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Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be visiting our European neighbours this week before the G7 conference in Biarritz:

Reuters reports (emphases mine):

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will tell French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Westminster parliament cannot stop Brexit and a new deal must be agreed if Britain is to avoid leaving the EU without one.

In his first trip abroad as leader, Johnson is due to meet his European counterparts ahead of a G7 summit on Aug. 24-26 in Biarritz, France.

He will say that Britain is leaving the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal, and that the British parliament cannot block that, according to a Downing Street source.

Despite Parliament’s summer recess, Remain MPs have been in various discussions as to how to stop our leaving, deal or no deal, on October 31:

It is, however, unclear if lawmakers have the unity or power to use the British parliament to prevent a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 – likely to be the United Kingdom’s most significant move since World War Two.

Sky News reports that No. 10 says Brexit will be but a small part of Boris’s discussions with France and Germany:

… Number 10 said it expects there to be “very little discussion” of Brexit during the visit to Berlin on Wednesday and Paris on Thursday, with other topics to be the focus.

Discussions are expected to centre around the next G7 summit in Biarritz, France, next weekend, with trade, foreign policy, security and the environment set to be on the table.

Number 10 said Mr Johnson would discuss issues such as climate change with his fellow leaders, adding: “The EU are our closest neighbours and whatever happens we want a strong relationship after we leave.”

Thanks to Boris’s leadership thus far, the Conservative Party once again leads in the polls:

British voters believe that Boris would make the best PM:

Nevertheless, Labour MPs think they can overturn triggering of Article 50. Whether this can be done is of some debate:

The Speaker of the House, John Bercow, is supposed to be impartial, yet, he, too, is said to be plotting against No Deal:

Boris’s government tied up one loose end at the weekend:

This was something Theresa May was supposed to instruct Stephen Barclay (pictured) to do — but didn’t:

There were two significant leaks in the past few days.

One was Boris’s Brexit ‘script’, left behind in a London pub, allegedly by a civil servant. Tell me this was not deliberate:

The other was a copy of Operation Yellowhammer, which contains all the worst case scenarios in case of No Deal:

The Sunday Times made this look like news, but Yellowhammer first surfaced on Wednesday, March 20 in preparation for our original March 29 exit date.

That day, the Express reported:

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told Cabinet ministers in a letter the plan will be implemented on March 25 unless a new exit date is agreed. Operation Yellowhammer is the UK Treasury’s contingency plan for no deal exit from the bloc. The plan drafts what would happen for factors such as money, citizens, trade and customs.

According to the Daily Telegraph, if no date is set by Monday Operation Yellowhammer will be implemented.

In a letter to Cabinet ministers, Mr Barclay wrote: “Operation Yellowhammer command and control structures will be enacted fully on 25 March unless a new exit date has been agreed between the UK and the EU.”

The Guardian‘s story, also published that day, had more information:

With the country placed on a knife-edge by Theresa May’s latest Brexit crisis, the government is preparing for “any outcome” with a decision on Monday on whether to roll out the national Operation Yellowhammer contingencies for food, medicine and banking.

Some measures have already swung into place, including Operation Fennel’s traffic management in Kent.

The Europe minister, Alan Duncan, has also said the Foreign Office staff deployed to its Brexit “nerve centre” are working to help UK citizens in the EU in the event they get caught up in a Brexit mess.

The Department of Health was due to activate emergency supply chain operations, with instructions to medicines suppliers to book space on ferries to ensure they are not caught up in queues from next weekend in the event of no-deal.

They are just two of the 12 Operation Yellowhammer areas of risk the government has planned for in the event of a crash-out, according to a National Audit Office report [pdf]. It will decide next Monday if they should all become operational, enacting no-deal plans in 30 central government departments and 42 local councils, two devolved governments and in Northern Ireland.

Yellowhammer also had measures in place for Gibraltar. Fortunately, the government there was quick to point out that Yellowhammer as published is now out of date:

Interestingly, the week before, the island’s government reminded residents to prepare for a No Deal Brexit:

But I digress.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, tweeted:

Sky News had more about Gove’s explanation:

Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times tweeted:

Boris is also displeased with Theresa May’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who has been predicting all manner of Project Fear disasters if No Deal comes about on October 31:

However, Germany had an important leak of its own at the same time as Yellowhammer resurfaced in the UK:

Good. I was also heartened to see the view of Boris from Berlin:

Absolutely correct.

I wish Boris Johnson all the best in his meetings this week with our European partners.

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Of course, the EU will do everything possible to keep the UK’s money coming in. It looks as if this will be until the end of the year.

As I write in the middle of the afternoon, this is the current status of Brexit with regard to an EU extension.

On Monday night, Yvette Cooper’s Bill No. 5 passed the House, preventing No Deal from the British side. PM Theresa May must now seek a further extension date with the EU to at least June 30, but probably longer:

Today’s parliamentary debates involved discussing an extension until June 30, possibly longer. Talks also continued between Conservatives and Labour to arrive at a way forward for Brexit conditions.

EU leaders meet on Wednesday, April 10, to discuss whether to grant the UK another Article 50 extension. Currently, the deadline is Friday, April 12, however, this is likely to be extended.

Meanwhile, MPs advocating a No Deal on Friday are being realistic. Germany already has proposals for No Deal deals with Britain in that event:

In any event, PM May went to Berlin and Paris to propose a new extension date with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, respectively.

This morning, France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire did not think that there was any rationale for a further extension without solid justification. The Guardian reported that he said:

There is need for clarity on why the delay and how it will in the end facilitate an agreement.

