''people are right to perceive a change in tone and that that tone is a pastoral tone on the question of homosexual inclinations.''

''Many people recognise that Pope Benedict was a professor pope, that he was teaching theology, and that Pope Francis is emphasising the pastoral office more strongly than Benedict did.''  Mr Pecknold noted that during the news conference, Francis said he did not mention abortion or gay marriage before his trip to Brazil because he wanted to sound ''positive.''  Rather than ''beginning the conversation with what the church teaches about what one shouldn't do,'' Mr Pecknold said, Francis ''wants to begin the conversation about what it means to enter into the mercy of God.''  Michael Sean Winters, an author who has written for the National Catholic Reporter, saw Francis's take on gays in the church as in line with his approachable, grace-first style.  "You're seeing someone who leads with God's mercy.''

Mr Winters added: ''He's not saying, 'Look, there is no sin,' although he does tend to talk of the sins of savage capitalism more than he does of secularising humanists. He is leading with mercy. He never wags his finger.''  Eve Tushnet, currently working on a book about vocations for gay Catholics, is a gay convert to Catholicism who accepts the church's teaching that sexual activity is reserved for married men and women. But Ms Tushnet also thinks the church could do a lot more to welcome gay people into its flock.  ''The main thing that I would love to hear from the pope is, 'God is calling you,' '' Tushnet said. ''God is calling gay people to love, to minister to others, to serve. I personally would like to see that extended to the priesthood . . . but certainly anything that comes from the pope that says that, 'God has a specific call for you,' I think that would be huge. I think the hunger is that gay people have been told what they're not allowed to do out of love but they haven't been told what they should do out of love.''  Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, an activist organisation for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, saw in the pope's comments the potential for tremendous impact.  ''Just imagine if you're somebody trying to come to terms with your identity and hearing the pope acknowledge that you can be a person of faith and goodwill, and still be gay or lesbian, and how that contrasts with somebody saying that your love for another person of the same sex is going to bring down society,'' she said.  ''There's such an empowerment and sense of acceptance.  ''I don't think anybody expected any kind of overnight change,'' Ms Duddy-Burke added.  ''What we find hopeful in this is that there may be the door opening a little bit, and I think the next step would need to be an indication that there's a willingness to listen to the stories and the experiences of LGBT people and of our families, and hear of our challenges of staying in the church and also what gifts we have to offer.''

Mr Pecknold said Frances is acting as an ''agent of renewal,'' reflected not only in his remarks aboard the plane, but in his stance of humility and championing of the poor and disenfranchised.  ''I think the world likes a good comeback story,'' Mr Pecknold said.  ''There's a sense in which the Catholic Church has been riled by scandal in the third quarter of the 20th century, and it's time to come back from this. ''I think there's a palpable sense that people want to see the church succeed. . . I think there is this palpable sense that Pope Francis might be that agent of renewal who enables people to say, 'It's cool to be Catholic.’''  (Elizabeth Tenety, Washington Post, July 30, 2013)

 

Pope to embrace his gay brothers

 “We must be brothers,” he said. In the most conciliatory words yet from the Vatican on the subject of gay priests, he said: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge him?”

The new Pope used a talk with journalists covering his visit to Brazil to emphasise  Roman Catholic teaching that says those with gay orientation should be accepted. He stressed the official position of the Church is that homosexual acts are sinful, but homosexual urges and thoughts are not. The message that gay people should be integrated into society rather than marginalised marks a clear departure from the Papacy. In recent years the pronouncements of Francis’s predecessor Pope Benedict have fiercely condemned gay rights and at one pint the former Pope described gay relationships as evil. Speaking on his fight back to Rome from Rio, the Pontiff saved his criticism for gay pressure groups and lobbies.  “The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well,” he said. “It says they should not be marginalised because of this orientation but that they must be integrated into society. 

“The problem is not having this orientation. We must be brothers. The problem is lobbying by this orientation, or lobbies of greedy people, political lobbies, Masonic lobbies, so many lobbies.  This is the worse problem.”  But he deflected questions about a gay lobby in the Vatican, said last month to have been the subject of complaints by the Pope. “You see a lot written about the gay lobby. I still have not seen anyone in the Vatican with an identity card saying they are gay,” he added. Nothing said during the 80-minute in-flight interview alters the strong Vatican opposition to gay relationships or marriage, or the Church ban on actively gay priests.  But his words mark an entirely different emphasis since the retirement of Benedict in the spring.

“Before he became Pope Benedict, the then Cardinal Jozeph Rathzinger said gay relationships were evil and contrary to natural order. He underlined rules preventing active gays from becoming priests, and he repeatedly condemned gay equality laws, saying they violate the natural law upon which the equality of all human beings is grounded.”

 

[When the ‘gay lobby’ decides to make one’s life miserable, even a Pope cannot stand before them. They knew exactly whom they wanted as Pope: one who regarded them as equal brothers. Does anyone remember what President Obama called them? His “brothers and sisters”! He and Pope Francis met on March 27, 2014 and mutually praised each other for their role in changing the world view on homosexuality: the ‘beast’ and the ‘prophet’ of Revelation!] 

 

 “In further evidence of a softening of attitudes, Pope Francis said women should be able to make more important roles in the Church but not as priests. “We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more.”  The Vatican change of tone on homosexuals comes three weeks after the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in a key speech on gay rights that criticism of the Church of England’s attitudes may be justified And pretending that nothing has changed is absurd.” (Hannah Roberts, thetelegraph.com.au, July 31, 2014)  

     

Note: A person who repents of sin, is no longer guilty of that sin.   A gay person, who repents of it, is no longer gay.  One cannot be gay and Christian. If he remains gay, he is not a Christian, no matter how much “faith and goodwill” he may have.  That kind of faith is not from Jesus Christ.

Yet so powerful and pervasive is the “gay lobby” in the Vatican that it forced out of office a Pope who said that homosexuality is evil and unnatural, and brought in a Pope who says that homosexuals are his brothers, and should not be marginalised, but be integrated in society, and regarded as equals.

No consideration for what the Apostles of Jesus Christ said about homosexuality.

 

Apostle Paul: “Those who practice such things are deserving of death

 

Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

Rom 1:17  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

Rom 1:18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Rom 1:19  because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

Rom 1:20  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are

Rom 1:21  without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Rom 1:22  Professing to be wise, they became fools,  and changed the glory of the incorruptible God

Rom 1:23  into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.  

Rom 1:24  Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,

Rom 1:25  who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Rom 1:26  For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.

Rom 1:27  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

Rom 1:28  And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

Rom 1:29  being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,

Rom 1:30  backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to

Rom 1:31  parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;

Rom 1:32  who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

 

Apostle Peter: God turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, . . . an example to those who afterward would live ungodly

 

2Pe 2:1  But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

2Pe 2:2  And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

2Pe 2:3  By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.

2Pe 2:4  For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;

2Pe 2:5  and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;

2Pe 2:6  and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;

2Pe 2:7  and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked

2Pe 2:8  (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—

2Pe 2:9  then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,

2Pe 2:10  and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries,

2Pe 2:11  whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.

2Pe 2:12  But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption,

2Pe 2:13  and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,

2Pe 2:14  having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children.

2Pe 2:15  They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

2Pe 2:16  but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet.

2Pe 2:17  These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.

 

[Apostle] Jude:  Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them . . . having given themselves over to sexual immorality . . . are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

 

Jud 1:3  Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Jud 1:4  For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jud 1:5  But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

Jud 1:6  And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;

Jud 1:7  as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

 

The Anglican Truth

 

Church seeks same sex marriage recognition

Anglicans in Perth have voted in favour of recognising same-sex relationships, including marriage.

The Reverend Chris Bedding of the Darlington-Bellevue Anglican parish said the church's synod had backed the resolution last year but it had been vetoed by the Archbishop.

Under the church's rules, the resolution returned this year and a two-thirds majority was needed this time for it to pass.  Father Chris said he was pleasantly surprised there was a strong "yes" vote from both clergy and lay people, up significantly on last year. "A lot of people clearly changed their mind over the year," he told AAP.

The archbishop can again veto the resolution or give his asset. Father Chris said the resolution recognised diversity within the Diocese of Perth, both in terms of sexual identity and theologies of human sexuality. It also noted the support from many within the Anglican Church for committed same-sex couples being able to register their relationship as civil unions, and acknowledged that legal recognition of committed same-sex relationships may coexist alongside legal recognition of marriage between a man and a woman.

Father Chris said the aim of the policy was to counteract negative and hurtful comments about same-sex couples by other Christian groups, particularly the Australian Christians Lobby.  "When they come out and say things like 'it's unnatural to be gay' or 'it's against the bible' or 'all Christians reject homosexual behaviour' ... we want to say 'that's not the case'," he said.  "And if the government ... goes ahead with any kind of recognition, whether that's something as simple as changes to superannuation laws or marriage equality, we're comfortable with that.

"There are gay and lesbian people in our churches, actually lots of them, and we value them."  The resolution was moved by Father Chris and seconded by Dr Carolyn Tan. (AAP/SMH, Oct. 7, 2013)

 

The Salvation Army truth

Salvation Army officers abuse of children 'violent and extreme'

DOZENS of children suffered "violent and extreme" abuse at the hands of five Salvation Army officers who worked together at boys' homes in Queensland and NSW over several decades, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard.

The men swapped jobs, shared victims and in at least one case helped each other move to new positions within the organisation in order to avoid jail, the commission has heard. Some of the children under their care were also sexually abused by other Salvation Army officers and staff, as well as members of the public, including two pensioners allowed to live on the site of one boys' home and others who were given access to the children's dormitories at night. Other deeply traumatic evidence before the commission alleges boys were raped until they bled, were beaten and kept in cages for days when they attempted to report their own abuse, and were on occasion forced to eat their own vomit.

"This hearing will bring to light the greatest failure in the history of the Salvation Army in Australia," the organisation's barrister, Kate Eastman SC, told the hearing. "The Salvation Army admits that hundreds of children entrusted to its care endured horrific experiences in its boys' homes ... Knowledge of these events causes the army profound regret."  One 11-year-old victim, Raymond Carlile, was dragged from his bed and raped by a Salvation Army officer, Captain Lawrence Wilson, who the commission heard was an allegedly prolific offender and whose victims have since received a total of $1.2 million in compensation from his employers. Giving evidence by video-link, Mr Carlile also described how, during the 1950s, he and other boys at the Riverview Training Farm near Brisbane would suffer brutal beatings at the hands of Salvation Army officers, including the then-Lieutenant Wilson.  "I've seen young fellows with their hands, fingers bleeding and still getting the cane from the sadistic people there. I've even seen one boy passing out from the punishment," he said. "Lieutenant Wilson he used to glorify punishment and sometimes used to froth at the mouth when he was punishing people. He just seemed to be really enjoying what he was doing, that was my opinion as a child," Mr Carlile told the commission. Mr Wilson, who in 1994 was acquitted of sexual and assault offences relating to his time at one of the boy's homes, died in 2008.  (Dan Box, The Australian, January 28, 2014)

 

Salvation Army officer abused girl then married mother

A woman who was repeatedly sexually abused by a Salvation Army officer from the age of four later watched in horror as her mother married the man, the Royal Commission has heard.

The abuse survivor's mother then kicked her out of the family home, claiming the allegations against her new husband were lies.  The woman, known as JD, said she was first molested by the officer at the age of four, not long after she was formally brought into the Salvation Army through a "dedication ceremony".

About 14 years later, after suffering more abuse at the officer's hands, JD learned the man was about to become her stepfather.  Advertisement

"I remember around Christmas my mother told me that she was going to marry him," the woman, now 40, told the Commission.  "By that time there were already rumours that [he] had been abusing children. I had told my mum that [he] was a monster and a creep and that she should not marry him because the rumours were true.

"Mum didn't believe me and accused me of lying because 'I didn't want a new daddy'."

JD told the Commission she and another girl eventually went to the the commander of the Salvation Army's south-east Queensland division, Colonel Stan Everitt, and complained about the officer who had abused them. She said Colonel Everitt appeared not to believe them, saying: "Is this something you've made up?"  She says he told them not to tell the police because he would "handle it".

JD said her mother kicked her out of her home after she spoke to Colonel Everitt.

"My siblings are still not allowed to mention my name," she said. "I'm dead to them."

No action was taken against the abusing officer until many years later, when the women went to the police. He was eventually convicted of child sex offences.

"I was just a little girl going to church and a predator got to me," JD said.

"When people come forward they should be believed and they should be helped."

Earlier in the hearing, Cherryl Eldridge, a woman who was physically and psychological abused at the Salvation Army's Horton House home in Queensland, gave evidence of her treatment at the hands of a matron there.  "I wet the bed for the first two years at the home and when I told the matron, she would rub my face in the sheets," Ms Eldridge said.  "After a while, I stopped reporting my bed-wetting and instead slept in wet, smelly sheets."  After a number of years of negotiation, Ms Eldridge was offered $40,000 compensation on the condition that she sign a waiver releasing the Salvation Army from any further legal liability in relation to the abuse she suffered.  (Paul Bibby, SMH, March 28, 2014)

 

Salvation Army locked boy in room for days without toilet, royal commission told

A man who as a boy was locked in solitary confinement for days without a toilet at a Salvation Army boys' home said the organisation's "redress scheme" effectively continued the abuse, and likened the organisation's uniformed officers to "the Gestapo".  The man, referred to as JE, told the Royal Commission into child sex abuse on Friday that he was sent to the Riverview boys' home in Queensland in the late 1960s, when he was about 15.  "I remember being locked in a small room in solitary confinement with some boys who were 'wog bashing' me," JE said, fighting back tears.  "There was no toilet, not even a bucket ... If you had to go to the toilet, you had to just go and they threw some newspaper to clean it up."  Advertisement

"I had to sleep on the same floor."  JE, his brother and a number of friends made a desperate escape bid 12 days after he arrived, nearly drowning when he dived into a swollen river.

The commission heard that, decades later, when JE sought compensation, the Salvation Army effectively denied that such solitary confinement had ever taken place.  In March 2008, the organisation's head of personnel, Major Peter Farthing, said the army had been "unable to identify the nature" of the solitary confinement room.  In light of this, and the fact that JE had "only" been at the home for 12 days before escaping, the Salvation Army initially said it "did not find it appropriate" to offer him an ex-gratia payment. "It sounded like one of those letters you get from a hotel when complain about the room," JE said.  "I feel like the Salvation Army continued the abuse by treating me like a turd."

JE continued to fight for compensation and eventually the Salvation Army agreed to pay him $20,000 and provide a letter of apology.  He said the apology looked like a form letter and had been "completely unsatisfactory".  "Their main motivating factor is to keep the cost down ... keep a lid on it and get it out of here," he said.  "The fact that they didn't meet with me - it was just, 'I'm sorry, good luck'."

When asked by counsel for the Salvation Army, Kate Eastman, whether he would now like to speak to an officer face-to-face, JE said: "If I see one of those uniforms come within a metre of me, you better be there, OK?"  "If I see that Gestapo come near me ... I'd like them in plain clothes with an open mind and an open heart."  (Paul Bibby, SMH, March 28, 2014)

 

Salavation Army in Australia ''ashamed'' and ''sorry'' for past brutal abuse of children

The Salvation Army says it is ashamed and deeply sorry for the brutal abuse suffered by many children in its care, following the release of an eagerly awaited report on clergy child sex abuse.

The report, launched in the Victorian Parliament on Wednesday, also recommends sweeping changes to laws behind which the Catholic Church has sheltered, and accuses its leaders of trivialising the problem as a ''short-term embarrassment''.  Inquiry chairwoman Georgie Crozier spoke of ''a betrayal beyond comprehension'' and children suffering ''unimaginable harm''. She said the inquiry had referred 135 previously unreported claims of child sex abuse to the police.

The report, Betrayal of Trust, wants to establish a new crime when people in authority knowingly put a child a risk. It wants to make it a crime to leave a child at risk or not report abuse, including for clergy, but does not recommend ending the exemption for the confessional. Grooming a child or parents should be a crime, child abuse should be excluded from the statute of limitations, and the present church systems of dealing with victims in-house should be replaced by an independent authority funded by the churches, the report says.  Advertisement

The report was the result of a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into sexual abuse that began last year. A separate national Royal Commission into abuse will prepare an interim report by the middle of next year. A member of the Victorian committee, Andrea Coote, said the Catholic Church had minimised and trivialised the problem, kept the community in ignorance, and ensured that perpetrators were not held accountable, which meant children continued to be abused. She said with one exception ''we found that today's church leaders view the current question of abuse of children as a 'short-term embarrassment' which should be handled as quickly as possible to cause the least damage to the church's standing. They do not see the problems as raising questions about the church's own culture.''

The Salvation Army, which operated a large number of children's homes around the country between 1893 and 1995, has apologised to victims and their families for abuse that happened under its watch. It says the offences should never have happened and was a breach of the trust placed in them.

A substantial part of evidence received by the Victorian abuse inquiry related to complaints of sexual, physical and emotional abuse in Salvation Army institutions from the 1930s to the 1980s. Besides recommending new criminal laws, the report suggests way to make it easier for victims to seek justice.

These include changes to make sure churches are held accountable and vicariously liable, and that any organisation receiving government funding or tax exemptions is incorporated and insured. This would eliminate the defence by which the church successfully argued it was not an entity that could be sued. Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said the government would act quickly to begin drafting legislation that reflected the committee's recommendations.  (Barney Zwartz, SMH, Nov 14, 2013)

 

Salvation Army couple ‘lied to church’ over standing down

THE NSW government intends to make a formal submission to the royal commission alleging two senior Salvation Army officers lied over their account of the church’s handling of a child’s sexual abuse.

Cross-examining one of these officers this morning, the barrister representing the state, John Agius SC, said a letter signed by the pair describing why they were leaving a NSW country town in 1990 was “full of untruths”.  In the letter, sent to other local members of the Salvation Army, Colin and Kerry Haggar said “we are taking a break from the duties of officership so that we can spend time on our own spiritual growth”.  The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard the pair were forced to leave their positions after Mr Haggar admitted to sexually abusing an eight-year-old girl.

“So you lied to them, because that will be our submission at the end of the day?” Mr Agius asked Mrs Haggar, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Salvation Army, who was recently forced to stand down from her position on its “cabinet’’ of senior administrators.

“I don’t believe we lied. At the end of the day, you’re going to believe what you chose to believe,” she replied. After leaving the country town in 1990, Mr and Mrs Haggar continued to live in Salvation Army accommodation, while Mr Haggar worked in a hostel for adolescent boys, the commission heard.  Both were subsequently readmitted as officers of the church, and both subsequently promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  Since the royal commission began its public hearings, Mr Haggar has been forced to retire and demoted in rank.  (Dan Box, The Australian, April 14, 2014)

 

The Jehovah Witnesses Truth

Child in Jehovah's Witness court bid

A TRARALGON child has clubbed his pocket money together with three others, paying $69.70 to launch a private criminal prosecution against the Jehovah's Witnesses.

The child, 11, who is due to give evidence on Monday at the state inquiry into how the churches handled child sex abuse, wanted to force the church to comply with working with children laws. After four hearings, to which church leaders did not send a representative, the church began complying and the Office of Public Prosecutions intervened to discontinue the case.

The inquiry will also hear from anti-Jehovah's Witness campaigner Steven Unthank, a former member of the church who says he and his family were ostracised and persecuted after he tried to tackle child abuse.  His submission alleges the church and its incorporated body, the Watchtower Society, covered up criminal child abuse, including rape, sexual assault, death threats, blackmail and assault, across four states by ordained ministers and officers of the church.

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The Victorian and Civil Administrative Tribunal will hear a religious vilification complaint against the church by Mr Unthank in May, after the church said people who left the church, as he had, were ''mentally diseased''.  And the Victorian Health Services Commissioner is investigating a complaint by another former Gippsland church member that a Jehovah's Witness chaplain was found alone without permission with a naked toddler in a room at Latrobe Regional Hospital.

The child appearing today, who cannot be named, has asked the inquiry to determine whether the church's failure to get working with children checks between July 2008 and December 2011 amounted to criminal child abuse of all 6160 Jehovah's Witness children in Victoria.

He asks why the government and police let the church ''get away with'' non-compliance, and whether the state will help file a class action against the church.  The submission suggests the 2000 Jehovah's Witnesses who worked with children were committing criminal offences each week. These included ministers, elders, chaplains, teachers, volunteers, publishers (a term for people who doorknock) and even people who repair the church premises, called Kingdom Halls, ''as they use child labour to save money''.

The child says he and his family have also been ostracised by the church and forbidden to attend services. ''Because everyone protected them, I have now lost my religion.

''The state of Victoria allowed this to happen.''  The four children launched their prosecution with a magistrate's permission on July 26, 2011. In October 2011 the church's Governing Body wrote to all Victorian congregations, telling them to get the checks. At the final court hearing, on February 21, 2012, the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued the case, saying it was not in the public interest.

''How can [tackling] child abuse not be in the public interest? How can criminal charges be discontinued after the person refused to turn up to court of five separate occasions?'' the child asks. He wants charges reinstated against church leaders.  A spokeswoman for the Office of Public Prosecutions said the charges were withdrawn because there was no reasonable prospect of conviction.

Vincent Toole, solicitor for the Jehovah's Witnesses, said the fact that the church got working with children checks had nothing to do with Steven Unthank, whom he suggested was behind the court case. ''We find it disappointing that he continues to misrepresent our organisation.''

Mr Toole said Mr Unthank unsuccessfully tried to get authorities to take action against the church over working with children checks, and ''after none were prepared to pursue the matter, he took the extraordinary step of instituting a private prosecution''.

''Jehovah's Witnesses abhor child abuse, and place the protection of children at the highest level,'' he said.  (Barney Zwartz, www.theage.com, February 18, 2013)  

 

Former Jehovah's elder on sex assault charge

A FORMER Jehovah's Witness elder who apologised to his alleged victim on Facebook has been charged with two counts of indecent assault. Richard Hill will appear in the Heidelberg Magistrate's Court on March 1 over allegations that he sexually assaulted a six-year-old girl in 1981.  The victim, now 38, told Fairfax Media that Mr Hill did everything except penetrate her - ''he tried, but couldn't manage''.  She said she ''did not realise the gravity'' of what had happened until she was about 14.

At that point she told her mother, who could not act because of a Jehovah's Witness rule that allegations of sexual abuse would only be acted on if two elders witnessed it, she said.

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Much later, the victim confronted Mr Hill on Facebook. ''He turned around and apologised,'' she said. ''He became an elder within the church and rose quite high up. Since he was charged, he has stepped down.''  The Victorian inquiry into how churches handled complaints of child sex abuse heard from two former Jehovah's Witnesses on Monday, who say they have been ostracised by the church.

Fairfax Media reported on Monday that the child was one of four who clubbed together their pocket money to raise the $69.70 needed to launch a prosecution against the church over its alleged refusal to get working-with-children checks.  (Barney Zwartz, The Age, February 19, 2013)

 

 

The Scientology Truth

Scientology's secret agenda

The Herald Sun continues its investigation into the way Scientologists have infiltrated the state education system under the nose of the Government.  

The "cult" that calls itself a "church" is known for recruiting high-profile adherents to its strange mix of science fiction and quasi-religion as laid down by American sci-fi writer L. Ron Hubbard.

It's been revealed that Youth for Human Rights, a Scientology sponsored group, established an art prize for Year 9 students using taxpayer money provided by a government water authority.

Now South East Water is investigating how it came to provide the sponsorship that allowed a student from South Oakleigh Secondary College to be flown to the United Nations in New York where he met Australian diplomats.  Commonsense would indicate this should have been done before South East Water committed its money.  The student might have benefited from the trip, but it is the possible spread of Scientology propaganda in schools that is of concern.

Scientology was described in Federal Parliament last week as a criminal organisation and the Victorian Government is warning school principals not to distribute its material or enter its competitions.

The Church of Scientology was formed after widespread investigations into the organisation's activities stretching back to the 1960s and its right to represent itself as a religious organisation needs to be revisited. The Church of Scientology denies there is anything sinister in its motives, but its activities in schools in Victoria and NSW, where the Government is also warning principals not to distribute its books and videos, is cause for concern.   (Herald Sun, November 28, 2009)

 

The Jewish Truth

Jewish school investigated over alleged mistreatment

NSW POLICE are investigating complaints that Jewish children were abused in Sydney.

Fairfax Media understands that complaints have been made against two perpetrators, both associated with the Yeshiva Centre at Bondi, one of whom has more than one alleged victim.

A police spokesman said the allegations dated back to the late 1970s and 1980s, and referred to abuse of children by adults associated with a Jewish school operating at that time.

The spokesman said eastern suburbs detectives began inquiries in February last year after getting information from Victoria Police, and had spoken to people interstate and overseas.

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These are the first formal complaints about the Orthodox community in Sydney, but there have been several in Melbourne.

Rabbi Pinchas Feldman, the spiritual leader of Sydney's Yeshiva Centre, said he was shocked to hear of the allegations, and the call from Fairfax was the first he had heard of it. ''I do not recall anyone ever coming to me with such a problem. I am shocked to hear that anything of this nature has taken place here,'' he said, adding the centre would co-operate fully with any inquiry.

Victims advocate Manny Waks, himself abused at Melbourne's Yeshiva Centre as a boy, said other Sydney victims had come forward after publicity by Fairfax Media about comments by senior Chabad rabbi Manis Friedman minimising the effects of child sex abuse.

Rabbi Friedman, based in the US, compared abuse with a case of diarrhoea - embarrassing but private - and said victims learnt a valuable lesson from abuse. He later apologised, saying his intention was to help empower victims to move forward.

Mr Waks, founder of the Tzedek advocacy group for Jewish abuse survivors, said there had long been credible reports of child sex abuse victims within the ultra-Orthodox community in Sydney, as well as reports of cover-ups.  (Barney Zwartz, The Age, Feb 14, 2013)

 

Orthodox rabbi Moshe Gutnick apologises for sexual abuse

Australia's most senior Orthodox rabbi has apologised for years of mishandling and cover-up of child sexual abuse within the Jewish community and urged abusers to hand themselves in to police.

"For whatever reason a culture of cover-up, often couched in religious terms pervaded our thinking and actions. It may even have been well-intentioned, but it was simply wrong," said Moshe Gutnick, the president of the Organisation of Rabbis of Australia, on Wednesday.