I prefer an agreement. But Theresa May should give us the reasons why she wants the delay and these reasons must be credible.

EU ministers were meeting in Luxembourg today, where Brexit was on the agenda ahead of tomorrow’s summit. Germany’s Michael Roth, France’s Amelie de Montchalin and Ireland’s Simon Coveney all expressed their frustration and hoped that May had a decent justification for a further extension.

After the EU ministers met, they held a press conference. George Ciamba, the Romanian foreign affairs minister, said that No Deal was still a possibility. He said that May’s plan — the Withdrawal Agreement (a treaty) — was the only way forward in terms of exiting the EU. Michel Barnier, the UK’s chief negotiator from the EU, said that a long extension — e.g. until the end of the year — might be reliant on the addition of customs union membership to the Political Declaration accompanying the Withdrawal Agreement. UGH! He affirmed that the EU does not want No Deal.

He also said that the current Withdrawal Agreement was final — no further negotiations on the Irish border:

Just before lunchtime, PM May arrived in Berlin to meet with Chancellor Merkel.

While they greeted each other and posed for a photo op, Conservative MP Liam Fox, Britain’s international trade secretary issued a letter firmly stating his opposition to a customs union. He is entirely correct:

It is thought that French president Emmanuel Macron could say on Wednesday that the UK will not be granted an extension beyond December 31 and that three-monthly compliance checks on Britain’s progress might be obligatory.

More to follow tomorrow.

On Friday, March 29, 2019, Britain is — or was — supposed to leave the European Union.

That date has now been extended to April 12 and possibly further, should Parliament agree to participate in EU elections this summer.

It was not supposed to end like this. Brexit was supposed to happen by March 29, as Prime Minister Theresa May had pledged it would.

My personal suspicion is that Remainer MPs have been running down the clock for months so that the PM would be forced to go to Brussels to get an extension from the EU.

This week, anything could happen. It is doubtful a third vote on the PM’s deal — a softer Brexit — will pass. It is also unknown whether we will see a no deal exit, even though I’d be quite happy with that:

This week, we will see all sorts of Remainer MP amendments which Remainer Speaker of the House John Bercow will table for a vote.

It should be noted that the Leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, was in Brussels on Thursday, April 22, at the same time as Theresa May. Hmm. What will he be announcing this week?

What follows are possible routes Brexit negotiations could take.

Incidentally, I wrote this on Friday, March 22, based on available information at the time.

The reason for a possible Brexit delay

As you read the rest of this post, it is important to keep in mind the figures on this graphic from Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative MP for North East Somerset and member of the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG). The important item is the last one, visible only if you click on the image:

From that last item, you can see that the overwhelming majority of MPs are Remainers.

Extension dates

As it stands, the PM walked away from her discussion in Brussels with an immediate extension to Friday, April 12:

However, if she gets momentum with Parliament on a way forward, that could be extended to May 22:

This is a good summary:

There is also the possibility that, if Parliament decided to go down a route whereby the UK could get an even longer extension, then we would take part in EU elections. Personally, I hope this does not happen.

The following comments from a thread at PoliticalBetting.com explain more. MV3 — Meaningful Vote 3 — is the third vote MPs will have on Theresa May’s exit plan on Tuesday, March 26. HOC is House of Commons:

F: … the need for an enabling bill for the Euro elections is why the date is April 12th. It is a prerequesite for a longer extension. If MV3 fails then voting against a Euro elections bill means voting for No Deal.

B: I am so pleased we are on the same page Foxy

It has been a battle over the last few days and this morning especially, to explain the 12th April was selected by the EU as it is the last date before the campaign for the EU elections and we have to take part if we want an extension of any kind

It is up to the HOC, but I am truly dismayed at how journalists, media and politicians are not explaining this in detail, as it was one of the most important issues coming from the EU

Also:

P: But according to Wiki at least the repeal of the European Elections Act hasn’t been enacted yet. Therefore if we wish to hold elections we can presumably do so under the old act that is still legally current legislation. We just need to commit to do so as the law is still on the books. 

Political parties are preparing to take part in EU elections, as is top Leave campaigner, Nigel Farage, MEP and former UKIP leader:

Possible MV3 result

In order for MV3 to take place, PM May must amend her deal.

As she has not succeeded in getting her deal passed in the previous two Meaningful Votes, it is uncertain whether Tuesday’s vote, even with changes, will be any different — especially if MPs can vote freely and not follow a party line. That could spell bad news for Leavers:

Also:

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn spent time in Brussels with Martin Selmayr, the Secretary-General of the EU commission. The Labour plan appears to entail joining a UK-EU customs union that would exclude other countries. Yet, Selmayr celebrated the European Economic Area Agreement (EEAA), which would also oblige the UK to follow EU rules, even if we were no longer formally in the EU. Selmayr conveniently leaves that out of his tweet:

A hiccup could result in one less vote for the PM’s deal because of the following:

In principle, should MV3 fail, May would go for a no deal exit on March 29:

However, the EU extension and further negotiations between the PM and Parliament could change that:

Confusion reigns

One thing of which we can be certain: May’s trip to Brussels has delayed Brexit.

The EU extension to Brexit was subject to unanimous approval of the 27 member nations. Given Matteo Salvini’s criticism of the EU, it seemed that Italy would vote against. Ditto Poland. But no:

The only real public comments came from France’s president, Emmanuel Macron:

At the end of last week, even May’s own cabinet members were in a state of confusion, although to be fair, they have been known for leaking:

May seems to be more conciliatory since her announcement on Wednesday night at No. 10, wherein she was critical of MPs for not moving Brexit along. On Thursday, after her day in Brussels:

All possibilities on the table

The chart below shows all the complex possibilities surrounding Brexit at the moment.