Ahead of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement, Rabbi Gutnick told victims no one could know their pain and what they had been through.

"And the pain has only been magnified by our inaction. On this holiest of days, I sincerely beg your forgiveness on behalf of all of us who did not hear your voice.

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"I can only assure you on my behalf, and on behalf of the vast majority of the Rabbinate, that we hear you now loud and clear."

To abusers, he said "you will be found. It may not be today, it may not even to be tomorrow, but it will happen. There will be justice if not in this world, most definitely in the next ... Turn yourselves in."

Rabbi Gutnick's letter has been sent to the state Orthodox groups in Australia in New Zealand to be disseminated to rabbis and congregations for the Day of Atonement on Friday.   He wrote: "Until we make amends with our fellow man, we cannot find atonement with Hashem.” [God]

He said the Jewish community had been "affected by this scourge no differently than any other community" and that it had not handled the issue appropriately.

He recognised victims' advocacy groups such as Tzedek, whose founder Manny Waks has previously been highly critical of rabbinical denials.

On Wednesday, Mr Waks called the letter an "incredible milestone" and ground-breaking for the Australian Jewish community.

He said it was an acknowledgement victims had longed to hear. "This may very well be a world first and I am particularly proud that an Australian rabbi and the peak Orthodox organisation in Australia, have demonstrated such courageous leadership."   (Barney Zwartz, SMH, September 11, 2013)


Jewish community embroiled in new child sex charges

A NEW child-sex scandal has hit Melbourne's Jewish community, with a man to stand trial next year on more than 25 charges of sexual intercourse with a child under 16, sexual penetration of a child under 16 and indecent acts.

The name of the man, the organisation and the alleged victims have been suppressed, but the case involves a Jewish organisation.  Fairfax Media understands that the man is not Jewish, nor are some of the many victims, and some of the alleged offences took place overseas a decade ago. He will be tried in the County Court on July 15 next year.  The community was already in shock over other abuse cases at two schools in Melbourne, run by the Orthodox Chabad movement and the ultra-Orthodox Adass Israel.  Advertisement

Manny Waks, a victim while a student at Yeshivah College - part of the Chabad movement's Yeshivah Centre in East St Kilda - said the Jewish community faced a crisis in addressing sex abuse and that the communal leadership had mishandled the scandal.

Allegations have been made against two employees of Yeshivah College. Former security guard David Cyprys will stand trial next July on 41 charges of child rape and other sexual abuse against 12 students in the 1980s, and former teacher David Kramer is awaiting extradition from the United States over claims that he abused four boys at the college between 1989 and 1992. Kramer was jailed in 2008 in the US for molesting a 12-year-old boy at a synagogue there.

In the Adass case, Adass Israel girls' school principal Malka Leifer fled to Israel after allegations that she abused several girls.  Mr Waks said: ''We need to ensure we respond in the most appropriate way - with sensitivity, compassion, accountability and transparency. All perpetrators, their facilitators and those engaged in a cover-up must be held to full account.''  He said Jewish communal groups such as the Executive Council for Australian Jewry had not made tackling child sexual abuse a high-enough priority.

Dr Danny Lamm, president of the Executive Council, said the council was unequivocal in that the welfare of children came first, perpetrators should be investigated and charged and the community organisations should co-operate fully.  ''The abuse of children in any way … is abhorrent, particularly when it is perpetrated by those in positions of trust and authority. All claims of abuse must be treated with the utmost seriousness,'' Dr Lamm said.  (Barney Zwartz, SMH, November 29, 2012)

 

The Islamic Truth 

Ramadan a chance for all to reflect on charity, selflessness

For the first time in my life I have spent Ramadan working among the Muslim people of Lakemba. As a non-Muslim, who has lived and worked with mainly Christian and secular families, and had very little exposure to the Muslim faith, this holiest month in the Islamic Lunar calendar has concentrated my attention on the many noteworthy aspects the Islamic community brings to Sydney.  As the acting principal of a Sydney Islamic school, a block from the large Lakemba Mosque, I have the rare privilege of sharing my days with families from Bangladesh, Lebanon, Egypt, Indonesia and many others who are fairly recent arrivals to Australia.  For them, Ramadan is a unique opportunity for spiritual and social rejuvenation and bonding. It is a time to build personal taqwa, or piety, and to commit oneself to living a kind, gentle and forgiving life.  Throughout this month, school has finished at 2.30pm to allow parents time to travel home to prepare meals in anticipation of the daily breaking of the fast. In most homes, the family begins the day with prayers at sun up, breaking the fast, (Iftar) about sunset often with friends and family. During Ramadan, Muslim teachers are naturally often tired, working without food and water throughout the day. But there is an obvious sense of peace and calm about the school. Senior children who are fasting, are increasingly tired too towards the end of the school day, a condition most pronounced on the day following Laylat al-Qadr. On this Holy Night, towards the end of Ramadan, some of the teachers and senior students pray at the mosque for much of the night.

For younger children, Ramadan is a special period. Families come together - they see their relatives giving generously to others in need. Attention is outward, less on self. There is a more intense level of discipline and self-sacrifice that is obligatory in all Muslim households during this ritual. All over the world, families seek purification of spirit and body. There is no alcohol and smokers do their best not to smoke throughout the day. Children are central. They receive gifts especially at the end of Ramadan, (Eid al-Fitr), a day when the roads around the big mosques are blocked with the overflow of the community coming together in worship.  During the Eid festival on Thursday, there will be many celebrations to end this holy month and I am grateful to be included, and for the level of acceptance and friendship that has been shown towards me. There is a purity in Ramadan that is refreshingly undiluted by materialism. For the month, there is a cleansing of the human spirit, that for the children models discipline, focus and kindness towards others.  At a time when people are being rejected, lost at sea and turned away from our borders in a poisonous political debate, wider Australia can learn from this gentle charity. (William McKeith, Sydney Morning Herald, August 8, 2013) 

 

Other Muslims, however, celebrate Ramadan differently.

 

At Least 30 Killed in Suicide Bombing at Funeral in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD — At least 30 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives during a funeral service for a police official in southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, officials said.  The attack in Quetta, the restive provincial capital of Baluchistan Province, was a reminder of the ease with which militants have managed to target the police and other security forces in recent weeks. All of the fatalities were police officials, and at least 40 people were wounded in the attack, according to Mushtaq Sukhera, the Inspector General of Baluchistan police.  There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The violence in Quetta started early Thursday when unidentified gunmen killed Muhib Ullah, a junior police official, and wounded his four children as he was on his way to a market. The assailants escaped.

Hours later, as the senior leadership of the Quetta police gathered for the funeral at Police Lines, considered to be a relatively secure official neighborhood that houses the lodging and offices of the police force, the suicide bomber evaded security measures and detonated his bomb.  The explosion ripped through the funeral service as police officers and relatives scrambled for cover. One of the fatalities included a deputy inspector in charge of field operations, Fayyaz Ahmed Sumbal, who died in the hospital from his wounds.   A low level insurgency has simmered in Baluchistan as nationalists have taken up arms against the federal government. The provincial capital has also been hit by sectarian violence as extremist Sunni militants have targeted Hazaras, a minority community belonging to the Shiite sect. Salman Masood, International Herald Tribune, August 8, 2013)

 

Suicide bombers kill 78 Christians outside Pakistan church

A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a 130-year-old church in Peshawar after Sunday Mass, killing 78 people in the deadliest attack on Christians in recent history.

Religious violence and attacks on security forces have been on the rise in Pakistan in past months, undermining Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's efforts to tame the insurgency after coming to power in June.

Two suicide bombers are believed to have entered the All Saints Church after shooting dead police guards, and detonated their explosive vests.  Police said 350 members of the congregation were in the church when the bombers struck and that the death toll is expected to increase because many were being treated in hospital are in a critical condition. Dr Iqbal Afridi, medical superintendent at the city’s Lady Reading Hospital said he had declared a medical emergency and all leave for surgeons had been cancelled.

“The number of dead and will be more than 200 because the Church was full to its capacity,” one worshipper, Caroline White, told The Telegraph. She said something which sounded like a firecracker was thrown at the church before a huge explosion. The police had failed to properly protect the church, she added.  Sahibzada Anees, a local government official, told Associated Press the Sunday service is popular because worshippers receive a free meal on the lawn in front of the church following Mass.  The white walls and the floor of the church, which was built in 1851, were stained with blood and splattered with rice.   Parishioners said survivors were crying and hugging one another after the explosion, which had turned the church into a scene of carnage.  "There were blasts and there was hell for all of us … when I got my senses back, I found nothing but smoke, dust, blood and screaming people. I saw severed body parts and blood all around,” said Nazir John.  Shadqat Malik, head of the local bomb disposal unit, said most of the victims were women and children because the church is in Kohati Gate, a busy shopping market frequented by women buying food for their households.  The bombers had detonated 12 kilograms of explosive, hidden in their vests, and the intensity of the blast caused considerable damage to neighbouring buildings.   “We have found one head of one bomber, and are looking for the second one. The mass service had just ended so there were many people who were exiting the church when the bombers struck,” says Ismail Karak, Superintendent Police Security, speaking from the location.  The attack was condemned by Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain whose Tehreek-e-Insaf party controls the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa provincial government, as a “senseless” attack on innocent people. His health minister Shaukat Yousafzai said those behind the attack could not call themselves Muslims.

Residents from the area which dominated by members of Pakistan’s Christian and Hindu minorities – which make up less than five per cent of the country’s population, burned tyres and forced shops to close in protest at the government’s failure to protect them.   “We have been demanding security from the government because the religious minorities have been coming under attack in Pakistan,” says Haroon Sardayal, Chairman All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement who lives in the same neighbourhood where the church is located and was on the site moments later.  “Today’s attack shows that despite our warnings the government is not waking up, which is condemnable,” Mr. Sardyal added. There has been an upsurge in terrorist attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan in the last decade.

Christian churches have suffered grenade and machine gun attacks, while Pakistan’s Christian minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated in 2011 for opposing the country’s discriminatory blasphemy laws. Seven Christians were burned to death in 2009 when a Muslim mob torched 40 houses and a church.  (Ashfaq Yusufzai and Taha Siddiqui, The [London] Telegraph, 25 Sep 2013)

 

Free Syrian Army: “we killed those children because they were not Muslims”

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: On his eighth trip to fight with the rebels in Syria, in August, Abu Khattab saw something that troubled him: two dead children, their blood-soaked bodies sprawled on the street of a rural village near the Mediterranean coast. He knew right away that his fellow rebels had killed them.

Abu Khattab, a 43-year-old Saudi hospital administrator who was pursuing jihad on his holiday breaks, went to demand answers from his local commander, a notoriously brutal man named Abu Ayman al-Iraqi. The commander brushed him off, saying his men had killed the children "because they were not Muslims," Abu Khattab recalled recently during an interview here.  It was only then that Abu Khattab began to believe that the jihad in Syria — where he had travelled in violation of an official Saudi ban — was not fully in accord with God’s will. But by the time he returned to Riyadh, where he now volunteers in a program to discourage others from going, his government had overcome its own scruples to become the main backer of the Syrian rebels, including many hard-line Islamists who often fight alongside militants loyal to Al Qaeda.

The disillusionment of Abu Khattab — who asked that his full name be withheld because he still fears retribution from jihadists — helps illustrate the great challenge now facing Saudi Arabia’s rulers: how to fight an increasingly bloody and chaotic proxy war in Syria using zealot militia fighters over whom they have almost no control.  The Saudis fear the rise of Al Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria, and they have not forgotten what happened when Saudi militants who had fought in Afghanistan returned home to wage a domestic insurgency a decade ago. They officially prohibit their citizens from going to Syria for jihad, but the ban is not enforced; at least a thousand have gone, according to Interior Ministry officials, including some from prominent families.  But the Saudis are also bent on ousting Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and his patron, Iran, which they see as a mortal enemy. Their only real means of fighting them is through military and financial support to the Syrian rebels. And the most effective of those rebels are Islamists whose creed — rooted in the puritanical strain of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia — is often scarcely separable from Al Qaeda’s.  Abu Khattab, a slight-figured man with bulging eyes and the scraggly beard of an ultra-orthodox Salafist Muslim, embodies some of these paradoxes. He now volunteers here once a week to warn young men about the false glamour of the Syrian jihad at the government’s rehabilitation center for jihadists. “There is a shortage of religious conditions for jihad in Syria,” he said. Many of the fighters kill Syrian civilians, a violation of Islam, he added.

But as Abu Khattab talked about Syria, his own convictions seemed scarcely different from the jihadists he had carefully denounced (two officials from the Interior Ministry were present during the interview). He made clear that he considered Shiite Muslims and Assad’s Alawite sect to be infidels and a terrible danger to his own people.

“If the Shiites succeed in controlling Syria, it will be a threat to my country,” Abu Khattab said. “I went to Syria to protect my country.”  At times, his sectarian feelings seemed to outshine his unease about the excesses of some of his more extreme comrades. He did not deny that he had often fought alongside members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the brutal jihadist group affiliated with Al Qaeda.  Abu Khattab also mentioned proudly that he is no stranger to jihad. He fought as a teenager in Afghanistan (“With the government’s permission!”) and, a few years later, in Bosnia. He chose not to fight the Americans in Iraq “because there are too many Shiites there,” he said, with a look of distaste on his face.  Yet this is a man who lectures inmates at the rehabilitation centre every week about ethics and war. The centre, like many Saudi institutions, has been somewhat embarrassed by the contradictions of Saudi policy with regard to Syria. Although the centre incarcerates some men who have been arrested for trying to travel to Syria, last summer the nephew of Abdelrahman al-Hadlaq, its director, was killed while fighting there. His mother posted statements on Twitter saying she was proud of him. More recently, the centre suffered an even more stinging disappointment involving one of its best-known graduates, a reformed jihadist named Ahmed al-Shayea. He became famous in Saudi Arabia after surviving his own suicide bombing in Iraq in 2004, a bombing arranged by militants with Al Qaeda’s Iraqi branch.

Mr. Shayea was burned and disfigured, but after months in the hospital he emerged and proclaimed himself cured of the jihadist mind-set. He was known as the “living suicide,” and in 2009 the American author Ken Ballen devoted an entire chapter to a glowing portrait of him in his book, Terrorists in Love.  In November, Shayea slipped out of Saudi Arabia to Syria, where he is now fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He proudly trumpets his return to jihad on his Twitter feed, which features a picture of him clutching a rifle with his mangled hands.

The Saudi authorities say that they have urged their citizens not to go to Syria, but that they cannot keep track of every Saudi who wants to go fight there. “We try to prevent it, but there are limits to what we can do,” said Mansour al-Turki, a spokesman for the Saudi Interior Ministry. “You cannot prevent all young men from leaving the kingdom. Many of them travel to London or other places, and only then to Turkey, and Syria.”  Abu Khattab’s path to Syria was similar to that of many others here and across the Arab world. He read about the uprisings in 2011, but it was Syria that touched his heart. It was not just because of the bloodshed, he said, but because his Sunni brothers were being killed by Alawites and Shiites. When he first went, in the summer of 2012, he flew directly from Riyadh to the Turkish city of Antakya, near the Syrian border, he said. There were other Saudi men heading for the battlefield on the flight with him, he said, and no sign of a Saudi government effort to monitor or restrain them.  In Turkey, he found many other foreign fighters, and Syrian rebels who were eager to take them to the battlefield. “They especially like Saudis, because the Saudis are more willing to do suicide operations,” he said.

Over the next year, Abu Khattab said, he returned to Syria seven more times, usually on holidays, leaving his wife to care for their four children and staying for 10 days to two weeks each time. He fought with a variety of groups, seeing battle many times — in Aleppo, in Homs and in the countryside of Latakia, near the coast. He wielded a Kalashnikov rifle most of the time, but sometimes a heavier Russian-made machine gun known in the field as a 14.5.

Gradually he became disillusioned with the chaos of the battle. He often found himself among men who openly branded the rulers of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states as infidels, deserving slaughter. He said this bothered him, but it did not stop him from returning to the battlefield. In the end, it was the slaughter of innocents that made him decide to quit, he said, and a broader feeling that the rebels alongside him were not doing it for the right reasons. “If the fight is not purely to God, it’s not a real jihad,” he said. “These people are fighting for their flags.” 

But there was another reason he gave up the fight.  "Bashar has started to put Sunnis on the front line,” he said of Syria’s leader. "This is a big problem. The rebels do not want to fight them. The real war is not against Bashar himself, it is against Iran. Everything else is just a false image.” (1)

 (Robert F. Worth, New York Times, January 8, 2014)

 

Terrorist ideology at school

LONDON: David Cameron has spoken for the first time about an alleged plot by Islamic extremists to control Birmingham schools, promising “swift action” to ensure they are not being used to spread terrorists’ ideology.  The Department of Education is believed to be investigating 12 schools in that district after claims that non-Muslim members of staff were being isolated, male and female pupils segregated and assemblies used to promote the teachings of al-Qaeda.

“We will not accept any school being run by extremist views,” The Prime Minister said.  “It’s not acceptable, we can’t have that happening in our country and Ofsted have all the powers they need to intervene. They are able to get in there and inspect to see where things have gone wrong.

Allegations of the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ plot to allow hardline Muslims to take over a handful of schools were revealed last month in a leaked letter, supposedly written from one extremist to another.  It detailed a five-step plan designed to take over the running of several Birmingham state schools and listed examples of non-Muslim staff members who they had “forced out”.  The authenticity of the document has since been called into question. However, following its emergence, Birmingham City Council has been inundated with claims from teachers, parents and governors claiming that they have seen the tactics at work in their schools.  (Sunday Telegraph, April 5, 2014)  

 

Angola Becomes 'First Country to Ban Islam'

Southern African nation reportedly bans Islam and orders the demolition of mosques in the country.

The African nation of Angola has reportedly become the first country to ban Islam and Muslims, reports On Islam. Concerning the ban, Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said Sunday "this is the final end of Islamic influence in our country."

Angola's ban was first announced last Friday, when Angolan Minister of Culture, Rosa Cruz e Silva said "the process of legalization of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human rights, their mosques would be closed until further notice."

India Today reports Silva's statement was made at the 6th Commission of the Angolan National Assembly, and that the ban includes orders to demolish mosques in the country.  Silva reportedly said the ban was necessary since Islam is "contradictory to the customs of Angola culture."

Angola's population of 16 million is predominantly Christian, with only 80,000-90,000 Muslims, the majority of whom are migrants from West Africa and families of Lebanese origin, according to the US State Department.  The crackdown on Islam comes as Christians in the Middle East are being forced from Muslim countries.  Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren noted in 2012 that the Christian population in the Middle East dropped from 20% a century ago to 5% currently amid ongoing persecution of Christians by Muslims.  Oren noted in Egypt 200,000 Coptic Christians fled their homes in 2011 amid anti-Christian violence during the "Arab spring" uprising that toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak.  In 2012 Saudi Arabia's top Muslim leader, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Shaikh, issued a fatwa (religious decree) to demolish all churches on the Arabian peninsula.  Particularly in Africa, analysts have commented that Islamist forces have been killing and expelling Christians largely with negligible international criticism.  Aside from Islam, other religions that have not been legalized will face similar measures in Angola. The non-legalized religions on the list "published by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights in the Angolan newspaper 'Jornal de Angola' are prohibited to conduct worship, so they should keep their doors closed," said Silva.

The Minister of Culture added that there is a legalization process through which over a thousand religious sects are currently applying.  (Ari Yashar, IsraelNationalNews.com, Nov 25, 2013)

 

Egypt cruelty death knell for live exports

AUSTRALIA'S live export trade is under renewed pressure after footage of shocking cruelty to Australian cattle in two Egyptian abattoirs was aired on the ABC last night.

The segments, one recorded by a local vet last October and the other by an Animals Australia investigation team last month, show cattle being atrociously treated, deliberately injured and cruelly slaughtered.  Animals Australia has renewed its calls for the entire industry to be banned. It says the continuing occurrences of cruelty in abattoirs in Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan and Kuwait show industry and government efforts to introduce and maintain new welfare standards are not working.

Animals Australia handed footage of the two Egyptian incidents to the Agriculture Department last Wednesday. They were viewed by cattle and export industry groups on Thursday, and the voluntary suspension of all live trade with Egypt was announced on Friday night.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig told the ABC's 7.30 last night he had faith in the existing tracking and audit system and that "99.9 per cent" of exported cattle were treated humanely. He based that on the number of complaints received by his department and his own confidence. "It's the confidence that I can inform you and the confidence that the statistics, that the audits, which are on the website, demonstrate," he said.  The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System was established after the Indonesian live cattle export suspension in 2011, and makes Australian exporters accountable for their animals when they go overseas. Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White said the ESCAS measures were not enough. "I think the Australian industry is treating the Australian public like fools," she said. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie last night declared the latest incident spelled the "death knell" for the live export industry and said it must be stopped.

The footage taken at the Red Sea abattoir at Ain Sokhna was recorded only a few weeks ago by a visiting Animals Australia team after an Egyptian veterinarian alerted the organisation to cruelty at the northern meatworks at Ismailia near Alexandria. He had shot an earlier video in October but Animals Australia said yesterday it had become aware of the Ismailia footage only early last month.

The Australian government is investigating the incidents, which include an injured animal being appallingly treated before being killed.  Australian Live Exporters Council executive director Alison Penfold said while she was "distraught, sickened and disgusted" by the videos, banning all live exports would not advance animal welfare worldwide.  "No one in our industry, and no Australian, accepts such treatment of animals, and I believe the Egyptian authorities will not tolerate this," Ms Penfold said.  She said Australia was the only one of 100 live-exporting nations that was working to improve animal welfare standards. "Take us out of the marketplace (and) who is left to provide that training and the resources to provide (it)?" she said. The exporters have sent a delegation to Egypt to investigate.  (Sue Neales, The Australian, May 07, 2013)

 

The Democratic Truth

 

I destroyed careers of Blair's ministers, admits former Brown aide Damian McBride. 

 

A key aide to Gordon Brown has admitted destroying the careers of New Labour Cabinet ministers by using dark arts to smear political opponents.

Damian McBride with the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown Photo: Reuters

 

Damian McBride, Mr Brown’s former communications chief, said he discredited the former prime minister’s enemies by tipping off the media about drug use, spousal abuse, alcoholism and extramarital affairs.  In an autobiography that will cast a shadow over Labour’s party conference in Brighton next week, Mr McBride admits attempting to ruin the careers of the former home secretaries Charles Clarke and John Reid.   Mr McBride claims that he did it all out of “devotion” and “some degree of love” for Mr Brown, whom he describes as “the greatest man I ever met”.

The disclosures will cause acute embarrassment to Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, who were allies of Mr Brown during his time in Downing Street.  In the book, serialised in the Daily Mail, Mr McBride claims that he helped to end Mr Clarke’s cabinet career by concocting a briefing war between him and a key adviser to Mr Blair. The former spin doctor writes that he helped to force Mr Reid to quit his Cabinet post by leaking details of alleged “drinking, fighting and carousing”.

He confesses that he punished Ivan Lewis, and then a junior minister, for criticising Mr Brown by leaking claims that he had been “pestering” a female aide. These claims were completely denied by Mr Lewis.  Mr McBride was forced to resign in 2009 for his part in an email plot to discredit senior Conservative ministers.  His disclosures were preceded by the release of hundreds of emails revealing the extent of the civil war between Tony Blair and Mr Brown.  One email suggested that Mr Brown told Mr Blair that he should resign because the public “hate him”.  Another suggested that Mr Blair allowed members of his staff to describe the attempt to oust him as “blackmail”.

The emails were released by Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, a former director of the strategic communications unit under Mr Blair.  Mr McBride also uses his book to accuse Douglas Alexander, the current shadow foreign secretary, of failing to support his sister, Wendy, who was then the Scottish Labour leader. He writes that Mr Alexander “dispassionately” told Mr Brown that his sister would have to quit over an unlawful £950 donation.

Mr McBride refers in the book to the “art of leaking lies”. He conceded at one point that his treatment of Mr Lewis and the woman at the centre of the allegations was “cruel” and “vindictive”. He reveals that when Mr Brown was chancellor, he would log into his emails so that he could leak details of confidential government announcements to discredit rival ministers. He claims that ministers were oblivious and were left wondering who in their department was releasing information to the media.

Mr McBride also discloses that Mr Brown had a network of “moles” in other Whitehall departments.  He claims that in the dying days of Mr Brown’s premiership he attempted to recruit celebrity advisers to bolster his image including Simon Cowell, Lorraine Kelly, Fiona Phillips and Lord Sugar.  In the book, Mr McBride writes that he “completely lost his way” before his enforced resignation.  However, he appears to be unrepentant. He claims that there was an “unspoken” understanding between him and Mr Brown that the former prime minister would not question his methods. Describing how he attempted to force Mr Reid to quit the Cabinet, Mr McBride says that he unearthed embarrassing details of the former home secretary’s past from his “black book”.

Meanwhile, the cache of Downing Street emails, handed to The Guardian, details the desperate attempts made by Mr Blair’s team to stop a rebellion designed to oust him from power or force him to give a date for his departure.  (Peter Dominiczak, The [London] Telegraph, Sep 20, 2013)

 

At last, we see Ed in his true colours, waving the red flag

The Labour leader wants more socialism, an idea that has failed all over the world

So now we know what he wants to do with the country. It’s “socialism”, folks! For years now, Ed Miliband has been studiously blank about his intentions. To a degree that has maddened supporters and opponents alike, he has refused to say much about how Labour would govern the country. He has curled himself into an ideological foetal position – so as to present as small a target as possible – and hoped that Coalition unpopularity would allow him to stand up at the last minute and slither unobtrusively into power.

And now, in an incautious admission, he has reminded us of his core beliefs – as the proud son of a Marxist academic. He wants to restore socialism to Britain. In spite of everything, the mission of Labour under Ed Miliband is to revive a political belief system that brought Britain to its knees, that blighted the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, that was responsible for untold murders and abuses of human rights, and that in the past 30 years has been decisively rejected across the planet in favour of liberty, free enterprise and market economics – a rival system that has lifted and is lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and servitude. Someone needs to tell Ed Miliband that socialism failed, and I have just the man to do it.

He knows Ed well. They used to hang out together – in fact, they were part of the same ruthless cabal of curry-swilling Brownites who undermined Tony Blair and anyone else who tried to introduce some common sense to the Labour Party. That man is Damian McBride. I mean the man known as McPoison or McP----face, who is currently in the papers because he has decided to salve his conscience by laying bare his ghastly activities under the last Labour government.

I happen to think Mr McBride is genuinely repentant, and I know that he is working hard for good educational causes in London. But if he is to achieve full redemption he needs to think about why he behaved in that way. What was it that legitimated – in his mind – this hideous trampling over all norms of decency? He smeared ministers who seemed to stand in his way, he destroyed careers, he wrecked family lives. It seems incredible that a highly intelligent man could act like this just because he adored Gordon Brown. No, that wasn’t enough: he justified his ruthless actions to himself in the same way that socialists have always justified their ruthlessness – that the end justified the means.

He knew that what he was doing was in one sense pretty putrid – but he believed that it was part of a wider project. He was protecting the Labour Party from the Blairite sell-outs; he was acting in the best interests of the Left of the party; he was helping the Brownites to pursue their agenda of welfarist redistribution. Yes, he was able to live with himself and engage in this repulsive bullying because at the back of his mind was always the notion that he was defending a high and noble cause. He did it in the interests of the People; he did it for sound socialistic reasons.

And that is the problem with socialism. It has always involved the use of revolting means to pursue an unattainable end. It has seen the rights and liberties of individuals trampled in the name of a collective good. Damian McBride is a small but interesting example of the mental contortions of socialists over the last century, when there is no abuse or tyranny – large or trivial – that has not been justified in the name of the people.

When the Securitate persuaded children to inform against their parents in Ceausescu’s Romania, they knew – at one level – that what they were doing was creepy. But they believed it was in the wider interests of the state, and therefore of the people themselves. When thousands of Soviet dissidents and bourgeois reactionaries were hauled off to perish in Siberian gulags, the authorities knew – with one side of their brains – that this was morally no better than Nazism; but they persuaded themselves that it was for the greater good, and that you could not make an omelette without breaking eggs. When the North Koreans shoot anyone who falls foul of their deranged and psychotic regime, they don’t blame their evil dictator; they think – or at least they assert – that they are protecting a system of government that is morally superior to that of South Korea and the rest of the capitalist world.

I don’t mean that Ed Miliband will try to import some new form of Stalinism to Britain, or that we will see the systematic abuse of human rights. British socialism has always been a much milder strain. But the fundamental impulse is there: to use regulation or coercion to try to impose an idea of equality, when the result is the exact opposite. Why has social mobility declined in the past 30 years? Why is it that there are fewer children from poor backgrounds who make it all the way to the very best universities than there were in the 1960s?

Because – in the name of equality – Labour politicians launched a war against the grammar schools and indeed against the whole competitive ethos in education. How is a dose of socialism going to help us improve our schools, or reform the welfare state, or get a better deal from the European Union? The most important political fact since the crash of 2008 is the complete failure of the Left to provide any realistic alternative to the free market economics that have been adopted across the developing world, and that have seen a huge rise in living standards for billions.

It has its chance to offer a new model – and we have heard nothing. Now we have Ed Miliband telling us that his plan is to go back to Brownite “socialism” – the over-borrowing and over-spending that got us in the mess in the first place. Why hand back the bridge to the very people who ran the ship aground?  (Boris Johnson, The [London] Telegraph, 22 Sep 2013)

 

   The Journalistic truth

JOURNALISTS, the craft of journalism and the news media generally are held to a high standard of truth, and that’s as it should be. The first three rules of the business are accuracy, accuracy and accuracy. There are times when the media gets it wrong — usually because of stuff-ups, misunderstandings, sloppiness or laziness, rather than by intent. In the great majority of these cases corrections are made and apologies issued.

Because of these high standards of accuracy, society is able to confidently put a mirror to itself, discuss, debate and decide on the issues of the day.  But there are those who debase these ideals. They do it deliberately and often with impunity. They are called advertisers and politicians.  Within the media industry, corrections and apologies are sometimes referred to, facetiously, as “grovels”. As grovels go, the telephone company Optus last week had a doozy.

In advertisements comparing its mobile coverage with Telstra’s, the geniuses at Optus’s advertising agency made mistakes that would have got a first-year journalism cadet fired. They confused population with landmass — probably not a big deal in, say, Hong Kong, but a vital consideration in this wide brown land. Optus claimed in its ads that the differences between its mobile network and Telstra’s were minimal and insignificant. Its ad would entice any normal person to believe that Optus covered 98.5 per cent of the Australian landmass while Telstra covered 99.3 per cent. Wrong! The true figures are Optus 12.6 per cent and Telstra 30.6 per cent. What Optus meant was its network reached 98.5 per cent of the population, compared with Telstra’s 99.3 per cent.  It is probably true that people take advertising claims with a grain of salt. But blatant misrepresentations such as this are wrong and advertisers must not be allowed to get away with them. The Victorian Supreme Court agreed, upholding a Telstra complaint that the ads were false, misleading and deceptive.

Three years ago Optus was fined $5.25 million by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission for false advertising. This time the court ordered Optus to pay for a series of corrective advertisements — half-page grovels in daily newspapers.

It is a pity there are no agencies to hold politicians to account, especially at election time. While we are used to pollies gilding the lily, there are times when some behaviour becomes so excessive it must be called out. Take the case of Clive Palmer in the West Australian Senate re-run. The man is out of control. His absurd obsession with Rupert Murdoch and this newspaper is bad enough, but his lies to the people of WA are worse. Palmer uses television appearances to make ridiculous assertions.

He once told Karl Stefanovic that Murdoch’s former wife, Wendi Deng, was a Chinese spy. Last week he was asserting on Studio 10 that Murdoch made daily Skype calls to the editor of this paper to pass on instructions. It’s ludicrous nonsense and he must know it, but he persists because he must think he can attract votes by diverting attention from his own political policies.

I use the word policies, but the garbage that comes from his mouth is anything but. He promised the people of WA that he would return to them the entire GST revenue they contribute each year in the full knowledge that he cannot deliver. GST revenue is divvied up by the Commonwealth Grants Commission — an independent body — according to a 50-year-old formula which isn’t going to be changed on the whim of a maverick Queensland politician.  Attempts by interviewers to pin Palmer on these points result in more irrelevant waffle and occasionally, angry, bullying bluster. He either has a disturbing lack of knowledge about how the country is governed or he is a deliberate purveyor of plausible untruths aimed at gullible people. Either way, it’s an ugly picture.

We should not be dismissive of Palmer as merely an interesting or colourful character — he should be dismissed from the parliament he regularly fails to attend.  There are laws aimed at upholding truth in advertising, but none that can be applied to politicians who are specifically exempted. In their absence, it falls to the media to expose them, but in the digital age, the traditional methods once used to achieve this are faltering. A focus on delivering factual information and letting the cards fall where they may has been diverted by the search for eyeballs more interested in gossip or games.

We have recently seen the brief emergence of fact checkers. Former editor-in-chief of The Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Fray, had a go at this last year. His team was able to label some claims as lies while confirming others, but the impact on voters was minimal and the business was not sustainable. The ABC has a fact-checking unit but its contribution to the national debate has been negligible. What is more interesting is the ABC program The Checkout. This is fact-checking with bite because it puts a spotlight on the claims made by manufacturers, mainly in the food and pharmaceutical sectors. There are regulations applying to this sector but they have loopholes large enough to drive a Woolies pantechnicon through, meaning, as The Checkout regularly points out, that the claims made on labels are frequently “98 per cent fact-free”.  These misleading claims are not made by accident or because of sloppiness or misunderstandings. They are deliberate deceptions and they deserve to be called out. If The Checkout represents a new form of journalism, then in my book it’s welcome. (Mark Day, The Australian, April 07, 2014)

 

 

The Fundamentalist ‘Truth’

 

A large part of our work had been taken by answering controversial topics raised by fundamentalist Christians.  Given the emphasis we place on the Bible that did not surprise us – they do not like to have their preaching and practices exposed as unbiblical.  What surprised us though was their relentless opposition to this work and the efforts they have made in order to destroy or derail it.

One topic they have raised with us many times was the role and place of the Holy Spirit in the heavenly Trinity.  The first time we have dealt with this topic was in 1995, in The Christin Herald No 5.

It remained a dormant topic for a decade and a half, but then it burst into the open again. 

The reason appears to be the Internet.  As long as we were restricted by the limitations of the printed media, we could only each a relatively small number of people, but when we put our publications on the World Wide Web, our nemesis pressed the panic button.

Having failed in their repeated attempts to put an end to this work, they shifted their attention to theological topics.  For reasons that only they know, they are bent against the Holy Spirit, going mad at the idea that the Holy Spirit replaces Satan as the third member of the Trinity.   They trashed that topic from every possible angle, as our readers may well remember from our last few editions.

We thought that having answered their arguments confidently from the Scriptures, they might give up their battle against the Holy Spirit, and might even repent for their blasphemies if that was at all possible.  But no, they now shifted their attention to Jesus Christ Himself.  Here is their latest diatribe. 

 

“A Gift Of Truth For You”

“The woman of Rev 12 is not a church, nor Mary, nor Israel. She is the prophet like unto Moses Num 12:3 raised up of her brethren Acts 3:21-22 proving the power of God in the spirit of Elijah Matt 17:3, Luke 1:17 to restore Matt 17:11 the true word John 1:1 that prepares a people by turning their hearts to all the children of God. God our Father will not put any child of his into a hell fire no matter what their sins, no matter if they repent in this life or not. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer7:31, Jer 19:5. Resist your carnal mind of hate, murder and revenge Rom 8:7 to hear the true Gospel going to the world as a witness Matt 24:14.
Anyone that refuses to hear the true Gospel now delivered to the world is rejecting his word not mine. Satan has deceived the whole world Rev 12:9 until now Rev 12:5-6.
*Acts 3:23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
The proof is in the hearing
http://thegoodtale.wordpress.com

 

They personalized their “Gift Of Truth” specifically for us. Nice of them to honor us with their ‘truth’!

Now if that was purely for us, as they claim, it would be of little consequence.  We often receive materials that go straight into the rubbish bin.  But they say that they send their “true Gospel to the world as a witness”, clearly in competition with our Gospel, and that could not be left unanswered.

We have no fear that they might overtake us in the popularity stakes, for what we have seen on the Internet, the number of visitors to our competitors’ web sites are a mere fraction of what we get to ours; Sufficient to say here that our web site is now being frequented by people from one hundred and sixty five nations.  A mighty successful work – the Gospel of Jesus Christ has well and truly been witnessed to the whole world.   

Now so sure are the authors of this “Gift Of Truth” that they did not put any name to it.  So we looked up their blog, and although that goes on for page after page, that is unsigned too.  However, we are in no doubt as to who we are dealing with. Their style, reasoning, subject and history tell us that they come from the same stable as the relentless anti-Trinitarians.  So let us look at the points they raised with us.     

 

“The woman of Rev 12 is not a church, nor Mary, nor Israel. She is the prophet like unto Moses Num 12:3 raised up of her brethren Acts 3:21-22 proving the power of God in the spirit of Elijah Matt 17:3, Luke 1:17 to restore Matt 17:11 the true word John 1:1 that prepares a people by turning their hearts to all the children of God.”

 

Our readers may well ask themselves, what is the link between Rev 12 and the topic of this email, for there does not seem to be any? Oh, but there is. This is what we wrote in The Christian Herald No 15.   

 

“Unveiling The Book Of Revelation (Part 2)”

“Every article in this edition, has dealt with one or more of the topics discussed in Revelation.  For this reason, we strongly advise everyone to read those articles first, for we cannot go over those topics again.  We discussed the first part of Revelation in The Christian Herald No 14.  Here is the second part.

 

Rev 12:1  Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.

Rev 12:2  Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.

Rev 12:3  And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.

Rev 12:4  His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

Rev 12:5  She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.

Rev 12:6  Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Rev 12:7  And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought,

Rev 12:8  but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.

Rev 12:9  So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Rev 12:10  Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.

Rev 12:11  And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Rev 12:12  Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time."

Rev 12:13  Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.

Rev 12:14  But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.

Rev 12:15  So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood.

Rev 12:16  But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.

Rev 12:17  And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

 

“This chapter presents in a concise form a huge chunk of Israel’s history. The woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and a garland of twelve stars on her head, is the nation of Israel who gave birth to the Child Jesus.  The twelve garlands are the twelve tribes of Israel.  When Jesus overcame the Dragon and became the Christ, and rose to His Father’s throne in heaven, He expelled the Dragon from heaven and sent him tumbling down to earth, where he became a deadly enemy to the people of God. 

“Notice how the followers of Jesus Christ are distinguished from the rest of the world: those who keep the Commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.  How many “Christians” keep the Commandments of God and believe the true Gospel of Jesus Christ?  We know of none. 

“For a millennium and a half, while the Roman Catholic Church held sway over the Christian world, keeping the Commandments of God was punishable by death.  Even today, if you ask Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant preachers about the Commandments of God, they tell you that they have been nailed to the cross.  But Jesus Christ did no such thing. He said He came to fulfill the law not to destroy it.”  (The Christian Herald No 15, p 35).

 

We published this edition in 2006.  No one could say that people do not remember what they read in our publications.  Our nemeses cannot say that.

They took issue with our statement that the woman in Rev 12 is Israel and the Child is Jesus Christ, telling us that, “She is the prophet like unto Moses Num 12:3.”  So let us look at Numbers 12:3.        

 

Num 12:3  (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth.)”

 

Does this resemble in any way what they said:  “The woman of Rev 12 is not a church, nor Mary, nor Israel. She is the prophet like unto Moses Num 12:3.”    Then they quoted Acts 3:21-22 as saying: 

 

“She is the prophet like unto Moses Num 12:3 raised up of her brethren Acts 3:21-22.” 

 

So let us look at Acts 3:21-22.

 

Act 3:21  whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

Act 3:22  For Moses truly said to the fathers, 'THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN. HIM YOU SHALL HEAR IN ALL THINGS, WHATEVER HE SAYS TO YOU.

 

Once again, their references do not support the points they are trying to make.    

Can you see the problem with their reference?  Acts 3:21-22, does not speak of “She”, but of “He” and “Him”, meaning that the Child of the woman of Rev 12 is a man and not a woman.      

But maybe they are luckier with their next reference. 

 

 “The woman of Rev 12 is not a church, nor Mary, nor Israel. She is the prophet like unto Moses Num 12:3 raised up of her brethren Acts 3:21-22 proving the power of God in the spirit of Elijah Matt 17:3, Luke 1:17 to restore Matt 17:11 the true word John 1:1 that prepares a people by turning their hearts to all the children of God.”

 

Now here is what Matt 17:3, Luke 1:17, Matt 17:11 and John 1:1 say:  

 

Mat 17:3  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

Luk 1:17  He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'To Turn The Hearts Of The Fathers To The Children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Mat 17:11  Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.

Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

Is this, “proving the power of God in the spirit of Elijah . . .  that prepares a people by turning their hearts to all the children of God”?  Or rather a mangled attempt to shift the focus from Jesus Christ to “all the children of God”, by which they mean the “chosen generation” of the Old Testament, as it will become apparent shortly.   In their next passage they say:

 

“God our Father will not put any child of his into a hell fire no matter what their sins, no matter if they repent in this life or not. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer7:31, Jer 19:5.

 

It pains us that we have to answer this kind of Satanism, but our Father wants us to do it, so we will.  The Scriptures say:

 

Pro 26:4  Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him.

Pro 26:5  Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.

 

It is obvious that we are dealing with people who believe that once ‘chosen’ they will always be ‘chosen’ regardless of what they do with their life, forgetting that their choosing was conditional upon them remaining obedient and faithful to God. Have they ever read the prayer of Daniel the prophet, one of three men declared by God to be most righteous?  (Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness," says the Lord GOD. Eze 14:14) 

Take note, this prayer and lamentation tells us not only the story Israel, but also the story of Messiah.    

 

Dan 9:1  In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—

Dan 9:2  in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

Dan 9:3  Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

Dan 9:4  And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments,

Dan 9:5  we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.

Dan 9:6  Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.

Dan 9:7  O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.

Dan 9:8  "O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.

Dan 9:9  To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.

Dan 9:10  We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.

Dan 9:11  Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.

Dan 9:12  And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.

Dan 9:13  "As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth.

Dan 9:14  Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice.

Dan 9:15  And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!

Dan 9:16  "O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us.

Dan 9:17  Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord's sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate.

Dan 9:18  O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.

Dan 9:19  O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name."

Dan 9:20  Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God,

Dan 9:21  yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.

Dan 9:22  And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.

Dan 9:23  At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:

Dan 9:24  "Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.

Dan 9:25  "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.

Dan 9:26  "And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;

And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.

Dan 9:27  Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate." 

 

This passage tells us not only that Israel and Judah were sent into captivity because of their departure from the ways of God, but gives us the specific time for the arrival of the Messiah. 

When Jesus Christ made His appearance in Israel some two thousand years ago, the Jewish priests, Pharisees and scribes knew that the time was ripe for the arrival of the Messiah. But they were waiting for a different Messiah, a military leader who would free them the Roman yoke.  They did not know the Scriptures which spoke of a different kind of Messiah, one who would free them from sin, and give them the promise of eternal life in an eternally blessed Kingdom, not in that parched piece of land in the Middle East over which they are still fighting to this day.

And this is true not only of Israel, but of the Palestinians, and of every nation in the world, for Jesus Christ is the Messiah for the whole world.    

Ever since they killed Jesus Christ for not freeing them from the Roman yoke, they have been trying to escape the stigma of deicide, which the world has wrongfully accused them of.  Wrongfully not because they did not do it, or because they did it in ignorance, but because it was appointed to them to do it – because it was written in the Scriptures, and what the Scriptures say cannot be broken, as Jesus Christ clearly stated. 

 

Joh 10:24  Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly."

Joh 10:25  Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me.

Joh 10:26  But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.

Joh 10:27  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Joh 10:28  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.

Joh 10:29  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

Joh 10:30  I and My Father are one."

Joh 10:31  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.

Joh 10:32  Jesus answered them, "Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?"

Joh 10:33  The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God."

Joh 10:34  Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, 'I SAID, "YOU ARE GODS" '?

Joh 10:35  If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),

Joh 10:36  do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?

Joh 10:37  If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me,

Joh 10:38  believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him."

Joh 10:39  Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand.

 

Yes, He escaped out of their hands at that time, but not for long.  Eventually they caught Him and crucified Him, and took upon themselves the curse of His blood.

 

Joh 18:33  Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, "Are You the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered him,

Joh 18:34  "Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?"

Joh 18:35  Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?"

Joh 18:36  Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here."

Joh 18:37  Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."

Joh 18:38  Pilate said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, "I find no fault in Him at all.

Joh 18:39  "But you have a custom that I should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?"

Joh 18:40  Then they all cried again, saying, "Not this Man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber.

 

Mat 27:12  And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He answered nothing.

Mat 27:13  Then Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?"

Mat 27:14  But He answered him not one word, so that the governor marveled greatly.

 

Mat 27:19  While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, "Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him."

Mat 27:20  But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus.

Mat 27:21  The governor answered and said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" They said, "Barabbas!"

Mat 27:22  Pilate said to them, "What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They all said to him, "Let Him be crucified!"

Mat 27:23  Then the governor said, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they cried out all the more, saying, "Let Him be crucified!"

Mat 27:24  When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it."

Mat 27:25  And all the people answered and said, "His blood be on us and on our children."

Mat 27:26  Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

 

Act 3:17  "Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.

Act 3:18  But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.

Act 3:19  Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

Act 3:20  and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,

Act 3:21  whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

 

And so, Jesus’ blood has been on them and on their children ever since.

Now every sin must be atoned for and repented of, regardless of whether people are conscious of it or not.  This is what the Old Testament says about it.   

 

Lev 4:1  Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

Lev 4:2  "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'If a person sins unintentionally against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and does any of them,

Lev 4:3  if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the LORD for his sin which he has sinned a young bull without blemish as a sin offering.

Lev 4:4  He shall bring the bull to the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD, lay his hand on the bull's head, and kill the bull before the LORD. (. . . )

Lev 4:13  'Now if the whole congregation of Israel sins unintentionally, and the thing is hidden from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done something against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which should not be done, and are guilty;

Lev 4:14  when the sin which they have committed becomes known, then the assembly shall offer a young bull for the sin, and bring it before the tabernacle of meeting.  

Lev 4:15  And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands on the head of the bull before the LORD. Then the bull shall be killed before the LORD. (. . . )

Lev 4:22  'When a ruler has sinned, and done something unintentionally against any of the commandments of the LORD his God in anything which should not be done, and is guilty,

Lev 4:23  or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a male without blemish.

Lev 4:24  And he shall lay his hand on the head of the goat, and kill it at the place where they kill the burnt offering before the LORD. It is a sin offering. (. . . )

Lev 4:27  'If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally by doing something against any of the commandments of the LORD in anything which ought not to be done, and is guilty,

Lev 4:28  or if his sin which he has committed comes to his knowledge, then he shall bring as his offering a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed.

Lev 4:29  And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering, and kill the sin offering at the place of the burnt offering. (. . . )

 

So regardless of whether people were aware of it or not, if a sin was committed by a priest, by the whole congregation, by a ruler, or by the common people, it had to be atoned for with the blood of animals. In the New Testament, however, people no longer atone for their sins with the blood of animals, for then they would have to do it year by year, or every time they have become aware of their sin. They repent of it by invoking the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who shed His blood for the whole world. 

 

Heb 10:1  For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

Heb 10:2  For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.

Heb 10:3  But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.

Heb 10:4  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

Heb 10:5  Therefore, When He Came Into The World, He Said: "Sacrifice And Offering You Did Not Desire, But A Body You Have Prepared For Me.

HEB 10:6  In Burnt Offerings And Sacrifices For Sin You Had No Pleasure.

HEB 10:7  Then I Said, 'Behold, I Have Come— In The Volume Of The Book It Is Written Of Me— To Do Your Will, O God.' "

HEB 10:8  Previously Saying, "Sacrifice And Offering, Burnt Offerings, And Offerings For Sin You Did Not Desire, Nor Had Pleasure In Them" (Which Are Offered According To The Law),

HEB 10:9  Then He Said, "Behold, I Have Come To Do Your Will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second.

Heb 10:10  By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Heb 10:11  And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

Heb 10:12  But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right

Heb 10:13  hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

 

Now how could those who have such relentless hostility towards Jesus Christ and against the Holy Spirit ever hope to be saved and be granted a place in the Kingdom of God?  They tell us that:  “God our Father will not put any child of his into a hell fire no matter what their sins, no matter if they repent in this life or not. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing Jer 7:31, Jer 19:5.”

 

O yeah? Have they ever read these Scriptures? 

 

Rev 20:12  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

Rev 20:13  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

Rev 20:14  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Rev 20:15  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

Now this would be an appropriate place to put an end to this diatribe, but we must look at Jer 7:31 and Jer 19:5 to show you another devious interpretation of the Scriptures on their part. 

 

Jer 7:31  And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart.

Jer 19:5  (they have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind),

 

Our interlocutors hope that no one will notice their sleight of hand, for instead of referring to Jeremiah, they should have gone to Moses, their favoured prophet. But there is a good reason for that.   

 

Deu 18:10  There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,

Deu 18:11  or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.

Deu 18:12  For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you.

Deu 18:13  You shall be blameless before the LORD your God.

Deu 18:14  For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.

Deu 18:15  "The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear,

Deu 18:16  according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.'

Deu 18:17  "And the LORD said to me: 'What they have spoken is good.

Deu 18:18  I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.

Deu 18:19  And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

 

Moses’ writings are a prophecy, a direct warning to Israel.  Jeremiah’s writings are an accomplished fact, a condemnation of Israel for departing from the true God and embracing the pagan gods of their neighbours.

The authors of this “Gift Of Truth” turned a grievous sin into a universal doctrine of salvation: “God our Father will not put any child of his into a hell fire no matter what their sins, no matter if they repent in this life or not. It never entered the heart or mind of God to ever do such a thing.”

Unbelievable, but true!

What is it that has never entered the mind of God?  It has never entered His mind that His people, whom He freed from Egyptian slavery, for whom He performed miracle after miracle, whom He called “a chosen generation” and wanted to turn into a “special treasure” and “a holy priesthood” for the whole world, if they obeyed Him, turned instead to their pagan neighbours, whom they were supposed to annihilate from the face of the earth, and embraced their idolatry and practice of burning their children in fire to order to placate pagan gods.  

Here is another Biblical passage that our interlocutors conveniently ignore. 

 

2Ki 21:1  Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah.

2Ki 21:2  And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.

2Ki 21:3  For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served

2Ki 21:4  them.  He also built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, "In Jerusalem I will put My name."

2Ki 21:5  And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.

2Ki 21:6  Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger.

2Ki 21:7  He even set a carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which the LORD had said to David and to Solomon his son, "In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever;

2Ki 21:8  and I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers—only if they are careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them."

2Ki 21:9  But they paid no attention, and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.

 

So, the “chosen” generation did more evil than the nations whom he LORD had destroyed before them.  And they still think they are chosen.  Now they tell us that they are “witnessing” their gospel to the whole world, obviously in competition with our Gospel.

There are a few more references in their “Gift of Truth”, however people can look them up for themselves if they think they have anything to learn from them.  Their arguments are not merely worse than trash, they are extremely dangerous, for some people may think that they can commit any sin they want and still are saved for the Kingdom of God.

 

Now a word of caution: if anyone hates another person for whatever reason should ask himself, would he like to be in that person’s moccasins, to use an American Indian expression.  Those who hate the Jews should ask themselves the same question: would they like to be in their shoes? 

What the world forgets, or does not know because no one has told them, is that the Jews killed Jesus Christ on behalf of the whole world. Had they had not done it, other people would have had to do it.

Remember what Jesus Christ said before He gave up His Spirit?

 

Luk 23:34  Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do."

 

If Jesus Christ forgave them, He expects at least that much from those who call themselves Christians, and from everyone who hopes to make it into the Kingdom of God.     

The fact is that Jesus Christ was scheduled to die for us before this world was created.  He knew that human beings would sin and need redemption, and that could only be done by the Creator Himself. 

 

Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Joh 1:2  He was in the beginning with God.

Joh 1:3  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Joh 1:10  He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

Joh 1:11  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

Joh 1:12  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.

 

1Co 10:1  Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea,

1Co 10:2  all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,

1Co 10:3  all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink.

1Co 10:4  For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

 

Joh 17:1  Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come.