Click on the graphic and it will automatically open in a new tab. Then click on the image to enlarge the text:

Deal or no deal?

The border situation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is a primary sticking point in Brexit negotiations and parliamentary voting.

Currently, the border is open. With no deal, Remainers say it would be closed.

However, that might not be the case — even as far as the EU is concerned.

While former Conservative MP Michael Portillo threw cold water on no deal on Thursday:

On Friday, good news emerged from no less than Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel:

Leave supporters can but hope that Mrs May is able to get the UK out of the EU by April 12.

More to follow when significant developments occur.

Forbidden Bible Verses will appear tomorrow.

Pointman’s is a great site for socio-political commentary not only on the present but also the past.

On January 5, 2018, Pointman wrote about phony political parties, jaundiced voters and declining governments. Please take the time to read ‘The Misrepresentation of the People Act’ in full.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

Political party set-ups are essentially the same wherever one lives:

The actual names vary from country to country; Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Labour, Liberal or Labor. There are always a few tiddler or schism parties wandering aimlessly around the political edges going nowhere accompanied by nothing other than their own strident outrage at something or another, but the essential shape is two big mainline parties, or in some cases as in Germany, comfortable coalitions of such long-standing that they might as well be one party anyway.

As we know, one party is in power for a time, then the opposition party takes hold of the reins, then the cycle repeats. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t:

When it works as it should, it’s a pragmatic recognition of the debilitating aspects of the same party being in power for too long, and also acts as a natural emetic to get rid of them. That hackneyed old saying about the corrupting effect of power is very true …

Where this paradigm breaks down is when the leaders of both the parties begin to treat the whole election process as a turn and turn about thing; okay, you’ve won power for a couple of administrations and then it’ll be our turn. We won’t rock the boat too hard for you other than giving you a jolly strict telling off when you make a public cockup of something. The unspoken but understood caveat on being an effectively quiescent opposition party is that the big players in it still get a decent share of the power and money floating around that’s commensurate with such tacit co-operation.

When the system doesn’t work, it is because both parties have too many commonly-shared interests:

The people running these parties, and being run themselves by big money interests in various shapes and forms, tend to share the same education, privileged background and über political world views of what used to be termed internationalism but has now mutated into a bastardised consensus of smug political globalisation, because that’s what’s really good for their super rich patrons.

For the low-information person, including a voter, a change of government looks stable and normal. However, that is not necessarily the case:

it’s inherently unstable since it lacks any feedback to correct the corruption such power in perpetuity will inevitably engender. It pushes the day of reckoning further ahead, but that day will arrive in the end.

As always, the basic cause allowing this situation to develop is electorates disinterested in politics who sleepwalk into this mess. For too many years they’ve listened to the vague promises of jam tomorrow from political con men whose only talent is stringing the mark along.

That has troubled me, personally, especially when I speak with Americans who invariably elect the same people for years and years on end. These are congress-critters and senators who are useless in serving their constituents, yet Americans keep re-electing them. It really bugs me a lot.

Now and then, someone new and fresh emerges on the scene who is elected, but they seldom seem to be around very long. But, no one cares, and the cycle of electing self-serving politicians continues:

There is a propriety Antipodean shortcut into this situation which involves electing a reasonably sane leader who’s very quickly stabbed in the back by one of his underlings who turns out to be incompetent but has the saving grace of being eminently corrupt. Anyway, this combination of lazy electorates and seemingly Alzheimer stricken populations who can’t quite connect promises made and promises not fulfilled, will eventually break down.

This definitely happened in the United States, and one man is doing his very best to rectify the situation. That said, there is still a lot of rot in both the Democrat (un-‘Democratic’) and Republican parties, to the extent that politically-aware voters have dubbed both the Uniparty. And, what follows is a highly accurate description of the end result that the Uniparty and, in other countries, long-term coalitions bring about:

It’s all about them, not you. The vested interests prosper at the expense of impoverishing the ordinary person, irrespective of their race, colour, creed or politics …

By this late stage, the bulk of electorates are totally jaundiced about any involvement in the political process and those actively engaged in it as foot soldiers are starting to suspect they’re not even a minor player in the game, but the football. They’re regarded by their betters as highly motivated, but easily manipulated drones busy at work producing honey for their masters.

By this time we’re heading into stage 4 cancer in the body politic, but the status quo of those deeply entrenched in power will start to defend itself by any and all means available, whether legal or not. Imagine getting the snouts of a hungry herd of swine out of a steaming swill-filled trough, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the immensity of the task.

The next stage is to create a new — phony — third political party that sweeps into power:

As the new broom of the faux opposition party being elected isn’t working any more, it’s possible to invent a third party that’s making all the right reformist noises but is still a cat’s-paw of the current background interests.

Much of the time, these parties are unsuccessful.

Pointman says this happened in Greece …

It was a freshly minted party by the power mongers which just continued on in the same old way, but was quickly found out.

… and in France, with Emmanuel Macron in 2017:

with a hitherto unknown leader Fifi Macron mincing around in front of it and making all the right noises. A few months in, he promptly junked the modest tax reforms of the previous nominally left-wing administration which were a tad too expensive on his extremely rich backers who’d put him into power to do just that. At the same time, he started lumping more and more taxes on blue and white-collar workers.