Joh 17:2  Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.  And this is eternal life,

Joh 17:3  that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  

Joh 17:4  I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.  And now,

Joh 17:5  O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

 

Eph 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

Eph 1:4  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and

Eph 1:5  without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Eph 1:6  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Eph 1:7  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches

Eph 1:8  of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known

Eph 1:9  to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,  

Eph 1:10  that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.

 

1Pe 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1Pe 1:4  to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,  

1Pe 1:5  who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1Pe 1:10  Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that

1Pe 1:11  would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

1Pe 1:12  To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

1Pe 1:13  Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

1Pe 1:14  as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;

1Pe 1:15  but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,

1Pe 1:16  because it is written, "BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY."

1Pe 1:17  And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;

1Pe 1:18  knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,

1Pe 1:19  but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was

1Pe 1:20  foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.

 

Now if Jesus Christ was foreordained before the foundation of the world to shed His blood for us, it was the Jews’ misfortune to have received this task.  Therefore, instead of hating the Jews for killing the Messiah, the world ought to be grateful to them for doing that deed on their behalf.   

The fact that Jewish leaders have ignorantly sought to exonerate their nation of the sin of deicide by committing yet more sins is not for us to judge but for Jesus Christ Himself.  

 

 

State Of The World

Society and culture

 

Kate the queen of new class of style

IN this era of butt selfies and slut walks, Kate Middleton, aka the Duchess of Cambridge, is a revolutionary.

The royal couple flew out of Australia with baby George on Friday after a flawless tour that owed much of its success to the young mother. Kate’s grace and elegance is a welcome change from the desperate self-loathing exhibitionism of most celebrity ­females of her generation.

It’s why she is raising ­hackles among snarky feminists. They have called her variously “plastic princess”, “painfully thin”, a “jointed doll on which certain rags are hung” and even “dangerous for our daughters.”

Sunny Kate represents a threat to the pornification ­industry, which has somehow duped feminism into the belief that dressing like a stripper and acting like a hooker equals emancipation.  Nothing could be further from the truth. You only have to look at Miley Cyrus and Lindsay Lohan to see what the end game is.  Kate is the anti-slut, the antidote to everything wrong with Western culture. She has put class back into sexy, made modesty cool, and added ­cachet to marriage and motherhood. No wonder she has become a role model to a generation of young women, despite scornful feminists.  Even arch republican and Greens loon Senator Sarah Hanson-Young admires her. She brought her seven-year-old daughter Kora to the Great Hall at Parliament House on Thursday to give a bouquet of flowers to the pretty princess.

But there is something about Kate’s demure style and dutiful demeanour that grates with certain women.  Kate, or Catherine, as her adoring husband William now calls her, had barely touched down in Australia when the subterranean griping started.

Republicans, with the popularity of their cause plummeting, naturally were irritated at the adulation, and brushed it off as mere celebrity. Female commentators lambasted Kate for being a privileged dress-up doll “defined” by her husband. In fact, regardless of how easy she makes it seem, Kate is a working mother who treats her role as a job. Her short, sensible fingernails tell you she is no purposeless prima donna.

Patron of seven charities, including one for terminally ill children, she has generated a 10-fold increase in donations to the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry since she married into the royal family three years ago.

If you watched Kate on this tour you would have seen how hard she worked. It might not be the same as toiling on a factory floor, but the discipline and effort of dressing appropriately, behaving properly and politely enduring endless hours of ceremony and small talk is real. She has a knack for making it look fun.  In contrast to the troubled marriage of Diana and Charles, she and William evidently are very much in love, exchanging easy smiles and admiring looks.  They managed a grumpy, teething nine-month-old George with aplomb, and spent only two nights away from him. They work together as a well-drilled team, punctual and smiling.

Sunny, self-disciplined Kate has been an inspired choice as wife. You can’t imagine her rolling her eyes or affecting a glum face for the cameras, like Diana did. And you can’t ­imagine William shooting his cuffs or being jealous or looking exasperated at his wife like his father did.

Good manners are not airs and graces but thoughtfulness and consideration for others, and Kate has these in spades.

You see it particularly when she is talking to disabled children. She bends down to engage with little people and makes sure the child is not alarmed or embarrassed. It’s a skill many politicians never master.  Kate was always respectful and engaged during 19 days of public appearances in Australia and New Zealand this month, but she’s also a little bolshie, whether she is beating William in a sailing race or pushing past him to take the front seat of a RAAF jet. And he loves her spirit.

His wife will never feel ­unloved or disrespected, as his mother felt she was. The success of their marriage is due to the fact they had nine years of dating to get to know each other including their time, out of sight of the media, as relatively normal university students at St Andrews in Scotland. It was a better foundation than Diana’s whirlwind courtship at 20 with a man 13 years older.

Kate is 32, five months older than her husband, and is as well educated as he is, with a degree in the history of art, and has a dignified self-possession that tells of a steely disposition. Mature, smart and respectful of each other, the marriage is one of equals working together in the family business.  They are restoring the dignity of the office after decades of tawdry scandal and broken marriages. Far from being ­defined by her husband, Kate is redefining the monarchy.

START CUTTING AT HOME JOE

It’s all very well for Joe Hockey to rail against the ‘‘age of entitlement’’. We know the government has been left with a fiscal mess and we’ll see how bad on Thursday, when the Treasurer releases the long-awaited Commission of Audit.  But if he is going to start hacking into the aged pension, as he hinted at last week, then he should also freeze the salaries and perks and pensions of politicians and public servants. Share the pain.  When private sector salaries are stagnant, and pensioners struggle to pay their power bills, it’s obscene that top public servants are about to win pay rises over 5 per cent, with salaries such as $844,000, plus perks, for Ian Watt, Secretary of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and $824,320 for Martin Parkinson, the head of Treasury.

Then there are the whopping pay rises of up to 30 per cent that politicians awarded themselves three years ago. That took the salary of then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard and now Tony Abbott to $495,430, among the most generous in the world.  That’s a lot more than UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s $256,000, Canada’s Stephen Harper’s $341,000 and even US President Barrack Obama’s $400,000.  Even more absurd are the handsome salaries of reams of quangos. For instance, the Sex Discrimination, Race Discrimination and Human rights Commissioners all earn $332,000, plus perks.  Fiscal prudence starts at home.    (Miranda Devine, The Sunday Telegraph, April 26, 2014)

 

Ugly signs of the times

THE unedifying banners littered throughout the March in March last weekend distracted from the message most of the crowd who took to the streets presumably hoped to send. That is, they were ordinary voters representative of wider public discontent with the policies of the new government.  But was that really the case?  While there will be inevitable debate over how mainstream much of the up to 100,000 who attended the marches across the country actually were, those who stole the headlines with their ­offensive banners undoubtedly were anything but mainstream. These protesters served up the sort of bile that sometimes passes for commentary on social media — also overshadowing the many free-flowing exchanges on mediums such as Twitter and Facebook that can occur.

While sections of the commentariat praised the ­protests as some sort of trans­formative ­moment when social media protests migrated into the mainstream, many of the messages were subversive as well as offensive, anything but representative of the approach mainstream members of the public adopt.  Signs describing Tony Abbott as an “evil fascist”, replete with a cartoon image of the PM with a Hitleresque moustache, do nothing to advance the public debate. Nor do many of the other signs that made their way into the crowds — “ignorant pig” and “racist sexist elitist homophobic fascist” are just two examples of a multitude of signs directed at ­Abbott that were designed to cause offence. A small number of attendees at the rallies wore “F. k Tony ­Abbott” T-shirts, replicating the clothing with body paint and hastily drawn posters.

“The protests were a perfect example of free speech in action,” says new Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson. But he points out “people had their right (to free speech), but they didn’t exercise responsibility, expres­sing ­absurd, insulting and unreasonable commentary. The­re­­fore, no one takes them ­seri­ously.”  Other signs went further than simply causing offence, such as one that included the phrase “Kill Abbott”, inciting violence, no less, as did the comments from the secretary of the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, Gary Kennedy, who told protesters from the podium that Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce “should be shot somewhere in the back of the head”.

While the long-serving union secretary withdrew his comments in the days that followed the march, the applause in the crowd widened the ambit of poor judgment on what is and is not appropriate to the listeners, not just one of the keynote speakers.

“It is unrealistic to expect that passions won’t be a factor within political debate,” Labor member for Chifley Ed Husic argues.

“But we have to reinforce in our minds that there are boundaries people shouldn’t over step, ­because it risks deepening the partisan political divides that are increasingly plaguing public ­debate.”  Banners denouncing the value of democracy because it has resulted in the election of the Abbott government — which were also on display last weekend — suggest discontent with an electoral system that neatly balances majoritarianism in the house of government (the House of Representatives) with the sorts of checks and balances political scientists appreciate in the Senate (elected via a form of proportional representation).  This sort of attack on our political culture and systems is anything but mainstream, all the more coming so soon after a clear-cut election result.

Conservative commentators have inevitably decried the failure of sections of the media to condemn the March in March the same way protests associated with the Convoy of No Confidence outside Parliament House were quickly condemned. On that occasion, banners such as “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” were used to ­vilify then prime minister Julia Gillard. They were described as sexist and outrageous, which they surely were.  But is there a double standard? Was indignation towards signs attacking our first female PM greater than the reaction to even more offensive signs now being directed at Abbott? Wilson says “the conduct of protesters at both events went beyond what Australians think is fair”.  One important difference between the reaction to the mat­erial directed at Gillard and that now being directed at Abbott is that Labor politicians were clever enough not to attend the rallies with the bad-taste material last weekend.

Perhaps they learnt from ­Abbott’s mistake in early 2011 when he spoke at the main Convoy of No Confidence rally in front of Parliament House and one of the offensive signs was hoisted behind him while he and other opposition ministers were on the podium.

Abbott has claimed he didn’t know that the sign was there, and we can only take him at his word. At the very least, it represented poor advancing work from the then opposition leader’s office.  A number of Labor MPs voiced support for the March in March rallies, but none appears to have attended the events. Certainly not Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. Deputy Greens leader Adam Bandt, however, did attend one of the rallies (careful not to appear alongside one of the ­offensive banners, mind), where he described the protests as the compassionate and humane side of the Australian population, notwithstanding the inappropriate signage.  Another potential difference between the protests against the Gillard government and those now being directed at the Abbott government is that talkback radio played a lead hand in the Gillard rallies, using their programs to whip up interest for the events.  But left-wing commentators used the online media as well as social media to do the same for the March in March. The messages are similar, and both remain inappropriate. Only the medium has changed.  While feminists have pointed out the language used in banners against Gillard included overt sexist rhetoric, designed not only to cause offence more generally, but also specifically to deliver a sexist message, such double ­messaging was also on display in many of the signs ­directed at ­Abbott.  Not on ­gender grounds, but as an ideological statement along side personal attacks.  Calling a conservative politician a “fascist” and portraying his image to replicate Hitler’s is delib­erately designed to undermine their ideological positioning in the same way that calling a woman a “bitch” or a “witch” ­carries clear sexist intent.  Both are offensive, but both are also designed (by intent or otherwise) to undermine credibility in a deeper and longer lasting way. Quite obviously, neither form of protest is acceptable and both do more to undermine assoc­iated messages of discontent than to advance a particular cause.  “If protesters want to get substantive messages across they should do a better job of holding their own to account for their conduct,” Wilson points out.

It isn’t just Gillard and Abbott who have been subjected to cruel and offensive protests. John Howard was portrayed in both physically and historically demeaning ways, although these sorts of attacks took longer to manifest than the insults hurled at both Gillard and Abbott after each became prime minister.  Early protests in Canberra against the Howard government industrial relations changes even turned into a riot not long after the 1996 election, with protesters storming the Parliament House foyer. On that occasion, opposition leader Kim Beazley made the same mistake that Abbott did, addressing the rally.  “We hadn’t even released the bill yet,” then workplace relations minister Peter Reith points out. He argues that the more over-the-top protests against Howard became over the years, the more considered and reasonable the government appeared by way of comparison.  Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane sees a link between outrage at the sorts of vilification that have occurred in the protests mentioned above and the need for protections against racial ­vilification.  He points out there are many restrictions on offensive speech that exist in parliament, via defamation law as well as in criminal summary offences laws, causing him to wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to retaining similar provisions within the ­Racial Discrimination Act.  “Racial abuse isn’t about mere offence. It is about speech that diminishes the equal standing of others and our cohesion as a ­society.”

There is little doubt that when protests get out of hand or become dominated by extremists, the mainstream message is lost. Even the involvement of sexist, subversive or ideologically abu­sive elements can distract from events that might otherwise be designed with a legitimate democratic purpose. Protest is as important a part of democracy as are institutions designed to uphold democracy, but only when practised within the spirit of Australia’s well ­established political culture.  (Peter Van Onselen,  The Australian, March 24, 2014)

 

Miller a sad reminder of damage done

IF you want to see the toll of illicit drugs, just look at the bloated face and glazed eyes of Scott Miller. The former Olympic golden boy of Australian swimming was a pathetic, slurring, drug-addicted mess when interviewed on 60 Minutes.

Ice, aka methamphetamine, is ‘‘what my addiction is at the moment . . . That’s what’s got me by the balls”.

The interview was done six months ago, but Channel 9 could not air it until court proceedings against Miller for drug possession were complete. He received a suspended jail sentence after being arrested twice with ice.  Meanwhile, Miller, 39, has been in rehabilitation in Melbourne and is living “week by week”, says an acquaintance. That is the lot of a drug addict. You never say they have fully recovered. They are forever “in recovery”. But if drug liberalisers such as former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer and his new pals at the lobby group Australia21 get their way, a lot more drugs will be a lot more available for a lot more people to get hooked on.

Miller got into cocaine and ecstasy when he returned from the Atlanta Olympics, and found his home town of Sydney awash with drugs.  “First time I’d seen that sort of stuff. It was everywhere,’’ he said. He was 21 at the time.  Miller was right. Drugs were everywhere in 1996. A quasi-push for decriminalisation, under the guise of harm minimisation, meant police turned a blind eye.  Nowhere was this more evident than in the then-heroin capital of Australia, Cabramatta, in Sydney’s west. “The best example of what can happen if you legalise drugs is Cabramatta,” says retired detective sergeant Tim Priest, who blew the whistle on the hierarchy’s inaction on drug crime in the late 1990s.

“Virtually it was decriminalised by lack of action. It was just zombieland in the ’90s, hundreds of addicts dying, vomiting, urinating, committing crimes. Young people flocked to Cabramatta [to] give it a go . . . Police were powerless to act; you just had this free market. Along with that comes the shootings, the murders, the stabbings, the prostitution, the diseases — it’s not nirvana.

‘‘By legalising drugs, that’s what you get.”  But 1996 was also the year John Howard was elected prime minister. “I did not need any encouragement to embrace a zero-tolerance approach to illicit drugs,” he wrote in his autobiography.  “I refused to accept the argument that a tough and effective policy could not make inroads on such terrible habits as heroin and cocaine taking.”

At the end of 1997, he launched the Get Tough on Drugs campaign, headed by the Salvation Army’s Major Brian Watters, with the aforementioned Palmer as deputy.  It was an unmitigated success. Watters cites the number of heroin deaths, which plummeted from 1116 in 1999 to 374 by 2005. “We were the only country with a heroin drought. More than 700 people a year were being saved from drug deaths.

“We worked on reducing the flow of drugs. But [the policy] was tough on drugs, not tough on drug users.”  For the first time in decades, drug use fell. Between 1998 and 2007, the use of cannabis halved, speed and ice fell 40 per cent, and heroin fell 75 per cent, according to the 2010 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. But by 2011, the trend had reversed.  “Over the last few years we’ve gone backwards again,” says Watters. “We’re not applying the things we learned that worked.”  The Tough on Drugs focus weakened especially after the retirement of Palmer’s successor as AFP commissioner, Mick Keelty, who had been its driving force. Watters is disappointed Palmer has so drastically changed his tune on drugs, and says it is ridiculous to say we are losing the “war on drugs”, because we never had a war. We had a balanced approach, very much like Sweden.”  Ah, Sweden, the bane of the drug liberaliser. Learning from its disaster of extreme permissiveness in the 1960s, Sweden has moved to a zero tolerance regime that includes coercive rehabilitation. The result is the lowest drug use in Europe.  That means fewer young people exposed to drugs, fewer experimenting, and fewer who wind up like Scott Miller.  “It made me happy,” Miller said of his ice habit. “But where it ends is not a happy place.”  Let’s hope he can stop taking drugs. But obviously it’s better not to start.

Postscript: Tragically, Miller’s ex-wife, 47-year-old TV personality Charlotte Dawson, was found dead in her Woolloomooloo apartment yesterday. She suffered from depression. Among her last tweets was one about Miller: ‘‘Hoping Scott Miller, a man I loved very much, can recover & become a great dad to Jack. So sad.”  (Miranda Devine, The Sunday Telegraph, February 22, 2014)

 

It's high time to end drug culture

THREE days after Philip Seymour Hoffman died with a ­needle in his arm, Hollywood was putting up giant billboards spruiking its drug-glamourising Oscar prospect Wolf Of Wall Street.

The words "because it's awesome!" appear over an image of Leo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill in one of the many scenes in which they are high as kites and having a whale of a time.  The "awesome" quote comes from DiCaprio's real life character, Wall Street fraudster Jordan Belfort: "I use Xanax to stay focused, Ambien to sleep, pot to mellow out, ­cocaine to wake up and morphine … because it's awesome."  Young men in one Sydney movie theatre could be heard saying: "This is sick" (excellent), as Belfort and pals snorted ­cocaine, popped pills, smoked crack and screwed hookers.  This is a problem, in case you haven't noticed.

We now demonise the legal drugs tobacco and alcohol. Yet we turn a blind eye to the illicit drugs which are increasingly glamourised by Hollywood and pop culture.  Illicit drug use is rife as Baby Boomers take their habits into old age and Gen Y launches a new era of excess. And the problem, for some reason, is now worse in Australia than in any other developed country, according to a 2012 UN report.  In Sydney, cocaine busts have reportedly doubled in a year, with mothers in Double Bay restaurants snorting lines in the toilet before the school run.  A study in the Medical Journal of Australia last September found ambulance call-outs for crystal meth, aka ice, had tripled in two years. When the Howard government launched its Tough on Drugs strategy in 1997, drug use plummeted for the first time in three decades. Best of all, teenage drug experimentation fell, according to the Australian Secondary School Students ­Alcohol and Drug Survey.

But then a new laissez faire government arrived, and the figures show drug use rose steadily from 2008.  We now demonise the legal drugs tobacco and alcohol. Yet we turn a blind eye to the illicit drugs which are increasingly glamourised by Hollywood and pop culture. You can't smoke a cigarette on the silver screen but the Wolf of Wall Street can snort coke out of a prostitute's anus, giving new meaning to crack cocaine.  There's something seriously wrong when the medical ­establishment is biased ­towards legalising drugs while railing against alcohol.  Last week, after Hoffman died from heroin, Australia's chief drug liberaliser, Dr Alex Wodak, was still using the good name of St Vincent's Hospital, where he is "emeritus consultant" to downplay the dangers. Heroin, he told the ABC, could be used recreationally.

"It's a risk, no doubt about it," Dr Wodak said. "But there are also people who go on and use and have very functional, creative, significant lives where they contribute to the community and continue to use heroin from time to time."

When the Howard government launched its Tough on Drugs strategy in 1997, drug use plummeted for the first time in three decades. Best of all, teenage drug experimentation fell, according to the Australian Secondary School Students ­Alcohol and Drug Survey."  Right on cue, The Guardian published an article claiming it wasn't heroin but the prohibition on drugs that caused Hoffman's death.  You could hardly send a more dangerous message at a time when authorities in Australia fear a return of the heroin epidemic of the 1990s.  A more realistic response came from Hoffman's friend, scriptwriter and recovering addict Aaron Sorkin, who wrote last week that Hoffman "did not die from an overdose of heroin - he died from heroin".  "We should stop implying that if he'd just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine," Sorkin said.  Hoffman once told Sorkin: "If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won't."

In other words, "our deaths would make news and maybe scare someone clean".  But even if Hoffman's death did save 10 lives, it's nothing to the legions of people switched onto the glamour of drugs this Oscar season by Martin Scorsese's shameful movie.  I've interviewed heroin addicts trying to break free with naltrexone treatment.

The only emotion they expressed was anger that the government had been so slack on drug law enforcement in the 1990s when they became hooked as teenagers, catching the so-called "smack express" train to Cabramatta to openly score. It was so easy, and they were left with a lifelong affliction.  You can't smoke a cigarette on the silver screen but the Wolf of Wall Street can snort coke out of a prostitute's anus, giving new meaning to crack cocaine."  Now we're doing it again; governments and police looking for the easy way out, happy to believe the lies of drug liberalisers and appease the drug-soaked chattering classes.  Meanwhile, the so-called ­alcohol-fuelled violence we are currently so worked up about ignores the fact that alcohol consumption is plummetting - we're drinking less alcohol than we have in almost a decade, and 30 per cent less than the peak in 1974-75.  What has changed is the nature and ­extent of illicit drug use. Where alcohol is a depressant that makes you sleepy, stimulant drugs keep you alert to drink more and, sometimes, to become violent.  A decade ago John Howard showed you could change drug habits. But we gave up the war almost as soon as we started.  (Miranda Devine, The Sunday Telegraph, February 08, 2014)

 

PAEDOPHILIA BY ANOTHER NAME

COMMUNITY Services minister Pru Goward told 2GB radio last week that forced marriages of underage girls may be "quite common" in southwest Sydney, western Sydney and the Blue Mountains.  She was speaking about the case of a 12-year-old girl allegedly married off to a 26-year-old man in a Muslim ceremony sanctioned by her own parents.  That is paedophilia in anyone's language.  If it so common, the police should be doing something about it immediately. (Miranda Devine, The Sunday Telegraph, February 08, 2014)

 

Women express milk at work [instead of feeding their children at home] 

Women who return to work after giving birth have been forced to express milk in a car park or toilet, while others have leaked milk onto their desk after being denied the opportunity to take a break, a national inquiry has heard.

In its submission to the Human Rights Commission's pregnancy and return to work national review, Unions NSW said many women needing to express milk at work had been unable to access appropriate lactation rooms.  ''When another union member requested a break to express milk she was told that she needed to wait until another staff member could relieve her before she could leave her desk,'' the submission said.  ''The member was forced to wait a considerable time causing her milk to leak and increasing her risk of mastitis.''  Unions NSW said the right of employees to request extended parental leave and flexible working arrangements to meet caring needs should be strengthened under the Fair Work Act. It said employees should also be given an avenue to appeal any decisions made by management and employers to reject such a request.  ''These appeal rights should provide employees with access to the Fair Work Commission for conciliation and arbitration,'' the submission says.  Jenny Singleton, from the NSW Public Service Association, said she had received reports of women being denied the opportunity to express milk in the workplace. She said one woman had been forced to express milk in a toilet which had a faulty lock. An employee walked in on her and then told colleagues that it was ''gross when women express milk''.

''Management didn't do anything about it and she was too afraid to take it further because she didn't want to risk losing her flexible working conditions,'' she said.  A survey of Public Service Association members found that 77 per cent of 713 respondents said they had missed out on an opportunity for promotion while pregnant, and 71 per cent said they had missed out of training or development opportunities.  It also found that 79 per cent of women who responded said they had been subjected to inappropriate comments by supervisors while pregnant. Ms Singleton said many women had been denied the right to seek flexible working conditions after giving birth and returning to work.

In its submission to the inquiry, the Australian Industry Group said a common challenge for employers in blue-collar industries was dealing with requests for flexible work that conflicted with rosters. The challenge did not arise to the same extent in white-collar jobs.  "The main reasons for this are that flexible working hours are more easily accommodated and options such as job-share or working from home are more accessible to both the employer and employee,’’ the submission said. "Nonetheless, some smaller employers...find it challenging to accommodate requests for part-time work in circumstances where the employee, prior to parental leave, was employed on a full-time basis.

"Many of these employers report that, despite their best efforts, the requests could not be accommodated, or were very difficult to accommodate, because of the direct and indirect costs for the employers in recruiting a new employee....’’

The submission said inflexible provisions in workplace awards ‘‘also create barriers to the accommodation of requests for flexible working arrangements made by employees returning to work from a period of parental leave’’.

A draft submission by the Australian Council of Trade Unions said many women resigned from their job to have a baby because of limited access to unpaid leave and flexible return to work options.  Many also experienced a loss of seniority and access to training and career paths and unreasonable refusal by employers to accommodate them.  (Anna Patty, SMH, February 11, 2014)

 

Looking for a shot at redemption: supporters push for return to favour for Mel Gibson

Some in Hollywood want an end to what they see as the star's quiet blacklisting, but others are still not ready to forgive.

Eight years after Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic rant during a drink-driving arrest, Hollywood is debating the rehabilitation of an Oscar winner who was once one of the industry's most bankable stars. The discussion was sparked by a March 12 opinion piece in Deadline Hollywood by Allison Hope Weiner, a journalist who covered his fall from favour and now considers him a friend. Her appeal for an end to what she called a ''quiet blacklisting'' has drawn more than 5700 comments on Yahoo.com's movie page and more than 800 on the Deadline Hollywood site, read by many in the industry. ''He has been in the doghouse long enough,'' Weiner wrote. ''It's time to give the guy another chance.''

Gibson's movies, from Mad Max to Braveheart and Apocalypto, have grossed $3.6 billion, according to research company Rentrak, providing an incentive for studios and agencies to consider absolution. His particular transgressions, however, and the number of them over the years, mean it is unlikely to come easy. Forgiving Gibson ''is not the same thing as forgiving Lindsay Lohan for partying too late'', says Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, author of Starstruck: The Business of Celebrity and an associate professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. ''Anti-Semitism is not just behaving badly.'' While the 58-year-old still directs and acts, recently starring with Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables 3, major studios ''are either wary of him or prefer not to work with him'', says Deadline Hollywood film editor Michael Fleming. ''I am surprised this has lasted this long. The guy has made a lot of people a lot of money.''

The back-and-forth by commentators on Weiner's piece boils down to a question of whether what someone says or does off-screen, however repugnant, should have any effect on his fitness to make movies. Gibson is a long-running case in point. The hits to his reputation are not limited to those from his tirade about Jews being ''responsible for all the wars in the world'', delivered as he was arrested in 2006 in Malibu, California. In 2010, audio tapes surfaced of threats, laced with racial epithets, he made to his then girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. The next year, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge after a dispute with Grigorieva, the mother of his youngest child.