Today, Emmanuel Macron is facing the prospect of a ninth weekend of demonstrations by overly taxed, low income French men and women: the yellow vest movement — les gilets jaunes:

Despite disparaging reports you might have heard about them, they’re painfully ordinary people struggling to survive in Macron’s France. There’s a lot of them and they’re composed of that most dangerous segment of any electorate, those pushed into a corner with no way out and not much to lose.

As I listen to French talk radio (RMC) every weekday, I have been following this movement with interest — and the way in which Les Grandes Gueules are covering them. For the first few weeks, the hosts and panellists were empathetic. Before Christmas, their opinions became more critical, which made for interesting discussions as some panellists are still on the side of les gilets jaunes. Fair enough, shops and restaurants lost a lot of trade in cities at the heart of the protests, but the media seemed to focus on the violence rather than the vast majority of peaceful protesters. This year, the media, including the two Grandes Gueules presenters, are shifting the narrative a bit towards the ‘we’ve all had enough of les gilets jaunes‘.

One thing that did not help the yellow jackets’ cause was the vehicular break-in at one of the French ministries last weekend. The other was a boxer who started punching policemen, also last weekend. He had no criminal record prior to that.

Once the weekend demonstrations became a regular fixture — about a month in — violent rabble-rousers started infiltrating the movement, which has attracted a few extremists from both the Left and the Right.

This ongoing violence gave the media carte blanche to negatively cover the movement as a whole. Lately, there has been less coverage of the ordinary gilet jaunes who gather to protest because they cannot make ends meet.

The media were rightly, in my opinion, taken to task for it today. Here is Michel Onfray, a philosopher, who tells them the media have been labelling les gilets jaunes racist, sexist, homophobic and everything else pejorative under the sun. And he accuses the two Grandes Gueules hosts of similar negative coverage — equally ‘staggering’ (sidérant). They did not like that at all:

This weekend, it will be interesting to see if the government — via the police — allows any protests to go ahead.

Pointman already sussed that on January 5, and referred to preventive arrests made near the end of 2018:

Riot cops or paramilitary thugs are deployed to brutally suppress public demonstrations against an administration that’s becoming a dictatorship in all but name. Not only are public demonstrations being physically attacked, but wholesale arrests and incarcerations start to become the norm. Behind the scenes, preventive arrests start to be made. With regard to the weekend after weekend protests in France, numbers like 1400 arrests made are bandied about by the Quisling media, but what’s not being disclosed is 1000 of these were preventive arrests. Arrest and imprisonment of people before any protest has even been made. When that begins, we’re on the slippery slope with occasional stops for doing things like arresting schoolchildren and treating them like POWs.

He reminds us of the situation in Venezuela:

If the government manages to put down what is in effect a rebellion, you end up with a dictatorship with a nice name like the Democratic People’s Republic of Whatever, as happened in Venezuela and with the usual dire results for the inhabitants.

The alternative is something akin to America’s Revolutionary War, which had a good outcome.

Pointman then discussed President Trump and the constant opposition he is facing:

A third and extremely rare outcome is a natural leader primarily in touch with the people rising to power. Even more rarely, if not uniquely, that person comes from the super-rich classes, who’re usually the power brokers and puppet masters behind the various thrones, and refuses to accommodate them. They will bring to bear every power at their command to destroy him, because he’s betrayed what should be his natural class, is re-energising swathes of the electorate to re-engage with politics and they’re rallying to the colours of someone who’s actually doing things for them.

That is exactly why Trump haters should rethink their position. President Trump has done and will do more to help America and her people than any president in living memory.

As far as Europe is concerned, Macron won’t last beyond one term (if that) and Merkel has seen the writing on the wall for her chancellorship:

The heart of power within the EU was Germany with France as the supporting act, but Fifi is finished and Merkel has become an electoral liability even for her own party. Like the stricken battleship Bismarck, she’s alone and steaming around in circles with no flotilla rushing to her aid. A few more torpedoes and she, like the EU, will be out of the game.

Eastern Europe, he says, is breaking away from Western Europe’s outlook on the world, recognising the sovereignty of the nation state rather than globalism.

Ultimately, voters everywhere in the West need to wake up, smell the coffee and become more engaged with what is going on. Are we being represented or, as Pointman posits, misrepresented? I think we know the answer.

President Donald J Trump and First Lady Melania Trump gave a Christmas message on December 25, taking turns in relating the Nativity story and how this season brings out the best in the American spirit of giving to and caring for others. They also remembered those who serve in the military.

This is a very Christian message. I applaud them for it:

President Trump also participated in his customary Christmas conference call with selected military bases:

On Christmas night, America’s first couple travelled to Iraq to meet and greet US troops serving there. Contrary to what Big — Fake — Media say, this trip would have been planned weeks, if not months, in advance.

This is a superb video of their entrance:

This is my favourite photo:

Mrs Trump is the first wife of a US president to visit Iraq since 2003, at which time Laura Bush went:

Trump gave a short speech to the troops, discussing his foreign policy decisions in the Middle East:

He also said:

In a private meeting with military officers, Trump made this revelation about the trip there:

After the Trumps left Iraq, they flew to Ramstein Air Base in Germany:

Cameras were out in force:

Neo-con national security adviser John Bolton also made the trip:

However, it does not look as if Bolton was in this particular meeting aboard Air Force One:

Then it was time to return home:

Mrs Trump is wearing leather trousers, by the way — not a miniskirt.

In closing, everyone involved put together a painstakingly involved, whistle-stop overseas tour that, thankfully, went beautifully and brought all concerned home safe and sound. For that, we can thank divine providence.

Before we get too far into Advent and Sunday School comes to a close until the New Year, I would like to point out that candy canes can be a useful teaching tool in telling the Nativity story.

The secular assault on Christmas might have lessened somewhat since President Trump was elected to office, however, there are probably a number of state schools in the US that forbid anything that even hints at the religious, e.g. candy canes and Christmas bell sugar cookies. A 2009 article from American Thinker, ‘Criminalizing Christmas Cookies, Candy Canes and Crèches’, has probably aged well. Please do read it.

So, it would seem that some children are left with learning about the Nativity story at home or in Sunday School. Enter the candy cane. Enterprising mothers and Sunday School teachers might like to make a meringue version for children.

One of my readers writes from the perspective of her golden retriever, Brodie. In 2016, she posted on the ever-popular candy cane:

and by the way here’s the history of the beloved ‘J’ shape like a shepherds crook…so the back story of the candy cane is spiritual and came in celebration of the nativity.

The link, on WhyChristmas?, explores the legend, history and symbolism behind this sweet December treat. There’s a lovely bit in the third paragraph for Sunday School teachers and Christian parents (emphases mine below):

A story says that a choirmaster, in 1670, was worried about the children sitting quietly all through the long Christmas nativity service. So he gave them something to eat to keep them quiet! As he wanted to remind them of Christmas, he made them into a ‘J’ shape like a shepherds crook, to remind them of the shepherds that visited the baby Jesus at the first Christmas. However, the earliest records of ‘candy canes’ comes from over 200 years later, so the story, although rather nice, probably isn’t true!

Sometime around 1900 the red stripes were added and they were flavored with peppermint or wintergreen.

Sometimes other Christian meanings are giving to the parts of the canes. The ‘J’ can also mean Jesus. The white of the cane can represent the purity of Jesus Christ and the red stripes are for the blood he shed when he died on the cross. The peppermint flavor can represent the hyssop plant that was used for purifying in the Bible.

So, although this symbolism is not a fact about the candy cane, it can be used to tell a child about the Nativity.

NoelNoelNoel elaborates on the religious symbolism sometimes associated with the candy cane:

Many people have given religious meaning to the shape and form of the candy cane. It is said that its shape is like the letter “J” in Jesus’ name. It is also in the shape of the shepherds’ crook, symbolic of how Jesus, like the “Good Shepherd” watches over his children like little lambs. It is a hard candy, solid like a “rock”, the foundation of the Church. The flavor of peppermint is similar to another member of the mint family, hyssop. In the Old Testament hyssop was used for purification and sacrifice, and this is said to symbolize the purity of Jesus and the sacrifice he made.

Some say the white of the candy cane represents the purity of Jesus and his virgin birth. The bold red stripe represents God’s love. The three fine stripes are said by some to represent the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Others say they represent the blood spilled at the beating Jesus received at the hands of the Roman soldiers.

Angie from Chocolate Candy Mall posted a story about the candy cane legend of the choirmaster and included a religious poem, perfect for children:

Look at the Candy Cane
What do you see?
Stripes that are red
Like the blood shed for me
White is for my Savior
Who’s sinless and pure!
“J” is for Jesus,
My Lord, that’s for sure!
Turn it around
And a staff you will see
Jesus my shepherd
Was born for Me!

Angie says:

In spite of the fact that the legend is more like folklore, the candy cane can be used in a beautiful way to represent the love and sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Short and sweet, isn’t it? Okay, back to the Legend of the Candy Cane story – Whether or not this tale is the true candy cane meaning, it presents us as believers with a simple opportunity to share a little bit of the Gospel story with those we meet during the Christmas season.

May the Lord bless you as you share your faith in Christ with others!

Let us now look at how the candy cane probably developed throughout history. They were likely to have been white sugary sticks in the 1800s, as NoelNoelNoel explains:

The use of candy canes on Christmas trees made its way to America by the 1800’s, however during this time they were still pure white.

In the United States during that time, Today I Found Out tells us that candy canes were part of Christmas tree decorations:

the first known candy cane that popped up in America was also supposedly thanks to a German immigrant, August Imgard, who used the candy cane for this purpose- decorating a Christmas tree in his home in Wooster, Ohio.

If he made crooks, he would have had to be very careful. Crooks became widespread only in the 20th century, for reasons stated below.

Therefore, I will work on the assumption that most of what appeared in this era were straight, white, sticks — possibly, although not always, flavoured with peppermint or wintergreen.

Old Christmas cards provide evidence of what shape and colour the peppermint sticks were. The familiar stripes did not appear until the 20th century:

Evidence, such as Christmas cards from the late 19th century, seems to indicate people were still going with the all-white candy cane at this point. Then in the early 20th century there started to be many instances of candy canes showing up on Christmas cards with red stripes.

Given candy canes were used as much for decoration as eating at this time, it’s not surprising that somebody got the bright idea to put a colorful stripe on them. It should also be noted that a little over a half century or so before stripes were known to be added to candy canes, there is a reference of white peppermint candy sticks with colored stripes added.

WhyChristmas? says that the candy cane we know today came about around 1920 when:

Bob McCormack, from Georgia, USA, started making canes for his friends and family. They became more and more popular and he started his own business called Bob’s Candies.