In 2004, he came under fire for what the Anti-Defamation League and others saw as anti-Semitism in The Passion of the Christ, a blockbuster he directed, co-produced and co-wrote. He reacted to a Frank Rich column about it in The New York Times by telling The New Yorker: ''I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick. I want to kill his dog.''  In 1992, he offended the gay community with remarks in a Spanish newspaper interview and later told Playboy that he would apologise ''when hell freezes over''.

He did apologise after his Malibu arrest for what he said were his ''vitriolic and harmful words'', and, after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor drink-driving charge, was sentenced to three years' probation. Alan Nierob, a Rogers & Cowan publicist who represents Gibson, says his client should be allowed back in the fold. ''People should know that he is now healthy once again, both physically and mentally, after suffering a breakdown,'' Nierob says. ''He is an artistic genius, and the industry should benefit once again from his enormous talent.''

Weiner, describing herself as an observant Jew, wrote in Deadline Hollywood that Gibson today ''is clearly a different man, one who has worked on his sobriety since that awful night in Malibu''. The movie industry, she said, is hypocritical, willing to ''work with others who've committed felonies and done things far more serious than Gibson''.  She cited Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist who has been in the Hangover films. Gibson was dropped from a cameo in The Hangover Part II in 2010 after ''a lot of people'' working on the film protested, director Todd Phillips told the Hollywood Reporter.  ''Gibson has been shunned not for doing anything criminal; his greatest offences amount to use of harsh language,'' Weiner wrote. She says she chose to publish it on the 10th anniversary of The Passion of the Christ, which she describes as ''about an innocent man's willingness to forgive the greatest injustice''.

The independent release grossed $612 million at the box office, and Gibson personally made $210 million in 2004, according to Forbes.  His fortune was estimated at $850 million by the Los Angeles Business Journal, and People magazine reported that his 2011 divorce halved that. In recent years, Weiner says, Gibson has befriended rabbis, attended Passover seders and donated to Jewish causes. He invited to coffee the Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy who took him into custody in Malibu. He was at Weiner's son's bar mitzvah, where she says he charmed her family. ''My friendship with Gibson made me reconsider other celebrities whose public images became tarnished by the media's rush to judge,'' Weiner wrote. ''Whether it's Gibson, Tom Cruise or Alec Baldwin, the descent from media darling to pariah can happen quickly after they do something dumb.'' Hollywood is littered with stars who fell from grace - Charlie Sheen after a rant against the producer of Two and a Half Men, Robert Downey jnr after arrests for illegal drug use, Cruise after jumping on Oprah's couch and admonishing Brooke Shields for treating her postpartum depression with pharmaceuticals - and who bounced back.

Downey, Gibson's co-star in Air America in 1990, has been among his staunch defenders. He asked that Gibson be on stage to present him with a life-achievement award from American Cinematheque in 2011, and said in his acceptance speech that his friend deserved from Hollywood the same forgiveness it had afforded him. Gibson had helped revive Downey's career when he was considered uninsurable, by paying his insurance bond for 2003's The Singing Detective. Gibson rose to international fame with the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon films, and won Oscars in 1995 for best picture and best director for Braveheart, in which he also starred. He garnered acclaim for Apocalypto, about the end of Mayan civilisation, which he financed through his Icon Productions. Disney distributed it. Released five months after the Malibu arrest, it did well at the box office. ''Say what you will about him - about his problem with booze or his problem with Jews - he is a serious filmmaker,'' wrote New York Times critic A.O. Scott. One of Gibson's big hits as an actor before Malibu was Signs, a 2002 thriller by M. Night Shyamalan that grossed $228 million. One of his biggest flops was The Beaver in 2011 with Jodie Foster. He bypassed cinemas with Get the Gringo in 2012, releasing it on pay-television. Last year, he starred with Sheen in Machete Kills, which was not a critical or commercial success.  In Hollywood, ''there are some who may forgive and some who never will,'' says Michael Sitrick, chairman and chief executive of Sitrick Brincko Group, a Los Angeles-based public relations and crisis-management firm that has represented rapper Chris Brown, baseball player Alex Rodriguez and socialite Paris Hilton. ''It's not about spin. It has to be genuine.''  (Anousha Sakoui, SMH, March 23, 2014)

 

Science and the Environment

 

The heat is on, but rain's still a mystery

AUSTRALIA is getting hotter and the window for bushfires is growing but there is no clear trend in heavy rainfall or cyclones, according to the biannual climate report released today by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.

The State of the Climate report said the nation's average temperatures had increased by almost 1C during the past century, with seven of the 10 hottest years occurring since 1998. This compares with average surface temperatures on a global scale, where nine of the 10 warmest years have occurred since 2002. Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Karl Braganza said it was not possible to compare continental and global surface temperatures because of the influence of oceans at the global scale.  According to the report, rising average temperatures were occurring against the background of high climate variability, "but the signal is clear". "Warming has seen Australia experiencing more warm weather and extreme heat, and fewer cool extremes," the report said. "There has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and a longer fire season, across large parts of Australia."  (Graham Lloyd, The Australian, March 04, 2014)

 

Charles compares climate sceptics to headless chickens

PRINCE Charles yesterday branded climate change deniers as “headless chickens.”  In an inflammatory speech, the heir to the throne spoke out against “the barrage of sheer intimidation” from what he described as powerful interest groups.

Addressing young environmental entrepreneurs at Buckingham Palace, he said sceptics were turning accepted scientific wisdom on its head.  “It is baffling that in our modern world we have such blind trust in science and technology that we all accept what science tells us about everything until, that is, it comes to climate science,” he said.  “All of a sudden, and with a barrage of sheer intimidation, we are told by powerful groups of deniers that the scientists are wrong and we must abandon all ur faith in so many overwhelming scientific evidence.” 

Benny Peiser, of the climate-sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation, described he attack as aggressive and contentious. Charles’s scathing attack came as The Environment Agency issued six of the most serious “threat to life” warnings and more that 200flood alerts as rain and gales are set to batter Britain, bringing more flooding chaos.  More than 100 alerts have been issued in the south-east which has been worst hit by the floods in recent weeks.  Up to 40mm of rain is forecast in areas of the south-west and 120km/h gusts in conditions which forecasters say are likely to continue until mid-February.  (TheTelegraph.com, Feb. 2, 2014)

 

Death tolls rises as storms continue to batter Britain

THE death toll is rising as Britain’s weather bureau warns the nation is currently under “multi-pronged attack” — the worst since World War II.  Forecasters says the UK's unsettled weather that has brought heavy rain and flooding is set to stay.

In the biggest emergency services response since World War II the UK was again pummelled by torrential rain, winds up to 140km/hr ripping roofs off buildings, seas over 10m high on the south coast about Dorset and even snow blizzards about Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland causing havoc . . .   The Atlantic storm, caused by cold polar air clashing with warmer moist air from the tropics travelling further north than usual, struck the west of the country about Cornwall early yesterday morning. Shipping containers being used as a temporary sea wall were breached causing further flooding and evacuations. The storm is combining over the Atlantic with the one that has dumped as much as 101cms of snow in parts of the US. Satellite images from NASA’s Worldview shows the monster storms swirling ‘arm-in-arm’ across the ocean.

Become friends ... The storm that dumped snow and ice across the US has linked with the weather system battering England's south.  By the end of this weekend, a further 3000 homes in the UK could be flooded with 24 severe ”danger to life” warnings being issued by authorities.  More than 1000 people along the River Thames, hitting its highest level since 1947, west of London were evacuated as the river broke its banks in various places . . .  But it’s the sodden watertable after more than four weeks of persistent rain that caused chaos, the ground unable to cope with even more and pushing water back through street drains, home sinks and even toilets. Five centimetres of rain fell in just six hours on the south coast. The Environment Agency’s head of strategy Pete Fox said the headline threat was far from over with rain on one side of the country set to affect the other side in two or three days time with “unprecedented” groundwater levels.  “Those high levels are going to maintain for weeks and cause flood risk for weeks to come yet, into March and beyond,” he said.  “On the Thames, we have been advising that the number of properties we are expecting to flood is in the high hundreds, but because the flood plain is so wide a 20mm change in water levels make the difference between high hundreds and maybe two or three thousand.”  The Met Office described the weather as a multi-pronged attack with almost every pocket of the UK experiencing significant downpours, gale-force winds or snow.  Severe gales, large waves and high sea levels were also threatening coastal flooding on the Dorset coast and landslides . . .

More than 2200 soldiers were deployed across England, including Gurkhas, who had been based in Brunei, brought in to erect flood barriers west of London about Staines. They were joined by sailors from HMS Collingwood who were also sent out to sandbag properties against rising Thames tides.  More than 5000 homes have been flooded since December when the unprecedented storm band began. Rainfall is at the highest levels for 250 years.  The headline in The Times yesterday says it all: “A Nation Unites” as the royal family join thousands of military and emergency personnel and volunteers to hold the country together.  (Charles Miranda, News Limited Network, February 15, 2014)

 

UK panics 0ver climate

LONDON: After summer floods, droughts, freezing winters and even widespread snow in May this year, the Met Office has called a crisis meeting to discuss the cause of Britain’s extreme weather.   Leading meteorologists and scientists will try to determine the cause of the unseasonal weather spells – and whether it’s down to climate change, or just typical.  It follows the coolest sprig in more than 50 years, as well as droughts and floods in 2012, the freezing winter of 2010 and incredible snow falls across the continent last month. 

Experts will gather at the forecaster’s headquarters in Exeter on Tuesday for the meeting. Attendees are expected to debate whether the changing weather pattern in the UK, and in northern Europe, is because of climate change or simply variable weather.

“We have seen a run of unusual seasons in the UK and northern Europe, such as the cold winter of 2010, last year’s wet weather and the cold spring this year,’ a Met Office spokesman said.  “This may be nothing more than a run of natural variability, but there may be other forces impacting our weather.  “There is emerging research which suggests there is a link between declining Arctic sea ice and European climate – but exactly how this process might work and how important it may be among a host of other factors remains unclear. Experts will identify what further research is needed and discuss whether climate models need to be revised to take into account any recent changes to weather patterns.  It comes after the National Farmers’ Union reported that wheat harvests are likely to be around 30 per cent lower than last year. 

Earlier his month the Met Office said below average temperatures throughout March, April and May made it the fifth coldest spring in national records dating back to 1910.  March was “exceptionally” cold, averaging 2.2C. In more bad news, this week forecasters warned unsettled and wet conditions could last until the end of July and into August.

The last two weeks of warmer, clear days have been replaced by erratic conditions, including rain and high winds of up to 5km/h, interspersed with pockets of warm, sunny and dry periods. Forecasters have attributed the unpredictable stretch – which is being caused by a south shifting jet stream – to just another “typical British summer”. 

The “blink and you’d miss it summer” is the latest in six months of unsettled weather, including a particularly bitter winter, and unseasonably cold spring, which saw the coldest Easter Sunday on record. (Sunday Telegraph, June 6, 2013)               

 

US South hit by ‘catastrophic’ winter storm and blackouts

ACROSS America, winter-weary residents have been hit by yet another ice storm, with forecasters warning of potentially “catastrophic’’ weather events — and at least one documented case of ‘snow plough rage’.  From Texas to the South’s business hub in Atlanta, roads were slick with ice, thousands were without power, and a wintry mix fell in many areas.  The Weather Channel reported that more than 167,000 customers were without power in Georgia, while nearly 158,000 were without power in neighbouring South Carolina.  A further 70,000 people were blacked out in North Carolina and 33,000 in Louisiana.  The Mid-Atlantic region also was expected to be hit.  Officials and forecasters in several states used unusually dire language in warnings, and they agreed that the biggest concern is ice, which could knock out power for days in wide swathes.  Elected leaders and emergency management officials warned people to stay off the roads. It seemed many in the metro Atlanta area obliged, with streets and highways uncharacteristically unclogged Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Tuesday evening from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s special operations centre, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed implored people to get somewhere safe and stay there.  “The message I really want to share is ... wherever you are, you need to plan on staying there for a while,’’ Mr Reed said. “The bottom line is that all of the information that we have right now suggests that we are facing an icing event that is very unusual for the metropolitan region and the state of Georgia.’’

In an early Wednesday memo, the National Weather Service called the storm “an event of historical proportions.’’  It continued: “Catastrophic ... crippling ... paralysing ... choose your adjective.’’  Eli Jacks, a meteorologist with National Weather Service, said forecasters use words such as “catastrophic’’ sparingly.  “Sometimes we want to tell them, ‘Hey, listen, this warning is different. This is really extremely dangerous, and it doesn’t happen very often,’’’ Mr Jacks said.

Around the Deep South, slick roads were causing problems. In North Texas, at least four people died in traffic accidents on icy roads, including a Dallas firefighter who was knocked from an Interstate 20 ramp and fell 15 metres, according to a police report.  Also in Texas, an accident involving about 20 vehicles was reported Tuesday along an icy highway overpass just north of Austin.  Delta cancelled nearly 2200 flights on Tuesday and Wednesday, most of them in Atlanta.  ( AP, February 13, 2014)

 

IPCC to deliver ‘darkest’ draft yet

UN scientists are set to deliver their darkest report yet on the impacts of climate change, pointing to a future stalked by floods, drought, conflict and economic damage if carbon emissions go untamed. A draft of their report, seen by the news organisation AFP, is part of a massive overview by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, likely to shape policies and climate talks for years to come. Scientists and government representatives will meet in Yokohama, Japan, from tomorrow to hammer out a 29-page summary. It will be unveiled with the full report on March 31. “We have a lot clearer picture of impacts and their consequences ... including the implications for security,” said Chris Field of the US’s Carnegie Institution, who headed the probe.  The work comes six months after the first volume in the long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report declared scientists were more certain than ever that humans caused global warming.  It predicted global temperatures would rise 0.3C-4.8C this century, adding to roughly 0.7C since the Industrial Revolution. Seas will creep up by 26cm-82cm by 2100. The draft warns costs will spiral with each additional degree, although it is hard to forecast by how much.

Warming of 2.5C over pre-industrial times — 0.5C more than the UN’s target — may cost 0.2-2.0 per cent of global annual income, a figure that could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars each year. “The assessments that we can do at the moment probably still underestimate the actual impacts of future climate change,” said Jacob Schewe of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was not involved in the IPCC drafting.  Many scientists concurred, he said, that recent heatwaves and floods were evidence of climate change already on the march — and a harbinger of a future in which once-freakish weather events become much less rare. Among the perils in the draft: Rising greenhouse-gas emissions will “significantly” boost the risk of floods, with Europe and Asia particularly exposed. In the highest warming scenarios of untamed greenhouse gas emissions, three times as many people will be exposed to severe river flooding as with lower warming.  For every 1C rise in temperature, another 7 per cent of the world’s population will see renewable water resources decline by a fifth.

If no measures are taken, “hundreds of millions” of coastal dwellers will be displaced by 2100. Small-island states and East, Southeast and South Asia will be the biggest land-losers.  Average yields of wheat, rice and corn may fall by 2 per cent per decade, while demand for crops is likely to rise by up to 14 per cent by 2050 as population grows. The crunch will hit poor, tropical countries worst.  A “large fraction” of land and freshwater species may risk extinction, their habitat destroyed by climate change. Poverty, migration and hunger are invisible drivers of turbulence and war, as they sharpen competition for dwindling resources, the report warns. (AFP, March 24, 2014)

 

Ten ways you personally will notice the effects of climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest major update claims the effects of a changing climate are being felt across the globe.  On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its latest report on the impacts of global warming. Here are 10 ways that climate change will affect you in your home.

1. Rising power bills from using your airconditioner: With temperatures set to rise between 0.6 and 1.5 degrees by 2030, your airconditioner use will become a significant expense. On the plus side your heating costs will most likely go down. Heating and cooling account for 15 to 25 per cent of a typical Sydney household's electricity use.

2. Warmer temperatures overnight: Pack away your doona as evening temperatures are also predicted to increase in the future. Since 2001, extreme heat records at night have outnumbered extreme cold records by 5 to 1, which may make sleeping more difficult for some.

3. Crowded beaches: Rising sea levels will put extra pressure on our beaches. Storm surges will continue to cause erosion, adding to the reduced shoreline from higher sea levels. Where will you put your towel?

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4. High-speed windscreen wipers: Rainfalls are likely to increase in intensity. This will mean more flash flooding and need for the high-speed setting on your windscreen wipers as short, sharp downpours become part of life.

5. Infrastructure chaos: City infrastructure struggles at the best of times but you can expect more rail outages due to extreme heat, water shortages due to failures in treatment plants from bushfires or floods and airport delays due to storms.

6. Going on a holiday? You better visit some of your favourite local attractions soon because many won't stay the same for long. Ocean acidification and rising temperatures are expected to have a significant effect on the Great Barrier Reef. The Gold Coast has been identified as a hotspot of vulnerability due to the concentration of coastal development. The Kakadu wetlands may be subject to increased saltwater intrusion from higher sea levels, affecting the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

7. Increases in food prices: If the driest future scenarios eventuate, there will be increased pressure on the Murray Darling Basin – where one-third of our food supply is produced.

8. How does your garden grow? If you're a green thumb, you've probably noticed changes to the flowering time of some plants. Warmer temperatures mean some species will bloom earlier and for longer, while other plants will wither and die in the heat. Last year in Sydney, the magnolias came into bloom about four weeks earlier than usual due to the mild weather.

9. High fire danger: The number of days with very high and extreme fire weather is expected to increase. In Sydney the extreme values of the fire danger index have increased by about 2 per cent per decade over the past 30 years. Implications include increased building costs in bushfire risk zones and more pressure on already stretched firefighting services.

10. Staying out of the heat: An increase in heatwaves will most likely result in more admission to hospital and deaths from heat-related illnesses. In the 2009 Victorian heatwave in the week before the Black Saturday bushfires, the number of emergency call-outs to ambulances in Melbourne increased by almost 50 per cent over the three hottest days. (Fiona Johnson, SMH, March 31, 2014; Fiona Johnson is a University of NSW lecturer. She is Fairfax scientist-in-residence, organised by the Australian Science Media Centre)

 

Blame the brain

A new branch of law is exploring the complex relationship between neuroscience and crime.

After an argument with his elderly mother about his smoking, Terrence Kain strangled her to death. Then, he phoned his sister. "Mum's dead," he told her. "I strangled her. She's dead."  Kain, of Goulburn in NSW, openly admitted to killing his mother. While the confession may make it seem like an open-and-shut case with a clear murder verdict, that was not what the court decided.  In sentencing the 48-year-old earlier this year, Justice Michael Adams said while Kain realised he was seriously hurting his mother, he had not intended to kill or harm her.

Kain had a history of heavy drinking. He had also had one of his legs amputated after shooting himself and, most importantly for his defence, he suffered from chronic brain damage and dementia.  In other words, if it had not been for his brain damage, Kain would never have harmed his mother. The court accepted he was not in control of his actions and he was charged with manslaughter, rather than murder, eligible for release in 2015.  As more is uncovered about the complexities of the brain and its role in behaviour, neuroscience is increasingly coming into play in court cases such as Kain's. Neuroscience and behavioural genetics, which aims to uncover the role of genetics in determining behaviour, are making criminal sentencing harder. The interaction between those fields with civil and criminal law is known as neurolaw, and it is attracting increasing interest from lawyers, neuroscientists, behavioural geneticists, forensic psychiatrists, forensic psychologists and philosophers.  Allan McCay, a former associate solicitor with global law firm Baker and McKenzie, is involved in constructing the first Australian neurolaw database at Macquarie University's Centre for Agency Value and Ethics in Western Australia. It aims to establish how neurolaw is playing out in Australia and provide a resource for legal practitioners, legal academics and philosophers involved in complex cases.  "Is what we do just a matter of luck in how we are constituted, and down to events relating to neurotransmitters and enzymes in our brain?" McCay asks. "If this picture of us is correct, are we really responsible for what we do? Some of the questions raised by neuroscience bring us close to the free will debate that has perplexed philosophers throughout the ages.  "The interest in these issues goes beyond purely legal interest and into philosophy, as some of the issues that are raised in neuroscience cases call into question our place in the world."  Using scientific evidence, however, is not always easy. While studies in behavioural genetics show certain gene and environment combinations correlate with antisocial conduct, many of the studies have not been replicated, which raises questions about their reliability.  "But even if the science is credible, then one might ask: what can be inferred from it about a person's moral and legal responsibility for what they have done?" McCay says. "Another question is that of the degree to which the law does and should care about the degree of responsibility of blameworthiness.   "Perhaps the law should focus more on protecting others from the dangerous. Science cannot answer the further questions like this. The answers have to come from ethics and law."  In 2000, renowned American neuroscientist and director of the University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Centre, Russell Swerdlow, published a patient case study that has become famous in the field of neurolaw. 

In the journal Archives of Neurology, Swerdlow wrote that a 40-year-old married schoolteacher began to have a sexual interest in children seemingly out of the blue. The teacher downloaded and viewed child pornography. When his stepdaughter complained that he was making sexual advances towards her, the man was arrested.  A court ordered him to go through a rehabilitation program if he wanted to avoid jail, but he continued to make advances towards the staff there and was expelled. Because he had failed the program, he would need to face the court and jail time again.  However, the night before sentencing, he went to a hospital emergency department complaining of headaches. He urinated on himself, sexually harassed staff, could no longer write legibly and spoke about wanting to rape his landlady.  A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan revealed the teacher had a large, egg-sized orbitofrontal tumour on an area of his brain associated with social behaviour. Surgeons removed the tumour and his criminal behaviour ceased. He successfully completed the sexual rehabilitation program and it was determined that he was no longer a threat to society. Yet one year later, he was discovered collecting child pornography again. He also complained that his headaches had returned. A scan revealed the tumour had regrown. It is thought that while everyone has hidden desires and urges, they are able to keep a lid on them through the area of the brain that controls decision-making and behaviour. With this area impaired, that lid was completely lifted in the man, taking away his ability to control his hidden and inappropriate urges.

Swerdlow was among those treating the man and said while abnormal behaviour was quite commonly seen in patients with brain tumours, it was the first case he knew of that had led to paedophilia. He provided a testimony at the man's sentencing.

"I never maintained he should be blamed or not blamed for his actions," Swerdlow says. "I was in a position that allowed me to be impartial and non-judgmental.  "I simply pointed out his behaviour probably would not be expected to have happened in the absence of the tumour, and also pointed out that surgery, rather than incarceration, was more likely to bring about the desired outcome – to no longer pose a threat to others."  However, a complicating factor in the case was that although the patient seemed unable to control his urges, he was aware his behaviour was wrong. So if actions are determined by how well the brain is working, what does that say about free will? It's a murky area that needs to be considered in each case like this.  This complexity occurred in a similar case in the United States, where a previously law-abiding man began to download child pornography after surgery to remove a piece of his brain to treat severe epilepsy. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Kluver-Bucy syndrome, caused by damage to the anterior temporal lobes in the brain and leading to irresistible urges for food and sex.  Although he downloaded the illegal material at home, he never did so while at work. The prosecution argued this showed he was in control of his behaviour at least some of the times, and he had an obligation and the capacity to take responsibility and seek help. But instead he wasn't found out until federal police discovered his downloads and turned up to arrest him.  While he was sentenced to a federal prison for two years, the prosecution had pushed to lock him away for five. In the end, the judge agreed the man had shown some evidence of being in control of his actions, at least while at work.  Since writing about this case, Swerdlow says he has occasionally been asked to review other court cases by defence lawyers, but often, using neurolaw is inappropriate and people may try to abuse the field.  "Most of the time I have told the defence lawyers I suspect at face value I would not be able to help them – the claims were kind of silly. It is my impression, though, that this type of legal defence is being tried more and more often."  (Melissa Davey, SMH, February 3, 2014)

 

Economics

 

Hollande’s old-school network brings France to its knees

LIKE advancing sclerosis they have taken over the body of state, occupying company boardrooms and government ministries. Not even the President has been able to break their pernicious stranglehold on France. He, too, is of their number.

Meet the Enarques , as the elite graduates of the ENA, or the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, are known. They are France’s highly academic but often incompetent ruling caste and, despite decades of grumbling about their influence, it appears to be growing. Consider President Francois Hollande’s recent government reshuffle in response to calamitous losses in local elections: it demonstrates the clout of a particular clique of Enarques who graduated in 1980 and, ever since, have been working their way into positions of power. Known as the Promotion Voltaire” — each year’s graduates, like vineyards, get an appellation — members include not only Hollande but also Segolene Royal, the mother of his children.

A photograph of the class of 1980 tells the whole story.  Standing beside the young Hollande is Sylvie Hubac, today his principal private secretary. Next to her stands Royal, now the environment minister and No 3 in the government. Not far away is a youthful Michel Sapin, Minister of Finance.  Hollande’s best friend, Jean-Pierre Jouyet, who became the President’s chief of staff, is also there. He replaced another classmate from the Promotion Voltaire, Pierre-Rene Lemas, who was shunted into Jouyet’s former job at the head of a prestigious government fund. About 50 per cent of Hollande’s cabinet went to the ENA and a handful of other “grandes ecoles”, highly selective, elite schools operating outside the woefully underperforming university system.

Filled exclusively with students who excel at maths and have been groomed by ambitious parents since primary school, these hallowed establishments feed France’s embassies and boardrooms. A recent survey found 84 per cent of the top 546 executives in France had graduated from them. Does it matter? According to some observers, France’s elitism is to blame for many of its difficulties today. The IMD business school in Lausanne puts France 47th out of 59 countries for government efficiency.  Other surveys show that in companies dominated by a “school tie” network, executives are overpaid and tend to underperform.  “If France were a brilliantly run country nobody would bother where its leaders went to school,” said Peter Gumbel, the author of France's Got Talent: The Woeful Consequences of French Elitism. “But it is not.”  Whereas Britain has evolved, says Gumbel, and the dominance of its “Oxbridge” elite has declined over the past few decades, France has not.