Today I Found Out has more about the stripes:

who first got that idea to make striped candy canes is still a mystery. Some say it was candy maker Bob McCormack in the 1920s. McCormick’s company by the late 1950s would become one of the world’s largest peppermint candy cane producers, selling about a half a million candy canes per day at their peak. But it may well be that McCormick simply popularized the striping practice, rather than invented it. One thing is for sure, this idea spread like a wildfire and soon a red stripe on a candy cane was near universal, as was peppermint flavoring …

As for the crook:

the cane had to be manually bent when it was still warm/soft coming off the assembly line, usually using a wooden mold or the like.

This proved to be problematic for Bob McCormack on the production line:

McCormack was having trouble at the time because about 22% of the candy canes produced by Bob and his crew were ending up in the trash as they broke during the bending process.

Fortunately, the good Lord blessed McCormack with a splendid brother-in-law. Not only was he a Catholic priest, he was also an inventor. WhyChristmas? says:

Bob McCormack’s brother-in-law, Gregory Harding Keller, who was a Catholic priest, invented the ‘Keller Machine’ that made turning straight candy sticks into curved candy canes automatically!

Today I Found Out adds:

Keller’s machine automated this process and shortly thereafter was perfected by Dick Driskell and Jimmy Spratling, both of which worked for Bob McCormack. This made it so the candy canes came out perfect nearly every time.

WhyChristmas? says:

In 2005, Bob’s Candies was bought by Farley and Sathers but they still make candy canes!

So, there you have the story behind candy canes, with a Christian twist.

If anyone has used the candy cane in a Sunday School lesson, please feel free to share your experience below!

The 2018 NATO summit was held on Wednesday and Thursday, July 11 and 12 in Brussels.

President Donald Trump made it a fiery one, indeed.

First Lady Melania Trump, since recovered from her kidney operation, accompanied her husband. (Breitbart has fashion notes.) They left the White House on July 10:

Both looked to be in robust health, especially the president:

In the video above, Trump answered a few questions from the press. He predicted that, out of NATO, his Brexit-oriented trade meetings in the UK and Putin summit, his discussions with the Russian president would be the easiest of the three.

This is historical background on why Trump is upset with NATO countries:

In fact, NATO published figures supporting that claim on July 10. Of particular note is Graph 5 on page 4 of the PDF. There’s a good NATO chart here.

An article from The Federalist, ‘Trump Is Not To Blame for NATO Chaos, Nor Breaking the Liberal Order’, explains the situation in full, recalling not only NATO’s history but also that of the ancient world. Author Sumantra Maitra, a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham, explodes the two myths. It’s well worth reading in full. Excerpts follow.

First, on Trump’s not being to blame for NATO chaos, he says (emphases mine):

NATO enlargement post-Cold War was essentially a push from the liberal internationalist lobby within the Clinton administration, led by Madeleine Albright and backed by the German leaders like Volker Rühe. Evidence suggests there was significant academic opposition to NATO expansion during that time, including from the father of the strategy of Cold War containment, George F Kennan. He said NATO expansion would end up being the greatest blunder of our times

Also, the cost-benefit analysis of providing an American taxpayer-funded security umbrella to corrupt, violent smaller countries not only is a heavy and needless burden based on a flawed strategy but encourages those smaller countries to risk conflict assuming that American cavalry is just around the hills

If European powers want American protection, then they should follow American rules and share the burden. Else, they are free to find their own ways.

As for the second myth, there has never been a particular philosophical ‘order’ that governed NATO:

There is no evidence that there ever was a “rule-based order” for Trump to now arguably destroy. Research suggests the liberal order was a myth and a nostalgia about a world that never was. Hard military power is what always mattered on this planet as a guarantee of freedom. Trump is just blunt, genuinely conservative, and mercantile enough to remind us of that.

The European Union and some European countries claim that Russia is a gigantic threat and they need more commitment from the United States. The reality is that Trump’s administration armed the Ukrainians with lethal weapons, re-established the Second Fleet, smoked out 200 Russians in Syria in one day, and told Germans (yes, Germans) to stop the Nord Stream pipeline. Europeans, on the other hand, refuse flatly to pay their fair share for their defense and even refuse to lead America in cutting off the Russian gas supply. It’s quite natural, therefore, that EU technocrats’ protests sound hypocritical to an average American taxpayer.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) would agree with that assessment:

Trump’s friend in England, Nigel Farage, would also agree that member countries are not paying their fair share:

Trump tweeted about this several times before he left. Germany contributes only 1% (the US contributes 4%). Some accounts say that the US is paying for 90% of NATO. Therefore, NATO countries must pay more, the US less. Many countries are also delinquent in their past NATO contributions; will they reimburse the US for paying the balance?

In addition, member nations also want to hammer the US with tariffs:

However, another Donald — EU president Tusk from Poland — published a rebuttal to Trump’s claims on the European Council site on July 10. He also read them publicly. His remarks are excerpted below:

Speaking on the eve of the NATO summit here in Brussels, I would like to address President Trump directly, who for a long time now has been criticising Europe almost daily for, in his view, insufficient contributions to the common defence capabilities, and for living off the US. Dear President Trump: America does not have, and will not have a better ally than Europe. Today Europeans spend on defence many times more than Russia, and as much as China

I would therefore have two remarks here. First of all, dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don’t have that many. And, dear Europe, spend more on your defence, because everyone respects an ally that is well-prepared and equipped …

Dear Mr President, please remember about this tomorrow, when we meet at the NATO summit, but above all when you meet president Putin in Helsinki. It is always worth knowing: who is your strategic friend? And who is your strategic problem?

The Trumps arrived that day at Melsbroek Air Base near Brussels:

Streets in Brussels were closed to the public for security reasons as the US motorcade sped through:

The next tweet ended with a Q-type statement, further leading me to think that Q is travelling with the president. Q has not commented since Wednesday, July 4:

This was Trump’s schedule for Wednesday, November 11:

The American contingent prepared for the summit in Brussels. Chief of Staff John Kelly is on the right, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on the left:

Earlier that morning, Trump made known his concern for American farmers:

I wonder if Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg (left hand centre, opposite Trump) …

… knew how hot that morning’s breakfast would be:

Here’s the background:

This diagram, courtesy of Gazprom, shows the current and future Nord Stream pipelines:

This is Trump’s perspective …

… included in one of his hot breakfast servings:

The Daily Mail has looked into the situation and confirms that the above is true:

Donald Trump‘s claim that Germany imports 70 per cent of its gas from Russia at a fiery Nato summit today is correct – and the country will soon receive even more.  

The EU’s statistics agency, Eurostat, says that Russia is responsible for up to 75% of Germany’s total gas imports.

And experts say that figure could dramatically increase after a new pipeline between Russia and Germany opens in two years time …

Donald Trump also questioned the role of the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who is now working for Gazprom.

Schroeder signed the deal for Nord Stream in haste after being ousted by Angela Merkel in a narrow election defeat in 2005.

Just weeks after leaving office, however, he started overseeing the implementation of the project for Gazprom.  

Schroeder took up position as head of Nord Stream AG’s shareholder committee and has worked for the gas behemoth ever since.

The former politician is rumoured to have been paid millions by Gazprom and is set to pocket even more with the announcement of the second phase of the Nord Stream project.

Before the summit officially began that afternoon, President and Mrs Trump spent time at the Tri-Mission Embassy spreading good will:

When everyone gathered at NATO headquarters, there was a group photo shot. Look at the matching royal blue colour scheme of Theresa May and Angela Merkel (0:22 mark, photo here). The woman in red is Croatia’s president:

This was the scene that afternoon at NATO headquarters:

Trump held private meetings with Germany (yes, they discussed the pipeline) and France (remarks here; earlier, Macron hugged his surrogate papa):

This, by the way, is Germany’s military readiness at the moment:

Oddly, while America’s powerful oppose Trump, e.g. most of the US Senate, his popularity rating is above that of most NATO leaders:

Trump’s Brexit friend Nigel Farage agrees:

The following photo shows that Croatia’s president has eyes for Trump (in the nicest possible way):

As the FIFA World Cup was drawing to a close, she gave personalised Croatian football shirts to NATO leaders. (Croatia beat England. Then France beat Croatia 4-2 on Sunday, July 15. France’s last World Cup win was in 1998.)

Returning to official NATO business, Justin Trudeau announced that Canada will assume the command of the NATO training mission in Iraq.

While the NATO leaders met and held separate meetings, separate events were planned for their spouses who renewed friendships and spent time together:

The summit continued that evening at the historic Parc du Cinquantenaire, home to Belgium’s Royal Museums of Art and History:

The EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker was not at his best for the opening ceremony:

Juncker has form. Those who defended him online say he has sciatica. If he did, no doubt more attendees would have leapt to support him physically, but they did not. This is what happened after everyone left the dais:

Mrs Trump’s wardrobe was of interest:

Trump was still upset heading into Day 2:

This was Trump’s schedule for July 12:

Before leaving that day, he held an impromptu press conference (YouTube video):

He referred to himself the way Admiral Ronny Jackson did earlier this year after giving him his health exam. From the transcript:

Q Thank you. We understand your message, but some people ask themselves, will you be tweeting differently once you board the Air Force One? Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: No, that’s other people that do that. I don’t. I’m very consistent. I’m a very stable genius. (Laughter.)

As for the NATO summit:

Q Mr. President, I’m Tara McKelvey with the BBC. Can you tell us whether or not you warned people that the U.S. would pull out of NATO if they weren’t meeting their spending goals?

THE PRESIDENT: I told people that I’d be very unhappy if they didn’t up their commitments very substantially, because the United States has been paying a tremendous amount, probably 90 percent of the cost of NATO. And now, people are going to start and countries are going to start upping their commitments. So I let them know yesterday, actually. I was surprised that you didn’t pick it up; it took until today. But yesterday, I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening, and they have substantially upped their commitment, yeah. And now we’re very happy and have a very, very powerful, very, very strong NATO, much stronger than it was two days ago

Q President Trump, Ryan Chilcote, PBS NewsHour. Did you win concessions in your meetings and discussions with the German Chancellor when it comes to German defense spending and also with this issue of purchasing energy from Russia? And secondly, what would you say to your critics that say by creating this scene here at NATO you’re only enabling President Putin and Russia to further disturb things in Ukraine and Georgia?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, if you consider putting up tremendously — you know, the additional funds at a level that nobody has ever seen before, I don’t think that’s helping Russia. I think that NATO is much stronger now than it was two days ago. I think that NATO was not doing what they were supposed to be doing — a lot of the countries. And we were doing much more than we should have been doing.

Frankly, we were carrying too much of a burden. That’s why we call it “burden-sharing.” I was using the term a lot today. “Burden-sharing.” We had a fantastic meeting at the end — 29 countries. And they are putting up a lot. Germany has increased very substantially their time period, and Germany is coming along. And we still have to figure out what’s going on with the pipeline, because the pipeline is coming in from Russia.

So we’re going to have to figure that out. I brought it up; nobody brought it up but me, and we all are talking about it now. And actually, I think the world is talking about it now maybe more than anything else. But we’re going to figure that out.