Compared to Oxford and Cambridge, which produce several thousand graduates a year, the ENA turns out only 80, ranked according to excellence, and the Ecole Polytechnique, known to alumni simply as “X”, another 400. All are guaranteed jobs for life in the administration.  The ENA was created after the last war as a fast track for brainy young citizens into the civil service. For a while they delivered: such was France’s post-war economic success that the next 30 years came to be known as the “trente glorieuses”. Things are different today: not since France beheaded its aristocrats in the revolution in 1789 has its elite been more despised.  One of the reasons is the sense of a self-perpetuating caste cut off from reality and insulated from the hardships of economic crisis. Just as resented as the political and business elites are the cultural and media worlds: to the general public both seem permanently intertwined.  The media has been accused of neglecting events because journalists are often either married to, or sleeping with, ministers and are reluctant to betray their secrets. Valerie Trierweiler, the former “first girlfriend”, was a political reporter for Paris Match when she met Hollande.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy saw value in enlisting the world of showbiz but his marriage to Carla Bruni, the singer, fuelled criticism of him as “President Bling Bling”. Then Hollande, who had vowed to be “President Normal”, left Trierweiler for Julie Gayet, an actress who had sung his praises in his election campaign.  The romance between Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg and the actress Elsa Zylberstein surprises no one, nor do the recent photographs of Alain Delon, the 1960s film idol, strolling arm in arm in Paris with Trierweiler.  One of Hollande’s latest appointments was Manuel Valls and some see in the new Prime Minister a glimmer of hope for ending the sclerosis that has long gripped the French state.  Valls ranks as an outsider, not only because he was born in Spain but also because he did not go to any of the right schools — a handicap that may soon prove an advantage.  (Matthew Campbell, The Times, April 14, 2014)

 

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 I've always thought The Art of War, the ancient Chinese treatise on military tactics, was a book primarily read by corporate psychopaths. Or at least that it was a book bought for such men by their wives, so they could feature it prominently on their bookshelves.

''All warfare is based on deception," a Wolf-of-Wall-Street-type might mutter to himself as he makes a trade on an insider tip.

''To know your enemy, you must become your enemy," he whispers as he shorts a juicy stock.

But it seems Paul Howes, the head of the Australian Workers Union, has also been taking notes from the playbook of Sun Tzu.

The most telling line of Howes' speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday came towards the end.

''Nothing throws a sworn enemy off their guard quicker than a genuine concession,'' he said gnomically.  He went on to give a genuine (sounding) concession by saying that ''the union side'' of the industrial relations divide could admit there had been a pattern of unsustainable wages growth in ''some parts of the economy''. He singled out the ''leapfrog wage outcomes'' in the offshore sector as unsustainable for the long term. ''We could be pricing ourselves out of the market,'' he said.

Howes also suggested that unions and business extend a hand to each other to negotiate a ''grand compact'' to rein in high wages and lift productivity. This invited comparisons with the famous Hawke/Keating Accord, and evoked strong headlines, as Howes must have known it would. Howes used his speech to argue, very reasonably indeed, that the last decade or so of industrial relations had been a see-saw: each side biding its time before the pendulum swung back, at which point it could use the momentum to exploit its enemy. As a consequence, neither business nor the unions has any certainty, and productivity has suffered.  But it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Howes' speech was an assault-dressed-as-peace-offering, timed because he knows the union movement is currently on the wrong end of the see-saw.

Union membership is at an all time low (20 per cent of full-time employees belong to a union). Anti-union sentiment is strong, and not just on the conservative side of politics, where the government has this week asked the Fair Work Commission to assess whether the minimum terms and conditions built into awards are still relevant, and where an internal Liberals dispute has erupted over whether or not workers' wages and conditions at the SPC Ardmona cannery are too generous. Howes tacitly acknowledged this ill-sentiment when he criticised the aggressively macho, bikie-and-thug-flecked elements of the movement (a not-so-subtle dig at the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union), and when he used loaded language to decry the union ''traitors'' who rip off their members.  One of these alleged traitors is former MP and Health Services Union boss Craig Thomson, against whom no one in Labor or the union movement's leadership spoke until he moved to the cross-benches in 2012. The allegations against him had been around since about 2008.

Former prime minister Julia Gillard inflicted irreparable damage on Labor by continuing to support Thomson as the stench of his alleged corrupt dealings grew stronger. Gillard was then damaged by historic allegations against her from her time working as a solicitor for the Australian Workers Union. There was absolutely no evidence Gillard had done anything wrong, but it brought to light yet another union corruption scandal with tendrils encircling the government. Gillard's puzzling stance against same-sex marriage was put down, by many, to her reliance on the support of Joe de Bruyn, the head of the conservative Labor Right Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. And, of course, she was famously backed into the job by a coalition of Labor Right factional warriors, with Howes among them.

If the union movement has a ''brand'', then six years of Labor government did a lot to tarnish it. Its reputation will only take a further battering when the federal government establishes a formal judicial inquiry, possibly a royal commission, into union corruption, on which an announcement is expected as early as next week.  Howes knows this, which is why he made a bold effort on Wednesday to get out in front of the bad press, to move the conversation away from union corruption and onto his reasonable-sounding idea of a ''grand compact'' between unions, business and government.  Howes was presenting as a peacenik who just wants to sit down with business/government; if they don't want to, well, they are the recalcitrant ones, not him. As my Age colleague Ben Schneiders wrote on Thursday, this is in contrast to Howes' previous rhetoric towards business, which has been insulting in the extreme.  In 2011 he accused Rio Tinto of ''sucking the blood'' out of its workforce and warned the company's management: ''You cannot hide behind your slimy, grubby mates in the Coalition because we're coming after you.''  Would you sit down at the table with someone who spoke to you like that?

The idea of a ''grand compact'' is a grand gesture, easily made because it's very unlikely to ever be accepted by a Coalition government, or by business. And while Howes said that ''the industrial relations system is dragging us down'', the only specific area of possible concession he named was the high wages in the offshore sector - this is the lowest-possible hanging fruit. High offshore sector wages is hardly a mainstream, ''middle Australia'' issue, and as the mining boom tapers off it will be less of a problem anyway.  When asked about Howes' ''grand compact'' idea on Thursday, the Prime Minister sounded unconvinced. ''That was very 1980s, all of that,'' Tony Abbott said. Despite Coalition assurances to the contrary before the election campaign, it does appear the government is preparing a push on minimum wages and conditions, including penalty rates.  This is despite the fact that economy-wide, wages growth is at historically low levels (a point Howes made in his speech, and which is true across the world).  The union movement cannot afford to get stuck in the '80s - unable to admit that the economy is now digital and seven-days-a-week. The stakes for workers are too high.  Howes made some interesting noises this week, but it is difficult to believe he wants to lay down arms in the unions-versus-capital war.  More likely he is taking another piece of Sun Tzu's centuries-old advice: ''Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak."  (Jacqueline Maley, SMH, February 8, 2014)

 

How unions manipulate us

UNION membership in Australia might halve overnight if all state governments outlawed payroll deduction of union fees and the federal government outlawed the forcible unionisation of small business by big business.

Unions have always foreseen that such laws might pass. For decades the ACTU has been trying to insure against widespread membership losses by training union officials by the “organising model”, a technique learned from US unionists.

With various degrees of success, Australian unions have been making the transition from the “servicing model” to the organising model.

Unions believe that only those who make this transition will survive D-day, the day government and corporate support evaporates.

The servicing model is where members of unions see themselves as clients who receive services from the union. The problem with the servicing model is that when members are dissatisfied with services they leave the union. This is unsatisfactory for the union hierarchy.

The organising model is where every member is turned from a client into an activist. Members are persuaded they actually are “the union”.

That way, when the union fails them, they have only failed themselves. Hence, resigning union membership doesn’t rectify the failure. The failure is rectified by becoming a better activist and recruiting workmates to participate in the activism and join the union. This is satisfactory for the union hierarchy. The organising model unionises unionised workplaces via an “organising campaign”.  Drawing from my own training experience and written material from a New York construction union, here is “organising campaign” theory:

There are four basic stages of a campaign.  The first stage is target selection and planning. Businesses are “primary targets” and are discussed: who is growing, who supplies existing union sites, who is bidding for government or business contracts, who has a social connection to a union leader.  Once a target is selected an “organising plan” is drawn up. The plan must include both “bottom-up pressure” and “top-down pressure” to be used against the employer.  Bottom-up pressure is when workers participate in and grow the campaign.

Top-down pressure is when people in high places who have the “ability to alter the behaviour” of the employer apply force. For example, a state government may make it clear a good relationship with unions is needed to get a grant or work contract.  The second stage is to “engage contact”. Any existing members are recruited into the campaign.  If there are no members, a way into the workplace via social means is found. Social media can be used to initiate contact or the workplace is watched to see where people go at lunchtime or after work.  A union official befriends workers on Facebook or bumps into them at a pub or coffee shop with the intent of striking up an acquaintance and securing a social meeting, to be held outside the workplace.  The goal of the first meeting is to identify any discontent with work and harvest information about the workplace so it can be “mapped”.  Chit-chat leads to talk about the workplace, how it runs, what the people are like and who the influencers are. Questioning leads to one crucial point: is there anything at all, no matter how small, the person doesn’t like about their work?  This topic is explored gently; how does it make them feel and may other workers feel the same way? If so, would they be agreeable to invite someone else from work to the next social meeting, just to talk?  The next meeting sees the process repeated. More and more meetings occur, always outside the workplace. The group grows over many months. The emotion attached to individual grievances about work is used as fire-starter material.  Eventually a collective fire of discontent rages against the boss: energy is harnessed, fear is abandoned and bold action is agreed on. When the emotional heat reaches its peak the third stage is achieved.  Bottom-up and top-down tactics are “deployed simultaneously”.

The union official enters the workplace, informs the employer that unionisation has occurred and tables a list of demands. At the same time, key people in high places inform the employer of their expectation to keep the union happy.

The final stage is reached when the union achieves “surrender by the employer that is being pressured”.  In my opinion, the evangelical organising technique is manipulative and verges on stalking.  Many union people feel the same way. Nevertheless, the leadership has determined the troops learn organising just in case the legislative change they fear ever occurs. After all, without the support of governments or corporations, unions would barely survive.  (Grace Collier, The Australian, March 22, 2014)

 

Labor must not allow itself to be a prisoner of unions

GIVEN two union leaders with senior roles in the Labor Party were sentenced to jail last week for stealing money, and a royal commission into union corruption is under way, you would think unions would be keeping a low profile. If they wanted to arrest the decline in membership — now just 13 per cent of the private-sector workforce — and regain any sort of influence, let alone respect, this would be a sensible strategy. But Tony Sheldon, national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, would prefer to trash the remaining morsel of credibility unions have left. Mr Sheldon has threatened a campaign of “civil disobedience” unless the TWU receives job guarantees from Qantas.

Sabre-rattling of this kind is to be expected from militant unionists. The problem for Mr Sheldon is that he is also Labor’s national vice-president. Worse, his rally was attended by Labor MPs, including federal deputy leader Tanya Plibersek. Does Ms Plibersek condone unionists wreaking havoc by blocking roads to stop travellers accessing airports? Moreover, does the Labor Party, in which Ms Plibersek and Mr Sheldon hold senior positions, support activity that skirts, if not breaks, the law? Unions are understandably concerned about possible job losses at Qantas. But the airline needs to cut costs and restructure its operations to save jobs, if not the airline itself. Union leaders and past MPs, who recognised the need to support the national interest rather than maintain fidelity to a fading cause, would understand this.

It underscores a larger problem for Labor: it has become a prisoner of the unions. The party, formed by organised labour in 1891, is today suffocated by these archaic links. Writing in these pages yesterday, former Labor national president Stephen Loosley suggested Labor should make votes at conferences — where unions are dominant — non-binding. This would help to break the union stranglehold on the party. Yet if delegates to state conferences remain half appointed by union secretaries, then the unions will continue to exercise undue influence over administrative bodies, the selection of candidates and officials and, critically, policy. There is no case for unions to appoint 50 per cent of conference delegates but represent only 18 per cent of all full-time employees. Nor is requiring party members to be union members justified.  Union influence inside Labor reached its apogee when Julia Gillard told the Australian Workers Union conference last year that she did not lead a social democratic party but a party of labour. Yet it was not a surprise given her government’s retrograde workplace and industry policies. Labor must rise to the challenge of reforming the party-union nexus. Bill Shorten, a former AWU national secretary, has not yet shown that he understands the problem or is prepared to fix it. (Editorial, The Australian, April 01, 2014)

 

Former Labor minister Ferguson backs Tony Abbott's planned changes to Fair Work Act

Labor elder statesman Martin Ferguson says the ALP should support the return of the Coalition's construction watchdog, industrial relations reforms and warned Australia's high labour costs and low productivity risk billions in revenue.  In comments that will embarrass Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and ramp up political pressure on Labor to pass workplace law changes through the Senate, the former Rudd and Gillard government minister and ACTU president belled the cat on the Coalition's government's ''modest'' reforms to Fair Work laws.  Mr Ferguson's intervention comes as the Coalition introduced a raft of changes to the Fair Work laws to the Parliament on Thursday that tighten right-of-entry rules for unions, allow employees to trade penalty rates for more flexible hours and close so-called ''strike first, talk later'' loopholes.  In a speech in Perth on Friday, the now chairman of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said complacency threatened 23 years of uninterrupted growth and that he was pleased ''sensible'' industrial relations reform was on the agenda.

While the future of gas investment had been ''all blue sky'' three years ago, he said billions in export revenue and taxation were at risk because of over-regulation.  ''High labour costs and low productivity are an unsustainable mix,'' Mr Ferguson said. ''And therefore elements of the Fair Work Act must be looked at.''  Mr Ferguson said the Coalition's plan to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission should be seen as a step that would encourage investment in Australia.

''Rather than seeing the ABCC as a tool that allows one side to get an upper hand over the other in some never-ending ideological skirmish, it should be seen for what it was: a mechanism that holds both sides to account and which can help deliver projects on time and on budget,'' he said.  ''As the son of a bricklayer, I know a thing or two about the building industry.  ''But it is time that some in today's union leadership recognised that their members' long-term interests are aligned with their long-term job security.''  Labor and the union movement are implacably opposed to the ABCC, which was introduced by the former Howard government after the Cole royal commission on the building industry and then abolished by the Gillard government.  The Abbott government argues the restoration of the ABCC is necessary to crack down on lawlessness and corruption in the building industry. In recent months, Fairfax Media has carried a series of reports linking the construction union and building industry figures with organised crime, extortion and corruption, helping to trigger a royal commission.

Mr Ferguson singled out the militant Maritime Union for a short-sighted approach to bargaining over pay and conditions as it sought to ratchet up wages and conditions for new ''greenfields'' projects and called for longer-term agreements to ensure major projects were delivered.

In Parliament, Leader of the House Christopher Pyne said the government's bill would assist businesses that faced excessive workplace visits from unions when employees were not union members, ensure good faith bargaining took place and ensure greater flexibility. (James Massola, SMH, February 28, 2014)

 

Toyota exit no cause for alarm

In the 1060s manufacturing accounted for about 25 per cent of all the jobs in Australia. But it’s been declining steadily since then and today it’s about 8 per cent. The obvious question is, why?  One advantage of getting old is meant to be a greater sense of perspective. You've seen a lot of change over your lifetime and seeing a bit more doesn't convince you the world is coming to an end. Unfortunately, getting old can also leave you convinced every change is for the worst as the world goes to the dogs.  A lot of people have been disturbed by the news that Toyota's closure as a car maker in 2017 will bring an end to the manufacture of cars in Australia, with the loss of many jobs also in the parts industry.

But my guess is the most disturbed observers will be the old, not the young. I doubt if many young people had been hoping for a career in the car industry. And I know that few people - young or old - buy Australian-made cars.  That's not a cause for guilt, but for being sensible. To regret the passing of an industry whose products few of us wanted is just sentimentality, making no economic sense. A lot of the dire predictions we're hearing won't come to pass. However many jobs the vested interests are claiming will be lost, they're almost certainly exaggerating.  That's particularly true of the alleged flow-on effects, which are often calculated on the assumption that any money which would have been spent buying the product in question will now not be spent on anything. I've never believed car making was of special strategic significance to advanced technology. Every industry claims to be special. And I've heard the claim that this spells ''the end of manufacturing in Australia'' too many times in the past to believe it.

You think 35,000 is a huge number of jobs to be lost? It isn't. It's 0.3 per cent of all jobs, equivalent to about two months' net job creation in a normal year. You think this could put the economy into recession? We're overdue for another recession but this isn't nearly big enough to be the main cause of one. Even if it was, it wouldn't happen until 2017.  It's true some of the workers who lose their jobs won't be able to find alternative jobs, and some that do won't find jobs as well paid. But far more will find jobs than many of us imagine. Naturally, it's important for governments to give affected workers a lot of help to retrain and relocate.  Some people assume an imported car creates no jobs. Far from it. Are you able to buy an imported car for anything like the price at which it crosses our docks? Of course not. Most of the gap between the landed price and the retail price goes on creating jobs for Australian workers in our extensive car-distribution industry.

The fact is the sale, fuelling, servicing and repair of cars has always involved far more jobs than the making of cars and car parts has.  I've been responding to people's fears about the decline in manufacturing for almost as long as I've been a journalist because manufacturing's share of total employment began declining well before I joined Fairfax in 1974.  The truth is the industrial structure of our economy has been changing slowly but continuously since the First Fleet. A lot of angst has been generated over that time but the fact remains we're infinitely more prosperous today than we were then - with a much higher proportion of the population in the paid workforce.

The changing mix of industries is actually a primary cause of our greater affluence. Countries that try to prevent their industry structure changing are the ones that stop getting richer.  To put the latest developments into context, let me show you the bigger picture of Australia's economic history, drawing on a Reserve Bank article. Throughout much of the 19th century, agriculture accounted for about a third of the nation's total production, with mining bigger than manufacturing.  By Federation, agriculture provided about 25 per cent of total employment, with manufacturing providing 15 per cent and mining about 8 per cent. By the 1950s, however, manufacturing had grown to 25 per cent, agriculture was falling towards 10 per cent and mining was down to 1 per cent.  So as the shares of agriculture and mining declined, manufacturing's rose. But from the 1960s, manufacturing's share of total employment started falling from its peak of about 25 per cent to be down to about 8 per cent today. Remember, however, that an industry's declining share of the total doesn't necessarily mean it's getting smaller in absolute size. Although today agriculture accounts for only about 3 per cent of the total, the quantity of rural goods we produce has never been higher. And manufacturing's output began falling only in recent years.

So an industry's share falls mainly because other industries are growing faster. And, with the exception of mining, the sector that has provided virtually all the growth is services. It accounted for half our jobs even in the 19th century, but from the 1950s, its share took off, rising sharply to about 85 per cent today. Most of the growth has been in health, education and a multitude of ''business services''.  Many older people find the relative decline of manufacturing disturbing but I can't see why. Services sector jobs tend to be cleaner, safer, more skilled, more value-adding, more satisfying and better paid. ((Ross Gittins, SMH, February 12, 2014).  Ross Gittins is economics editor.

 

Germany suspects its stolen cars travelling to Tajikistan

Berlin: What started as a technological aid to police has turned into an international diplomatic incident, as German authorities are now convinced that scores of high-end autos stolen here have ended up in the possession of those with family or business ties to the president of Tajikistan.  The Tajik government of President Emomali Rahmon has responded by saying it would look into the matter but called the allegations a "provocation" and "astounding."  The Tajikistan ambassador to Germany issued a statement noting that "German cars cross several state borders before reaching Tajikistan. Any falsified documents would have been discovered by customs services on those borders."  German press reports note that the German government has been quietly asking for help in resolving the issue since 2011.

It began with reports of 200 stolen cars, including 93 high-end BMWs. German press reports note that while car theft is common in the capital, helping police in these cases was the fact that the high-end cars had secretly embedded GPS systems, installed as anti-theft devices and programmed to self-activate if the car shows an unusual driving pattern.  Berlin detectives weren't surprised when the secret GPS reports indicated the cars had been stolen and taken outside of Germany.  Lots of cars get stolen in Germany and then hauled off to points around Eastern Europe. Poland is such a common destination for stolen cars that there are even rhyming poems about it: "Heute gestohlen, morgen in Polen" (Stolen today, tomorrow in Poland), or the Berliners' mocking and oft-repeated notion for a Polish tourism slogan, "Come to Poland, your car is already here."  Poland, after all, is only 50 miles from Berlin.  But when police looked at the stolen cars on computer maps, they were pinging from Tajikistan. Even for German stolen cars that was a bit unusual. And unusual for stolen cars here takes some doing. For instance, the Ukrainian justice minister drives a Mercedes-Benz stolen from Germany.  But these cars had passed beyond the Black and Caspian seas and then would have had to pass through either Russia or Iran to get to Tajikistan, on the northeastern edge of Afghanistan.  Berlin detectives went to Tajikistan and reported that the cars were being used by Mr Rahmon's inner circle. The German newspaper Bild reported that Tajik officials denied the German allegations, though they also refused to produce the purchase records for the vehicles. Earlier this year, the Tajik foreign minister canceled an official visit to Berlin as a protest against the allegations. (MCT/SMH, Dec 26, 2013)

 

PBS: Extreme winter weather causes widespread disruption for U.S. economy

The latest round of storms in the South and Northeast may be over, but places that have spent much of the winter digging out or bundling up are also feeling an economic bite. Mark Zandi of Moody’s Analytics joins Jeffrey Brown to discuss how cold, snow and serious drought have disrupted employment, retailers, housing and automakers, all still recovering from the recession.  

TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: This week’s storms in the North — or, rather, in the South and the Northeast were the latest punch to businesses, retailers, government offices and employees coping with a tough winter.

JEFFREY BROWN: It’s just the middle of February and many states have seen more than their usual share of snow days. Even in the Midwest and Plains states, where harsh winters are normal, there have been weeks where subzero temperatures have frozen activity.  Mark Zandi is watching and assessing the fallout as chief economist of Moody’s Analytics.

Well, Mark, generally, first, what kind of negative economic impact is the bad winter having so far?

MARK ZANDI, Moody’s Analytics: Well, it’s really hurt.

And it’s been really cold since early December, and now we’re getting a string of storms that are really disrupting economic activity. You can see it best in the job market. We lost roughly 50,000 jobs in the month of December because of the atypical weather, not quite that in January. And given what happened this last week, I expect we will lose 75,000 to 100,000 jobs in the month of February. So, it’s really hurting the economy at this point.

JEFFREY BROWN: And this goes beyond what’s normally accounted for already, the so-called seasonally adjusted type of assessment?

MARK ZANDI: Yes, that’s exactly right.

So, you know, obviously, in the wintertime, it’s cold and you don’t see as much economic activity normally. But we account for that. Economists account for that. The government statisticians account for that in their data. They seasonally adjust the data. But, obviously, the weather we have been getting is way outside of anything we see normally, and thus the impact on the economy is not typical. It’s much bigger than normal in the winter months.

JEFFREY BROWN: Break it down a little bit by sectors or types of businesses.

MARK ZANDI: Well, you know, it’s really — it’s hurt the auto industry a lot. Auto sales are way off. We got some industrial production data and auto production is down as a result. Anything, obviously, related to construction, housing — the housing recovery is just in its infancy, and this has put it back on its feet.

Retailing hit really hard, restaurants, travel, the airlines. If you move anything around, transportation, distribution, warehousing, that is stuff moving around, that gets disrupted, so widespread disruption. And I think one key thing is, since a lot of people in most of the country is having to spend a lot more just to heat their homes, they have a lot less to spend on everything else, and it hurts everybody else.

JEFFREY BROWN: We should mention, I guess, today is Valentine’s Day, so the candy and flower industries?

MARK ZANDI: Yes, you know, getting those cut flowers to the stores I’m sure is a little bit difficult where I’m from, here in Philadelphia. And just looking at the site, I went to buy wife a Valentine’s card and it was — it as crowded as it normally is. I’m sure Valentine’s is being disrupted as well.

JEFFREY BROWN: How about regionally?  Because, of course, one of the phenomena has been — hit the — place like the Southeast particularly hard.

MARK ZANDI: Yes, and it’s not — obviously, the Southeast generally doesn’t get this weather. I mean, we have had ice storms in Dallas and parts of Louisiana. Atlanta and Charlotte were basically — been basically shut down for a good part of the last few weeks. And so it’s been incredibly disruptive there. The Northeast has been real — hit really hard. Of course, in the Northeast, we’re more used to this, we’re prepared for it, but this is beyond the pale. Lots of people have lost power. And that’s affected their ability to do their work.

Even the Midwest, as you mentioned, it’s been brutally cold, so cold, that it has cut down on construction activity in that part of the country, which, normally, you know, they can weather a lot of weather. So — and it’s also important to point out, it’s not the winter, but we have got a big drought in California which is also having an impact.

JEFFREY BROWN: The — just finally, within the larger picture, just to put it in a larger context, Mark, the economy still struggling to get a foothold, right?  So how do you look at what is going on in these months as affecting that?

MARK ZANDI: Well, Jeff, you know, I — this is temporary. I mean, we will overcome this once we get more typical weather as we move into March and April. Things will bounce back.

You can’t get everything back. You can’t get those airline trips back, but — and those cut flowers for Valentine’s back, but we will get most of it back and the economy will get back on track. It’s just, obviously, very discouraging.

The recovery is now four-and-a-half years old, and it really hasn’t kicked into high gear. I thought that we would late last year, but the winter has really delayed things. But, ultimately, this economy is moving in the right direction, and I think once we get more typical weather, we will see that.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Mark Zandi, thanks so much.

MARK ZANDI: Thank you.  (PBS, February 14, 2014)

 

Realising farming boom potential

ONE of the consequences from the mining boom in Australia and its role in "saving" the country from the recession that beset other economies in the wake of the global financial crisis was the lack of attention to issues affecting the country's non-mining industries.   Next week The Australian hosts the second of its Global Food Forums, which will attempt to tackle some of the challenges facing Australian agribusiness. Or maybe more accurately, Australia's problems in grasping the opportunities presented by the rapidly growing middle classes of Asia and their demand for higher quality food -- and more of it.

Just how has Australia been able to produce global resource champions such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, yet in a country with abundant fertile land, high standards of food production and good relations with our Asian neighbours including China, it has been unable to produce a global agribusiness company like New Zealand's Fonterra? Or international grain trader Cargill from the US midwest?

The agricultural industry in Australia is one of the most efficient in the world, operating on a lower cost structure and lower levels of government subsidies than many other regions of the world, particularly North America and Europe.  One reason that Canada's Saputo paid more than $500 million for Warrnambool Cheese & Butter was to diversify beyond that country's high-cost dairy sector.  As Macquarie's head of agricultural funds management, Tim Hornibrook, who is a speaker at next week's conference, points out in today's paper, the industry in Australia is highly fragmented. The Australian farming industry, particularly the grains and dairy business, has its roots in small family farms. While this is not a new issue facing the global agricultural industry, the continued reliance on small fragmented units makes raising capital difficult and prevents step-change investments, research and development and large-scale innovation. It also puts a premium on developing strong industry bodies. Investing in agriculture is a long-term business, beset with weather shocks and the swings and roundabouts of the commodity cycle. However, few major Australian institutions now have any significant exposure to the industry.  One of the last big investors of note was AMP's long-standing investment in the Stanbroke Pastoral Company, which was sold in controversial circumstances for a cheap price more than a decade ago, adding to the apparently gloomy view of agriculture as an investment.

As Hornibrook points out, the mining industry is also beset with very big swings in commodity prices, yet investors in Australia still manage to cope with that.  Foreign investment in our agricultural and food industry is a critical source of capital but also of links to international markets and expertise.  Clearly, moves to reject foreign investment such as last year's bid by American-owned ADM bid for Graincorp, cannot be taken lightly. Political, industry and debate leaders need to ensure that this is a rare exception to an open for business rule.  As Hornibrook also comments, a lot of the day-to-day coverage of the farm business is about the latest piece of bad news -- be it drought or floods or debt.  The advantage of next week's conference is that it allows for a focus on the agricultural sector as an industry in its own right and will throw up debate on constructive ideas to take the industry forward.  This week's Deal magazine, which is published in The Australian on Friday, also seeks to talk to some of the speakers at the conference and other players in the industry.  Some of the themes to be debated include how to build Brand Australia as a name in the world food market.  Given the fragmented nature of the farming industry, what can be done to provide a more co-ordinated industry in the future?  Rebecca Dee-Bradbury, who had just stepped down as head of Mondelez (nee Kraft) and is a speaker at next week's conference, talks about the need for more collaboration within the food industry.  Dee-Bradbury points to the example of the establishment of the Food Innovation Centre in Melbourne.  The Deal's cover photo features Victorian wheat farmer Stewart Hamilton, whose family has been in the business for generations.  He loves farming and thinks there is a good news story to tell about the business.  There is no easy "mining boom" solution to developing the real potential of our agribusiness industries, but shining the spotlight on the issues is a start. ((Glenda Korporaal, The Australian, March 19, 2014. Glenda Korporaal is the editor of The Deal magazine)

 

National

 

Pension costs us way too much

THE last commission of audit recommended a cold bath for pensioners. Gough Whitlam’s 1972 benchmark that pensioners should receive a quarter of the average male full-time wage was no longer a relevant indicator of a minimum living standard and should be abandoned, it said.

The 1996 commission, headed by Melbourne University academic Bob Officer, gave the Howard government a number of options, starting with scrapping indexation of pensions altogether and agreeing to periodic reviews of their adequacy. If the government insisted on indexation, it would be preferable to link pensions to the consumer price index. If that was a step too far, pensions should be linked to “median” wages (the level that divides the workforce in half) rather than the average, which is skewed by very high income earners and which grows more rapidly.

The median wage is a little more than $50,000, whereas the average is closer to $85,000. Understanding the political clout of the pensioner lobby, John Howard rejected all options and instead enshrined the 25 per cent of average male earnings in legislation.

Since the previous audit report, the political influence of the aged lobby brought further improvements to the pension, which is now set at just less than 28 per cent of earnings, and consumes $40 billion or 10 per cent of all government spending.

The combination of these policy changes with baby boomers retiring and people living longer means total pension expenses have been rising by 11 per cent a year for the past decade. Taming this growth, which has paralleled increasingly generous concessions to superannuation, has been one of the highest priorities for the Abbott government’s commission of audit.  Despite the growth, Australia is not particularly generous to its elderly. The OECD records that the 3.5 per cent of GDP we spend on pensions is one of the lowest (only Iceland and Mexico spend less) and is less than half the average. The OECD considers that 35 per cent of over-65s live in poverty in Australia, almost three times the average and much higher than in peer countries such as Britain, New Zealand and the US. The number in poverty rises to more than 40 per cent for those older than 75.  This means that the commission of audit’s efforts will aim primarily at controlling the growth in the numbers of people eligible for the pension, rather than the adequacy of the payment. It will aim to encourage more people who can be self-reliant to finance their retirement without recourse to the pension.  The International Monetary Fund is pressing countries to increase the retirement age. The average life expectancy from age 65 has risen from 16 years in the early 1980s to 23 years now, and is expected to reach 27 years by 2050. The Rudd government, as part of its payment for increasing the pension rate, introduced a very gradual increase in the pension age, to 67 years by 2023.  One option, which is pursued by Denmark, is to index the pension age to life expectancy. It has been suggested that the retirement age may be raised gradually to 70 years, although this would have to be matched by a safety net to support those unfit for work in their late 60s.

Superannuation is working to reduce the cost of age pensions, with the proportion receiving the full age pension falling by about 10 percentage points over the past decade to about 40 per cent of people older than 65. The number on the full pension will fall further as the pool of super savings rises. Another 35 per cent receive part pensions, with either savings or work supplementing their income. Assets tests could be tight­ened, with their scope broadened to include high-value homes. At present, a couple may have finan­cial assets of $1.1 million in addition to the family home and still receive a part pension. There is an equity issue with salary earners on relatively low incomes paying taxes to support pensioners with assets they could never dream of possessing. However, there are practical issues in capturing high-value homes. A $1m Launceston home is very different to one in Sydney. The income tests are where the audit commission is most likely to move. At present, a couple may have combined earnings of $73,000 and still receive a part pension. The pension is withdrawn at the rate of 50 cents for every dollar earned. This “taper” rate may be increased to 60c or 65c in the dollar for income earned from superannuation or other financial assets.

Studies by the University of NSW’s Centre for Population and Ageing Research have found that the rate at which the pension is withdrawn has a big impact on people’s preparedness to undertake paid work, but almost no effect on savings behaviour. The high effective marginal tax rate as pensions are withdrawn while taxable income is earned stops people from working. There is already a rebate to minimise this effect. But the high effective marginal tax rate on super earnings as pensions are withdrawn has little impact on people’s readiness to save. This is an obvious path to pursue that would encourage greater self-relia­nce on super earnings. (David Uren, The Australian, April 10, 2014)

 

We can learn from a man who has class

THE vicious attacks on the expert chosen by Christopher Pyne to review the national education curriculum show just how much is at stake for the cultural revolutionaries dumbing down our schools.

Dr Kevin Donnelly is their worst nightmare, appointed to snatch the curriculum back from the brink of disaster.

For his trouble he has been falsely branded a paedophile, Islamophobe, homophobe, misogynist and Christian.  In the sewers of Twitter, people have wished him dead and asked him for his opinion on vibrators.  "Go f... yourself Kevin Donnelly."  Among his and Queensland academic Ken Wiltshire's tasks is to decide whether the three priorities of the new curriculum - sustainability, indigenous history and culture and Asian engagement - make any sense.  Absurdly, even in maths the curriculum claims "sustainability provides rich, engaging and authentic contexts for developing students' abilities in number and algebra".

Good grief. Pyne has rightly queried this politically correct attempt at brainwashing. He ought to rip the curriculum to shreds, but he is taking the gentle approach.  Clear-thinking Donnelly is the perfect choice. An unabashed critic of moral relativism, he wants education to be about "objectivity and truth". He believes students should understand the foundations of Western civilisation and Australia's Judeo-Christian heritage.  He thinks academic rigour and phonics and even - shock, horror - rote learning might be a good thing.  He is against the fashion of students "constructing" their own knowledge.  When university students need remedial reading classes, he knows something is wrong.  "The penny has dropped that what we are doing isn't working well enough," Donnelly told me. "In terms of falling standards something has to be done."  Most parents would agree but the Marxist teacher unions are beside themselves, trawling around for something, anything, to discredit him.  The latest ploy was a story this week claiming Donnelly is homophobic because he once wrote, in his 2004 book Why Our Schools Are Failing, that teachers should not push leftist propaganda on gender and sexuality.  Donnelly criticised Australian Education Union policy that "homosexuality and bisexuality need to be normalised" in the classroom and "heterosexism" (the idea that heterosexuality is the norm) must be stamped out.  He cited the example that Cinderella and Romeo And Juliet are "condemned as heterosexist because they privilege traditional views about heterosexual love".  Essentially, Donnelly's view was that sex education is a sensitive and controversial topic and that parents have the right to know what is happening in the classroom.  The AEU seized the bogus story as "yet another reason why Kevin Donnelly shouldn't be anywhere near a curriculum review".  Others on Twitter claimed he would "rather have our youth committing suicide than be educated … If Kevin Donnelly comes anywhere near my children I can't be held fully accountable for my actions. What a creep."

The denizens of Twitter take their lead from the bile emanating from the education establishment, unions and academics who have presided over falling standards. Worst was former NSW education director-general Ken Boston, who took to ABC radio last month with an extraordinarily unhinged tirade: "Kevin Donnelly is a polemicist. He's not taken seriously. He doesn't engage with reasoned argument or evidence. His views, or rantings frankly, are well-known and have been disregarded for many years. His publications are regarded as specious nonsense."  And on and on he went for five minutes. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Donnelly could hardly be better qualified. He holds a master's of education and a PhD on school curriculum, was on the panel of examiners for Year 12 English in Victoria and the Board of Studies.  He also was a secondary school teacher for 18 years. He is a thoughtful man who has devoted his life to education.  Boston, on the other hand, has a doctorate in "coastal morphology". The 70-year-old devoted himself to the study of saltmarsh grasses into his 30s when he changed careers to become an education bureaucrat in Ballarat. Remarkably, he rose to the top of the NSW Education Department and landed a plum job in London as chief executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority but left in 2008 in a national fiasco over school tests. London's conservative Daily Telegraph said that during Boston's six years at the authority it "presided over the dumbing down of the curriculum, a decline in the rigour of tests and hyper-inflation in the results".  He is hardly in a position to criticise Donnelly. But all the vitriol is like water off a duck's back to Pyne. The more the Left criticises Donnelly, the more he knows he's on to a good thing. For our children's sake, let's hope its not too late. (Miranda Devine, The Daily Telegraph, February 05, 2014)

 

Bad luck Sarah, but that boat won't float

OUR ABC, and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, choked the pre-election airwaves with wild predictions that the Coalition's turn-back-the-boats policy was unworkable. Now the evidence is in that a number of boats have been successfully turned back, both the national taxpayer-funded broadcaster and the Greens immigration spokesman are conducting their own reversal of sorts - they are now noisily protesting that the boats should not have been turned back.

Hanson-Young, who appears to have been given a permanent news slot at "our" ABC, is competing with the cicadas for cacophany.  The Senator flippantly shrugged off any Greens responsibility for contributing to the deaths of about 200 people who tried to enter aboard an illegal people smuggler boat in December 2011 with the astoundingly superficial comment: "Tragedies happen, accidents happen."

Hanson-Young is now dismayed the Australian naval personnel may be responsible for saving lives at sea.

Speaking to "our" ABC after Indonesian authorities reported at least two illegal people smuggler boats had returned to Indonesia (there have been more), the pointless South Australian said the people-smuggler passengers "could have drowned".

Her stupidity was in marked contrast to the measured words of the Indonesian police chief Senior Commander Hidayat on the island of Rote, who explained to Indonesia's Antara news service why the Australian navy provided the passengers with life vests and communication equipment before sending them back into Indonesian waters.  "The Australian Navy knows the local ship crews will usually put leaks in boats that aim to enter Australian waters, thus they took the initiative to anticipate it," Hidayat said.  It is obvious from the Indonesian media reports that the Abbott government's policy of permitting the Australian military to oversee Operation Sovereign Borders in concert with its Indonesian counterparts is bearing fruit.  Unlike the Rudd government's unsuccessful policies, supported by Hanson-Young and her Greens colleagues, the new approach has already discouraged hundreds, if not thousands, of people from risking their lives attempting to enter Australia illegally.

Indonesian military commander General Moeldoko has said the Australian government's decision to turn back a boat carrying would-be migrants attempting to reach its shores was "justifiable" as he had made an agreement with the Australian Defence Force.

He said both countries had agreed to the action: "Following (our) halted military co-operation with Australia, (Australia's) defense force chief (General David Hurley) called me to discuss several issues, including how to deal with the boat people.  "He told me Indonesia should understand if Australia drove back undocumented migrants attempting to enter the country using Indonesian boats or if any Indonesians were found aboard. I have agreed. Therefore, we don't need to feel offended."  General Moeldoko would be bemused to learn his clarity of thought would enrage Hanson-Young and those at "our" ABC, who have worked so hard to undermine Australia's national interest by fomenting distrust between Australia and Indonesia.  Former Labor leader Mark Latham was absolutely correct when he said the Greens and the Labor left and their "so-called compassionate" approach to asylum seekers was causing deaths at sea.  "You can't be compassionate and you can't have a good heart, you can't have a good soul, if you encourage people to get on boats that sink," Latham told Sky in 2011.

"And people just need to understand that the real compassionate policy is to stop the flow of the boats."

The Indonesian police have confirmed that the boats turned back were "rented" from Indonesian fishermen and the crews which were endeavoring to help the undocumented arrivals enter Australia were Indonesians.  Unfortunately they escaped after the local Indonesian police transferred them as well as other crew and passengers to Kupang.  The contrast between the Abbott government's approach to illegal entrants and that of the Rudd and Gillard governments could not be sharper.  Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd trumpeted his foreign policy forays at mega-volume, dismaying our neighbours and eroding their trust.  Similarly, Julia Gillard showed a total lack of diplomatic skill when she shut down the important live cattle export trade without any consultation with either the Australian beef industry or the Indonesians.

Having Australian generals deal with their Indonesian counterparts collaboratively on the people-smuggler policy has isolated grandstanding politicians like Hanson-Young, and the Labor Opposition leadership team of Bill Shorten, Anthony Albanese, Tanya Plibersek and Tony Burke.  Even Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, ANU-schooled and Labor-leaning, has been dealt out of the main game, which he hinted at by refusing to comment on the reports of boats being towed back to Indonesia because they were operational matters.  Natalegawa is too shrewd a politician to take on the large and important Indonesian military institutions within months of a national election in Indonesia, no matter how much air time and print space the ABC and Fairfax offer him.

With the "unachievable" policy of turning back the boats looking better every day, it is the Labor left, the Greens and their media cheer squad who have been left high and dry.  (Piers Akerman,  The Daily Telegraph, January 10, 2014)

 

Silent over 1000 deaths, but a Somali singes his hand and ...

GOD bless our caring, compassionate friends from the left, who are now calling for an official government investigation into an asylum seeker’s blistered hand.

This is an excellent idea, although two conditions should apply. Firstly, any maritime investigation should be backdated to cover events beginning around, say, early 2008. That was when leftists achieved their dream of a more humane asylum seeker policy, which eventually led to more than 1000 deaths at sea.  You might remember leftists pleading, as the body count rose, that those deaths not be politicised. No calls for an investigation then. But show them a singed Somali and they’re hot for it, so to speak.  As a condition of any investigation into scorched Somali fingers, it should be headed by Sarah Hanson-Young. The Greens Senator demonstrated a couple of weeks ago, during Senate questioning of Australian Customs and Border Protection Service CEO Mike Pezzullo, that she has all the forensic ability to solve any maritime mystery.

Hanson-Young, who memorably dismissed 200 deaths from one sunken boat disaster in 2011 with the line “accidents happen, tragedies happen”, seemed to become confused during that questioning session. Her line of inquiry led Pezzullo to ask if she was referring to the fictional Sea Patrol TV series.   Well, let Sarah set the record straight. After her performance was mentioned in last week’s column, Hanson-Young fired in an angry email. “My line of questioning was in regard to the Channel 7 program ‘Border Security’ and the same channel’s new reality show ‘Coastwatch Oz’,” the senator claimed. “I was simply pointing out the fact that the government is promoting and publicising the activities of border security operations on the one hand while, on the other hand, refusing to answer questions about illegal operations it is undertaking on the high seas.”  Hanson-Young was asking Australia’s Customs and Border Protection Service CEO about a show aired only once at the time, and that has nothing at all to do with customs or border protection. Coastwatch Oz mostly follows the activities of fisheries officers. As one reader put it: “Sarah Hanson-Dumb can’t see any difference between checking the legal length of a flathead and the Royal Australian Navy executing Operation Sovereign Borders.”   All of which qualifies her to lead the probe into allegations of navy torture at sea.  (TIM BLAIR, The Daily Telegraph, February 10, 2014)

 

How Labor booby-trapped Australia’s future

When Joe Hockey was growing up and dreaming of becoming prime minister, he would not have imagined that his dream would lead him to joining a bomb disposal unit. Tomorrow, he will unveil the first bomb he must dismantle and it is almost nuclear in its capacity for destruction.  At 12.30 on Tuesday, Hockey, who has also been the stand-out thespian of the new federal parliament, will unveil the real horror, dysfunction and narcissism of Kevin Rudd's contribution to Australian political history, disably assisted by Julia Gillard. Hockey will release the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook, known in the trade as MYEFO, which will show a budget deficit much worse than Labor led us to believe, probably close to $50 billion, debt obligations much higher than Labor led us to believe, and unfunded liabilities that are so irresponsibly crushing the government will have to walk away from many of them. The most monumental folly is the National Broadband Network, whose economic rationale was worked out on a piece of paper by Rudd. The scheme subsequently created by former communications minister Stephen Conroy would cost more than $70 billion and never recover its cost of capital. The Abbott government will have to start again.

Rudd also authorised the spying on the President of Indonesia and his wife, a booby trap that duly exploded in the face of his Coalition successor. Rudd also poisoned the relationship with China, with his lectures to Beijing, which has also come back to haunt the Coalition government. Then came Gillard, who directed a decisive shift of funding and power to the unions. She exposed the Commonwealth to a massive unfunded financial obligation for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.  She provided political cover for the disgraced union official Craig Thomson. And she set up and then stacked the Fair Work Australia bureaucracy with former union officials and Labor lawyers.  Labor booby-trapped the future.  It is also busy booby-trapping the present, putting improvised explosive devices everywhere, with the help of the Greens. Together, they have engaged in scorched-earth, rearguard, morally bankrupt obstructionism as if the 2013 federal election was a meaningless exercise, the will of the people has no moral authority, and the idea of a mandate, delivered by the only poll that matters, is an empty ideal to be ignored. The worst among equals in this cynicism are Labor's leader, Bill Shorten, his deputy, Tanya Plibersek, and the Minister for Gutter, Anthony Albanese, assisted by the deputy leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt.  Contrast their scorched-earth cynicism with the response of the defeated Coalition government in 2007, when it conceded the public had rejected its Work Choices industrial relations policies and Labor had a mandate to create what would become Fair Work Australia. This was the great issue in 2007 (after the unions spent millions to make it so) just as the carbon tax and curbing people-smuggling were the great issues of 2013.

For the past year the Coalition restricted itself to a small but emphatic range of policies that clearly differentiated it from Labor: repeal the carbon tax, repeal the mining tax, re-introduce temporary protection visas (which closed off asylum status), re-introduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission and end Labor's deficit spending. This was the message. These policies became the mandate when Labor was thrown out of office in a landslide and the Greens suffered an even more emphatic 28 per cent plunge in their vote and lost the balance of power in the Senate.  And what do we get? Labor and the Greens opposing all four mandates, and everything else, and some of Labor's booby traps already exploding. Rudd's authorising of spying on Indonesia's President and his wife blew up on Tony Abbott, who suffered further damage as he doggedly covered up for Labor. Labor's multi-billion-dollar expansion into school education, a state issue, also exploded when Education Minister Christopher Pyne ineptly fumbled his attempt to rein in its costs and impositions.

The government must now wait until July 1 next year, when the new Senate is sworn in, and hope the independents and the eccentric Palmer United Party senators are more moral and pragmatic than the Greens, who think 8 per cent is a moral majority and a mandate to obstruct everything. Everything, that is, except removing the debt ceiling, where the Greens sided with the government, but only because they feared if they did not the government would start slashing spending with a chainsaw.

The key figures in dealing with Labor's booby traps are Hockey and Eric Abetz, the leader of the government in the Senate. Hockey has shown the most ticker in dealing with debt and deficit, and Senator Abetz has carriage of the crucial reform agenda in industrial relations. After Hockey, he has the most bombs to defuse.  Crucially, in addition to restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and tackling the tainted culture of Fair Work Australia, Senator Abetz must navigate the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill into law. This is the bill that will drag the unions out of the 19th century. It establishes an independent watchdog, the Registered Organisations Commission, with powers modelled on those of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, to bring union governance into line with corporate governance.  The bill is designed to create a stronger, cleaner and more transparent union sector.  Labor and the Greens are opposing the bill at every step.  (Paul Sheehan, Sydney Morning Herald, December 16, 2013)

 

Price of joining the global economy is giving up the right to call our own shots

"Twenty years from now, Holden's departure will be just another marker on a journey the direction of which is clear and irreversible."   In the short term, there's no consistency in politics. Back when the Gillard government announced the carbon tax, it took about six seconds for the Coalition to scream this would cost jobs and devastate entire towns. Bollocks, retorted Labor, occasionally by way of karaoke.  Sure, some industries would be hit, but they were the kind of industries the environment needed us to scale back. Meanwhile, we would create shiny, eco-friendly jobs. People would retrain and find new opportunities. The workforce was adaptable and dynamic.

Now, with nobody really noticing, Labor and the Coalition seem to have swapped positions. As Labor inspects the carcass of the Australian car industry, it foreshadows monstrous job losses, the devastation of manufacturing towns in South Australia and Victoria, and protests that you can't simply ask people who have spent their lives assembling cars suddenly to work in nursing homes. And the Coalition is suddenly brimming with confidence that these things are always transient, evolving and ultimately leave us stronger.  But in the long run, things are far more consistent than all that. The truth is that the death of Australian car making did not begin on election day, September 7, but 30 years ago, when the Hawke government began abolishing tariffs and opening us to global competition.  This was declared a necessary step in Australia's economic evolution. It would bring growth, dynamism and, after some pain, prosperity.

When Labor today argues the Coalition is sacrificing blue-collar workers at the altar of an economic theory, it omits that, in Australia, Labor was that very theory's midwife. Ask Paul Keating. Actually, don't bother. He's already given his answer when asked what he'd say to blue-collar workers whose jobs disappeared on his watch: "What do I say? 'What's your new job like.' … I mean, did we ever hurt anybody liberating them from the car assembly line?" For now, an argument rages on whether more government money would have saved Holden.  The opposition insists $150 million would have done it. The government points out that Holden, like Ford before it, has been "saved" in this manner several times before, only to be unsaved and threaten to leave again. The truth is we'll never know because Holden won't tell us, and even if it did, it would be guessing. Either way, the government's argument is interesting because it boils down to the assertion that there is nothing it could reasonably have done to prevent this; that this decision was out of its hands and was based on economic factors largely beyond its control. But in defending itself, the government has made an epic admission: that we're not really in control of our economy. And that much is the heretical truth. We chose to make it true when we threw our lot in with the global free market. We'll never admit this in stark terms. We'll continue to argue over each sensational development such as this week's. But the grander theme cannot be resisted: we do not call our own shots; no longer is there a hierarchy with the nation-state on top and everyone else - corporations, civil society and citizens - below.

Power is shared now. Companies play countries off against each other looking for the best deal, much as we haggle over a shop purchase. Our world isn't exactly borderless - and some countries are more protectionist than others - but those borders now seem to denote zones rather than dominions. The world is a country now, and nations are its cities. That's where the difficulties start. The idea of an economy is that people can move within it, that labour flows to where it is most needed. In the case of car making, our workers just aren't needed. Not because they're not good at what they do, but because countless other people are good at it, too, and for a fraction of the cost.  It's not just Australia experiencing this. Take Japan, that car-making behemoth. It's lost about a quarter of its industry in the past five years. Even South Korea, whose workers earn about half of what ours do, has been in decline since 2011. These cars are now made in China and Thailand. Cheaply.

Remember Gina Rinehart's declaration that Australia can't compete while Africans are prepared to work for $2 per day? The problem with her argument is not that she's wrong. It's that, by the global free market's own lights, she is scandalously right.

Those lights tell us to specialise; to do what we can do better, or cheaper than anyone else. That's the logic we've embraced. Just last week we signed a free trade agreement with South Korea, which both major parties had worked on. The upshot: great for agriculture, bad for car making. Labor didn't quibble. Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the agreement was about "backing our strengths". That's what we do now. But nations are diverse. People within them have a huge range of skills. Globalisation's demand that every nation specialise sits in contradiction with the social fact that not everyone is well placed to fit within our specialties. The market has its solution to that, too: labour mobility. You either acquire new skills or go where your skills will be rewarded. But the social and political reality is more complicated. Perpetual reskilling is expensive and not always successful, and Holden's workforce isn't about to move to Thailand.

The larger story here isn't really about our car industry, or whether we could have delayed Holden's decision to some other day. It's about the fact our politics don't match our economics: that the assumptions of a hyper-specialised global free market and its effortlessly mobile labour force don't reflect the more diversified, comparatively static nature of our societies.  Twenty years from now, Holden's departure will be just another marker on a journey the direction of which is clear and irreversible. We'll continue shedding industries. We'll continue developing new ones.  But no one can honestly guarantee the same people harmed in the first process will be rescued by the second. And the political heat this generates will merely disguise the fact that this is a matter of political consensus. (Waleed Aly, Sydney Morning Herald, December 13, 2013)

 

Despite biases, the ABC will not be shuttered up

The ABC has got off very lightly, so far, for the claims it aired about the navy torturing asylum seekers. Well done to Defence Minister David Johnston for his passionate defence of the men and women of the Australian navy. The ABC can dish it out but it's not so good at taking criticism, including from its own Media Watch.

The ABC gave me a much harder time on the 2001 ''children overboard'' issue, when claims were made that adult refugees on boats heading for Australia were throwing their children overboard to force the navy to pick them up. The issue started with the immigration minister Phillip Ruddock, then prime minister John Howard.  By the third day the media were pressing me, as Defence Minister, to comment. I told Howard I would speak but only after I had first been briefed by the chief of the Defence Force Admiral Chris Barrie. While I was Defence Minister, Barrie never changed his initial advice. I did not initiate the claim and I relied on his advice. I was a lot more careful then than the ABC has been now in dealing with a more serious claim.  Even though I retired at the 2001 election, Labor paid me the faux compliment of saying I won the election because of the children overboard affair. This was not true, but I became the punching bag for all those who were disappointed Howard won the election. I believed the children overboard story to be true at the time, although it was later found to be untrue by a Senate Select Committee.  I believed it was just one of a series of attempts by refugees to force the navy to pick up boat people. In the context of more than a thousand people drowning at sea and billions of dollars being spent as a result of Labor's diabolical policy, it's a wonder the ABC should now try to undermine the efforts of the new government to stop the boats. It is a classic case of bias.

The ABC has long had its pet subjects such as asylum seekers and climate change. The ABC's recent problems started with the running of the Edward Snowden revelations of Australia's spying activities during Labor's time in government. The story had a sense of journalistic ''gotcha''. It was badly managed. And reporting into Indonesia under the Australia Network contract is problematic. That story and now the torture story have left the public wondering about the ABC.   The ABC's bias is cultural, deeply ingrained and not about to stop. I do not say the ABC is politically wedded to Labor's fortunes. But it does not understand the Coalition's perspective, as exemplified recently by ABC chairman Jim Spigelman. On the topic of bias, he said the ABC would commission a report by someone from the BBC.  Having lived for six years in Britain, I can say the BBC today is no better than the ABC. BBC founder Lord Reith would roll over in his grave if he could see it today. I am amazed Spigelman cannot see a BBC person will most likely have the same view as someone from the ABC.  But a cultural war is not about to erupt, even if the ABC refuses to offer the apology being sought. There is no appetite in the government to go after the ABC.  The most likely outcome of this melee will be found in the May budget. The ABC will be cut hard but in much the same way as everything else. Its efficiency review will be the extent of the cuts. Later, there may be some changes to the ABC board. Additionally, the ABC will probably lose its small contract for the Australia Network, which is not a core business anyway.

Of course, there is a strong argument that government should not be running a TV business. But I would not sell the ABC simply because of its bias. Bias is always a problem for media outlets, not just the ABC. There is no such thing as unbiased opinion. Everyone has a different view; different media outlets have their own cultures. The objective of public policy is to encourage diversity of outlets and hence opinion. Then it is for the public to make their assessments. If the audience doesn't like what it sees, it will switch.  Australia should not be taxing consumers for a government service that can be provided by free enterprise. We don't need the government to supply viewers with quiz shows and constantly repeating news programs that can all be delivered commercially and probably at a lower cost.  The world has changed; convergence of internet, TV and other devices is broadening the information and entertainment businesses. The recent independent tender process for the Australian Network demonstrates the obvious reality that the private sector is able to provide a better service than the ABC.  But to all the ABC fans, don't worry; Australian politics is far too conservative for that sort of free enterprise approach.  (Peter Reith, SMH, February 11, 2014. Peter Reith was a Howard government minister). 

 

International

 

Say nyet now — or watch Putin’s appetite expand

IN just over three weeks, the Kremlin has invaded and seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, installed a local government headed by a pro-Russian politician with a criminal past, enacted legislation through its well-trained Russian parliament facilitating annexations of other people’s territories, supported the conduct of a hasty plebiscite at the point of a gun that achieved truly Soviet results (allegedly 97 per cent in favour), and commenced the accelerated approval of an appeal from Crimea to be annexed.   The procedure was crassly illegal from start to finish, secured virtually no support from the international community and effectively disenfranchised the Crimean Tartar community, whose grandfathers’ generation had been brutally deported by Stalin towards the end of World War II with a fatality rate of 50 per cent. The survivors and their families were allowed to filter back to the peninsula only 45 years later. Not surprisingly, they decided to boycott the shotgun poll.

The model thus demonstrated has proved so attractive that Transnistria, a Russian-supported and largely Russophone enclave in mainly Romanian-speaking Moldova, which shares no common border with Russia, has indicated its wish to be annexed.

The West has so far responded to this machinegun-fire of facts on the ground with shock, disapproval and non-specific warnings of “costs” and “consequences”. But when the US and EU presented parallel programs of targeted sanctions on March 18, these scarcely made a dent in the triumphalist mood of Vladimir Putin’s celebratory annexation speech in the Grand Kremlin Palace the next day. Meanwhile, the Russian stockmarkets, which had been showing signs of nervousness about possible serious sanctions, have rebounded this week.  Further US sanctions announced on Thursday, however, do land some telling blows against some of Putin’s KGB and judo billionaire cronies. One in particular, Gennady Timchenko, is widely believed to be Putin’s personal bagman. But sanctions, to be truly effective, must emanate from the EU, the source of most of Russia’s fading prosperity. Further steps are under discussion, and some European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, seem at last to be seized of the matter, but the pain for both sides of serious trade sanctions, and the continuing divisions in EU circles, suggest nothing too dismaying for Moscow is likely to emerge.

In 1904, Russian interior minister Vyacheslav Plehve justified his support for the Russo-Japanese war by arguing that to avert a revolution Russia urgently needed a “short, victorious war”. Since launching his Crimean triumph, Putin’s ratings have gone up 10 per cent. While to an outside observer it may seem his increasingly police-state methods are holding domestic malcontents in check, Putin may not see it that way.  The Russian President has an obsessive fear of popular revolts that can take over the streets and topple autocrats. Twice he has seen it happen in Ukraine, in 2004-05 and again in 2013-14. And just ahead of the “greatest political catastrophe in the 20th century” (the fall of the Soviet Union), he saw it, unnervingly, at first hand in the streets of Dresden in East Germany, where he was posted as a modest-ranking KGB officer.  Lately the Russian economy has been in increasing trouble, with growth down to 1 per cent and further decline likely, particularly given Putin’s extravagant $700 billion rearmament program superimposed on the defence budget.

Unproductive expenditure on his vast and ever-expanding security forces and corrupt civil bureaucracy has led to cuts in health, education and infrastructure, all of which urgently require greater investment.  But Crimea is an alluring symbol for the 80 per cent of voters who depend on Russia’s increasingly mendacious and xenophobic state television programs for their news and views. Thanks to the blanket propaganda from official media, the proportion of opinion-poll respondents who favour Russian interference in Ukraine has increased from a small minority to an overwhelming majority within a month.  Leaving nothing to chance, Putin is simultaneously cracking down further on his domestic opponents, right-wing super-patriotic extremists are increasingly setting the tone for Russia’s public life (as the eminent Australian expert Robert Horvath has demonstrated in Inside Story), while the surviving moderates in the President’s entourage are marginalised. In seeking rational explanations, even justifications, for Putin’s behaviour, commentators sometimes forget the basic principle that an autocracy’s foreign policy will depend in large measure on the head noises of the autocrat and his current circle of favourites.

While Crimea has been a splendid achievement for Putin, he will not now want to stop there, unless he is very energetically resisted. He has invested a great deal in destabilising the eastern provinces of Ukraine, sending in volunteers and probably also, as in Crimea, spetsnaz (special) forces in mufti. Together with local Russian patriots, the newcomers have provoked repeated clashes with supporters of the government in Kiev, seizing public buildings and trying to install “popular governors”. These struggles are probably meant to create a fresh casus belli for Russian military intervention. Such clashes are not typical of Ukraine, where, despite their differences, eastern and western Ukrainians have got along pretty well. But Moscow has run the narrative that its “fellow countrymen” in Ukraine generally, as in Crimea, are at risk of terrible and violent persecution, which supposedly imposes on Russia an R2P (Responsibility to Protect) obligation.

This is largely rubbish, as the Russians have not been in danger and are in fact close to a majority in the cities of the southeast. But under the radicalising stress of invasion and further threatened incursions, it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Putin will not withdraw those irregular forces until he has gained a good return on his investment. He will have had time to assess the Western response. Putin is known to hold Western leaders in contempt, referring to them privately but audibly once as “hamsters”, and viewing their cumbersome decision-making processes as dysfunctional.  He will have been observing all the internal disputes about sanctions and policy towards Russia in the EU, and the frequent trans-Atlantic disputes triggered by the drip-feed of Kremlin-friendly leaks from the idealistic Edward Snowden, safely resident in that mecca for human rights, Moscow. Unless Western leaders can suddenly reverse the momentum of recent months and set him back on his heels with some resolute decision, he will feel a strong impulse to move on to more venturesome scenarios. If Moscow can maintain a state of disorder in southeastern Ukraine, it may try to settle for a federalisation scenario. In a curious echo of Soviet secret police NKVD’s strategies in Eastern Europe in 1944-48, Russia has this week proposed that a “support group” be created to oversee a rewriting of Ukraine’s constitution to overcome the “crisis” in the country and replace the “illegitimate” government.

The new constitution should, among other things, provide for a federative structure, with extensive autonomy for the provinces where Russians are allegedly under threat; ensure the country be permanently neutral and precluded from joining NATO or the EU; prevent Ukraine from again adopting a “neo-Nazi” ideology; and require it to accept Russian as a second state language.

Not surprisingly, the Kiev government has dismissed this modest proposal, describing it as an “ultimatum”.

For Putin, Ukraine is at once the jewel in the crown and, as he said to George W. Bush, not a real country. Its Ukrainian inhabitants are little brothers when they behave nicely, and particularly when they speak Russian or identify as ethnic Russians (as some 17 per cent do), or fascists and Banderists when they look westwards. He covets Ukraine’s extensive Soviet-legacy defence industries, which could be vital to his huge military build-up. A recent article in a Russian specialist publication went so far as to suggest Ukraine’s defence industries were more necessary to the Russian defence complex’s functioning than vice versa. Putin would also be glad of the infusion of 46 million Slavs with a relatively small Muslim community. In Russia, at least 15 per cent of the population is made up of Muslims, many of them increasingly alienated by government crackdowns on Muslim migrants in Russia’s big cities and harsh anti-insurgency operations.

Russia is going through a demographic trough where the cohorts of young people entering the age group for employment and military recruitment are very low. The establishment of a compliant, pro-Moscow government in Kiev, happy to join the Moscow-led Customs Union and post-Soviet security structures, and with guaranteed autonomy for the Russophone regions of eastern Ukraine, would be a big step forward from Moscow’s point of view. Nor may Crimea and possibly parts of eastern Ukraine exhaust Putin’s territorial demands. Clearly, plans are afoot for Moldova. And he may not yet have given up on Georgia, where Russia already occupies one-fifth of the country and half its Black Sea coastline.

Moldova and Georgia are keen to conclude association agreements with the EU this year in a search for security. Moscow will want to torpedo any such development one way or another. Even the Baltic states, despite their NATO and EU membership, may not yet be safe. Estonia and Latvia each have large populations of suffering Russians who — strangely — do not want to leave. In 2007, Russia conducted a very aggressive campaign against Estonia over the removal of a Russian statue from central Tallinn to the suburbs, with extensive cyber-attacks on government institutions and a sudden outburst of angry demonstrations by aggrieved Russians in Estonia. This week a Russian diplomat in Geneva drew an ominous parallel between discrimination against Russians in eastern Ukraine and Estonia. Aggressive and very large Russian-Belarusian military exercises and aerial patrols in the Baltic-Nordic area have become regular events in recent years. For too long the Western responses to these provocations have been tepid and tactful. It is high time they became more emphatic.  (John Besemeres, The Australian, March 22, 2014.  John Besemeres is an adjunct fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre for European Studies).

 

Dithering West misses the point about Putin’s Crimean conquest

IF I were Vladimir Putin, I’d invade eastern Ukraine this week. Strike while the iron is hot.

Never again will the taking be so easy. Never again will the government in Kiev be so helpless. Never again will the administration in Washington be so inept, its threats so hollow. Never again will the powers in Europe be so feeble and dependent. Never again will Western monetary policy do so much to prop up energy prices.

While the Russian President is at it, he might consider invading one of the Baltic states. Barack Obama isn’t about to ask Americans to die for Estonia, where a quarter of the population is ethnically Russian. The US President wants “nation-building at home”, after all. Even now, the West misses the point. We have convinced ourselves that Russia is inherently weak; that its economy would collapse if the price of oil were to fall; that human and financial capital are in flight; that its population is shrinking (and frequently drunk); that the regime has lost the support of an urban middle class disgusted by endemic corruption. And so on.  All true. And all the more reason for Putin to strike. We’ve come to think of Putin as the embodiment of ruthlessness. He’s that. But he also has a genius for self-reinvention. Agent of Soviet communism turned political patriarch of Russian Orthodoxy. St Petersburg technocrat turned Moscow strongman. Enemy of the oligarchs turned godfather of the oligarchs. Law-and-order economic moderniser turned old-school Russian revanchist.  Maybe the disguises go with the KGB training. Maybe it’s just a well-honed survivor’s instinct. Whichever way, Putin has been frog-like in his ability to jump off his lily-pad the moment it begins to sink under his weight. He’s never had trouble landing on another one.

A staple of political commentary since Putin seized Crimea is that he is making a big mistake. Typical of this view is an op-ed in Monday’s New York Times by Oxford historian Robert Service, who compares Putin to Nicholas I, the reactionary 19th century tsar who blundered into the disastrous Crimean War. The comparison would be somewhat more apt if NATO were making plans to lay siege to Sevastopol.  Oh, but we’ll soon lay siege to Russia’s economy, right? Wrong. German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended an industrial trade fair in Hannover over the weekend where a company named Tavrida Electric was displaying its wares. Tavrida’s chief executive is one of 33 people sanctioned by the European Union as governor of the new pro-Russian regime in Sevastopol. And yet, The Wall Street Journal reported, “the impact on Tavrida has been zero so far”.  It’s true that sanctions could be made a lot tougher. We could impose asset freezes and travel bans on, say, executive suites at Gazprom and Rosneft and other state-controlled Russian companies. Questionable bank accounts in Switzerland and Cyprus could be frozen. We could subject the Russian economy to the kind of treatment we imposed, briefly, on the Iranian economy. And we could accept the consequences of such sanctions, as the Kremlin responds tit-for-tat by cutting off gas supplies to the Baltics, shipping advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, or freezing us out of the International Space Station.  In short, the West could win a sanctions war with Russia, but it would take an iron political stomach. Putin knows Obama. He knows the US President has the digestive fortitude of a tourist in Tijuana.  And that’s why Putin should move quickly. Russia’s chokehold on Europe’s energy supplies won’t last forever. The easy Fed money that jacks up the price of commodities won’t last forever. Even Obama’s presidency won’t last forever.  On present course, Russia will get weaker, which leaves Putin with two options: liberalise or conquer. The first option would ultimately require him to step down from power and put him at risk of legal prosecution. The second option gives him the chance to re-legitimise his regime by whipping Russians into a nationalist frenzy and stay in power till he dies in bed.  If you were Putin, which option would you choose?

That’s what makes the White House’s repeated offers of an “exit lane” so silly. For the Kremlin, foreign conquest is the exit lane. And if a Western exit lane is offered with every fresh Russian insult and assault, why take the first one? If the Obama diplomatic freeway has an exit lane every few miles, it means Putin is probably betting he can drive all the way to the state line before he pulls over to fill the tank. Which, in his case, is a T-72.  Obama has a habit of underestimating his foes. He thought al-Qa’ida was on the run. He thought Bashar al-Assad would be gone by now. He thinks Iran will abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for sanctions relief. He thinks of Putin as the kid with the bored expression, slouching in the back of the classroom.  News for the law professor. That kid is smarter than you are. He’s bored because you bore him. He’s about to eat your lunch.  (Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2014)

 

3 Presidents and a Riddle Named Putin

WASHINGTON — Bill Clinton found him to be cold and worrisome, but predicted he would be a tough and able leader. George W. Bush wanted to make him a friend and partner in the war on terror, but grew disillusioned over time.  Barack Obama tried working around him by building up his protégé in the Kremlin, an approach that worked for a time but steadily deteriorated to the point that relations between Russia and the United States are now at their worst point since the end of the Cold War.

For 15 years, Vladimir V. Putin has confounded American presidents as they tried to figure him out, only to misjudge him time and again. He has defied their assumptions and rebuffed their efforts at friendship. He has argued with them, lectured them, misled them, accused them, kept them waiting, kept them guessing, betrayed them and felt betrayed by them.   Each of the three presidents tried in his own way to forge a historic if elusive new relationship with Russia, only to find their efforts torpedoed by the wiry martial arts master and former K.G.B. colonel. They imagined him to be something he was not or assumed they could manage a man who refuses to be managed. They saw him through their own lens, believing he viewed Russia’s interests as they thought he should. And they underestimated his deep sense of grievance.

To the extent that there were any illusions left in Washington, and it is hard to imagine there were by this point, they were finally and irrevocably shattered by Mr. Putin’s takeover of Crimea and the exchange of sanctions that has followed. As Russian forces now mass on the Ukrainian border, the debate has now shifted from how to work with Mr. Putin to how to counter him.  “He’s declared himself,” said Tom Donilon, President Obama’s former national security adviser. “That’s who you have to deal with. Trying to wish it away is not a policy.”

Looking back now, aides to all three presidents offer roughly similar takes: Their man was hardly naïve about Mr. Putin and saw him for what he was, but felt there was little choice other than to try to establish a better relationship. It may be that some of their policies hurt the chances of that by fueling Mr. Putin’s discontent, whether it was NATO expansion, the Iraq war or the Libya war, but in the end, they said, they were dealing with a Russian leader fundamentally at odds with the West.  “I know there’s been some criticism on, was the reset ill advised?” said Mr. Donilon, using the Obama administration’s term for its policy. “No, the reset wasn’t ill advised. The reset resulted in direct accomplishments that were in the interests of the United States.”   Some specialists said Mr. Obama and his two predecessors saw what they wanted to see. “The West has focused on the notion that Putin is a pragmatic realist who will cooperate with us whenever there are sufficient common interests,” said James M. Goldgeier, dean of international studies at American University. “We let that belief overshadow his stated goal of revising a post-Cold War settlement in which Moscow lost control over significant territory and watched as the West expanded its domain.”

Presidents tend to think of autocrats like Mr. Putin as fellow statesmen, said Dennis Blair, Mr. Obama’s first director of national intelligence. “They should think of dictators like they think of domestic politicians of the other party,” he said, “opponents who smile on occasion when it suits their purposes, and cooperate when it is to their advantage, but who are at heart trying to push the U.S. out of power, will kneecap the United States if they get the chance and will only go along if the U.S. has more power than they.”

Eric S. Edelman, who was undersecretary of defense under Mr. Bush, said American leaders overestimated their ability to assuage Mr. Putin’s anger about the West. “There has been a persistent tendency on the part of U.S. presidents and Western leaders more broadly to see the sense of grievance as a background condition that could be modulated by consideration of Russian national interests,” he said. “In fact, those efforts have been invariably taken as weakness.” 

After 15 years, no one in Washington still thinks of Mr. Putin as a partner. “He goes to bed at night thinking of Peter the Great and he wakes up thinking of Stalin,” Representative Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said on “Meet the Press” on NBC on Sunday. “We need to understand who he is and what he wants. It may not fit with what we believe of the 21st century.”

Bush’s Disillusionment

Mr. Clinton was the first president to encounter Mr. Putin, although they did not overlap for long. He had spent much of his presidency building a strong relationship with President Boris N. Yeltsin, Mr. Putin’s predecessor, and gave the benefit of the doubt to the handpicked successor who became Russia’s prime minister in 1999 and president on New Year’s Eve.

“I came away from the meeting believing Yeltsin had picked a successor who had the skills and capacity for hard work necessary to manage Russia’s turbulent political and economic life better than Yeltsin now could, given his health problems,” Mr. Clinton wrote in his memoir. When Mr. Putin’s selection was ratified in a March 2000 election, Mr. Clinton called to congratulate him and, as he later wrote, “hung up the phone thinking he was tough enough to hold Russia together.”

Mr. Clinton had his worries, though, particularly as Mr. Putin waged a brutal war in the separatist republic of Chechnya and cracked down on independent media. He privately urged Mr. Yeltsin to watch over his successor. Mr. Clinton also felt brushed off by Mr. Putin, who seemed uninterested in doing business with a departing American president.  But the prevailing attitude at the time was that Mr. Putin was a modernizer who could consolidate the raw form of democracy and capitalism that Mr. Yeltsin had introduced to Russia. He moved early to overhaul the country’s tax, land and judicial codes. As Strobe Talbott, Mr. Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, put it in his book on that period, George F. Kennan, the noted Kremlinologist, thought that Mr. Putin “was young enough, adroit enough and realistic enough to understand that Russia’s ongoing transition required that he not just co-opt the power structure, but to transform it.”

Mr. Bush came to office skeptical of Mr. Putin, privately calling him “one cold dude,” but bonded with him during their first meeting in Slovenia in June 2001, after which he made his now-famous comment about looking into the Russian’s soul. Mr. Putin had made a connection with the religious Mr. Bush by telling him a story about a cross that his mother had given him and how it was the only thing that survived a fire at his country house.  "I don’t have a bad personal relationship with Putin. When we have conversations, they’re candid, they’re blunt, oftentimes they’re constructive. I know the press likes to focus on body language and he’s got that kind of slouch, looking like the bored kid in the back of the classroom." — In a news conference in August 2013

Not everyone was convinced. Mr. Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, privately told people at the time that when he saw Mr. Putin, “I think K.G.B., K.G.B., K.G.B.” But Mr. Bush was determined to erase the historical divide and courted Mr. Putin during the Russian leader’s visits to Camp David and Mr. Bush’s Texas ranch.  Mr. Putin liked to brag that he was the first foreign leader to call Mr. Bush after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and he permitted American troops into Central Asia as a base of operations against Afghanistan.  But Mr. Putin never felt Mr. Bush delivered in return and the relationship strained over the Iraq War and the Kremlin’s accelerating crackdown on dissent at home. By Mr. Bush’s second term, the two were quarreling over Russian democracy, reaching a peak during a testy meeting in Slovakia in 2005.

“It was like junior high debating,” Mr. Bush complained later to Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, according to notes of the conversation. Mr. Putin kept throwing Mr. Bush’s arguments back at him. “I sat there for an hour and 45 minutes and it went on and on,” Mr. Bush said. “At one point, the interpreter made me so mad that I nearly reached over the table and slapped the hell out of the guy. He had a mocking tone, making accusations about America.” 

He was even more frustrated by Mr. Putin a year later. “He’s not well-informed,” Bush told the visiting prime minister of Denmark in 2006. “It’s like arguing with an eighth-grader with his facts wrong.”  He told another visiting leader a few weeks later that he was losing hope of bringing Mr. Putin around. “I think Putin is not a democrat anymore,” he said. “He’s a czar. I think we’ve lost him.”

‘A Stone-Cold Killer’

But Mr. Bush was reluctant to give up, even if those around him no longer saw the opportunity he saw. His new defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, came back from his first meeting with Mr. Putin and told colleagues that unlike Mr. Bush, he had “looked into Putin’s eyes and, just as I expected, had seen a stone-cold killer.”

In the spring of 2008, Mr. Bush put Ukraine and Georgia on the road to NATO membership, which divided the alliance and infuriated Mr. Putin. By August of that year, the two leaders were in Beijing for the Summer Olympics when word arrived that Russian troops were marching into Georgia.  Mr. Bush in his memoir recalled confronting Mr. Putin, scolding him for being provoked by Mikheil Saakashvili, then Georgia’s anti-Moscow president.  “I’ve been warning you Saakashvili is hot-blooded,” Mr. Bush told Mr. Putin. “I’m hot-blooded too,” Mr. Putin said.

“No, Vladimir,” Mr. Bush responded. “You’re coldblooded.”

The common thread is that the United States wants to bully Russia in ways that we would find totally unacceptable if the situation were...

Mr. Bush responded to the Georgia war by sending humanitarian aid to Georgia, transporting its troops home from Iraq, sending an American warship to the region and shelving a civilian nuclear agreement with Russia.

 

http://static01.nyt.com/images/2014/03/24/world/PUTIN/PUTIN-master180.jpg

Putin has rebuffed overtures from the West since taking office. Credit Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti Kremlin.

 

Worried that Crimea might be next, Mr. Bush succeeded in stopping Russia from swallowing up Georgia altogether. But on the eve of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the global financial meltdown, he did not impose the sort of sanctions that Mr. Obama is now applying.

“We and the Europeans threw the relationship into the toilet at the end of 2008,” Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser, recalled last week. “We wanted to send the message that strategically this was not acceptable. Now in retrospect, we probably should have done more like economic sanctions.”  If Mr. Bush did not take the strongest punitive actions possible, his successor soon made the point moot. Taking office just months later, Mr. Obama decided to end any isolation of Russia because of Georgia in favor of rebuilding relations. Unlike his predecessors, he would try to forge a relationship not by befriending Mr. Putin but by bypassing him.  Ostensibly complying with Russia’s two-term constitutional limit, Mr. Putin had stepped down as president and installed his aide, Dmitri A. Medvedev, in his place, while taking over as prime minister himself. So Mr. Obama decided to treat Mr. Medvedev as if he really were the leader.

A diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks later captured the strategy in summing up similar French priorities: “Cultivating relations with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, in the hope that he can become a leader independent of Vladimir Putin.”  Before his first trip to Moscow, Mr. Obama publicly dismissed Mr. Putin as having “one foot in the old ways of doing business” and pumped up Mr. Medvedev as a new-generation leader. Mr. Obama’s inaugural meeting with Mr. Putin a few days later featured a classic tirade by the Russian about all the ways that the United States had mistreated Moscow.  Among those skeptical of Mr. Obama’s strategy were Mr. Gates, who stayed on as defense secretary, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the new secretary of state. Like Mr. Gates, Mrs. Clinton was deeply suspicious of Mr. Putin. In private, she mockingly imitated his man’s-man, legs-spread-wide posture during their meetings. But even if they did not assign it much chance of success, she and Mr. Gates both agreed the policy was worth trying and she gamely presented her Russian counterpart with a “reset” button, remembered largely for its mistaken Russian translation.

Obama’s ‘Reset’ Gambit

For a time, Mr. Obama’s gamble on Mr. Medvedev seemed to be working. They revived Mr. Bush’s civilian nuclear agreement, signed a nuclear arms treaty, sealed an agreement allowing