But — and, frankly, maybe everybody is going to have a good relationship with Russia so there will be a lot less problem with the pipeline. But, to me, that was a very major point of contention. We discussed it at length today. Germany has agreed to do a lot better than they were doing, and we’re very happy with that. We had a very good relationship with Angela Merkel.

On Monday, July 16, in Helsinki, Trump told the Finnish president Sauli Niinistö over their breakfast meeting that NATO has never been stronger.

Udo Ulfkotte was a German journalist who died of a heart attack in 2017 at the age of 56.

Strangely enough, he never studied journalism, but rather jurisprudence and politics.

He had a distinguished career, which included being assistant editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung for several years; he left the paper in 2003. Between 1986 and 1998, he lived in several Middle Eastern countries. He also wrote several investigative books during his lifetime.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51gdGRKeFjL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgOne of his books that is nearly impossible to buy is Gekaufte Journalisten (‘Bought Journalists’), which appeared in English as Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News. It sells for a whopping $900 on Amazon.com.

Image credit: Amazon.com

It’s worth reading the comments on the aforementioned English language Amazon page for the various comments. In effect, the book is being censored. Here is a good representative comment, where the reviewer gave the book five stars (emphases mine below):

No, I haven’t read the book, because it is priced completely out of my reach. I am giving it five stars anyway because of what I’ve read *about* it, as I’ve followed its author’s sagathe blackout by German media of the original German edition Gekaufte Journalisten (Bought Journalists) for a couple of years now, raids by German police on the author’s house, his noting how he feared for his life, and his finally being found dead on January 13 of this year “from a heart attack” (he was only 56, and because it is possible to kill someone in ways that look like a heart attack, some people believe he was murdered).

The fate of a whistleblower against one of the world’s most powerful organizations in a controlled society being passed off as a democracy?

Two things are abundantly clear: (1) The English translation of this book has been “privished.” There are a couple of good recent discussions of what it means to “privish” a book, but Amazon will not allow me to link to them. So let’s just say: the purpose of “privishing” is make a book with an unwanted message disappear without a trace by limiting information about it, destroying its marketability by printing too few copies, and refusing reprint rights, so that the copies available are too expensive for readers of ordinary means (which is nearly all of us). (2) Anyone who claims there are no conspiracies, that there are no behind-the-scenes efforts by powerful people to suppress information that would expose their efforts at global domination, is full of crap.

Privishing = private + publishing.

Until I read that review, I thought the word had positive connotations, as in a publishing house saving a title and making it more affordable and better-known.

I could not have been more mistaken.

Privishing is meant to kill off a title.

On January 8, 2018, Off Guardian published a good post on the book and the implications of privishing; James Tracy’s ‘English Translation of Udo Ulfkotte’s “Bought Journalists” Suppressed?’ is a must read. A summary with excerpts follows.

A US-Canadian publishing house, Tayen Lane, released the title through their imprint Next Revelation Press in May 2017. Ulfkotte had died earlier, in January. However, in 2015, when James Tracy enquired as to whether there would be an English release, Ulfkotte responded:

Please find the link to the English edition here http://www.tayenlane.com/bought-journalists

The page, at that time, gave an expected publication date.

Today, the page no longer exists.

Tracy explains:

When a book publisher determines that it has acquired a politically volatile or otherwise “troublesome” title it may embark on a process recognized in the industry as “privishing.” “Privishing is a portmanteau meaning to privately publish, as opposed to true publishing that is open to the public,” writes investigative journalist Gerald Colby.

Also:

Privishing often takes place without the author knowing, simply because it involves breach of contract and potential liability.

Tayen Lane will likely not face any legal challenge in this instance, however. Ulfkotte died of a heart attack on January 13, 2017, at age 56.[4]

Tracy provided an update to his article to say — see the tweet below — that someone had ordered a copy of the book, only to receive a cancellation:

Tracy included a 2014 video of Ultkotte saying that he had to work with intelligence agencies at the risk of losing his job. Ultimately, intelligence agencies gave him articles to publish under his own name:

Tracy gives us more about the content of the video:

The German journalist explains how he was recruited during the 1980s to work in espionage. This began through an invitation proffered by his graduate school advisor for an all-expense-paid trip to attend a two-week seminar on the Cold War conflict in Bonn.

After Ulfkotte obtained his doctorate he was given a job as a reporter at “the leading conservative German newspaper, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, oddly appointed despite no journalistic training and hundreds of other applicants.

Serving as a correspondent throughout the Middle East, Ulfkotte eventually became acquainted with agents from the CIA, German intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Britain’s MI6, and Israel’s Mossad, all of whom valued his ability to travel freely in countries largely closed to the West.

His editors readily collaborated in such intelligence gathering operations,”[5] for which journalist possess “non-official cover” by virtue of their profession.

“Non-official cover” occurs when a journalist is essentially working for the CIA, but it’s not in an official capacity,” Ulfkotte explains.

Tracy includes one of Ulfkotte’s last tweets prior to his death:

Tracy says that intelligence agencies’ ties to media outlets accounts for a) the CIA’s antipathy towards WikiLeaks (which could no doubt make all this public) and b) the media’s insistence on pushing the Trump-Russian collusion narrative.

An American Free Press article from October 2014 — the same year the RT video above was made — has more on Ulfkotte’s book and how he came to be part of the intelligence agency network. Ronald L Ray’s ‘Reporter Admits Most Media Work for CIA, MI6, Mossad‘ is also a must read.

While most of us would say ‘no’ to becoming part of an intelligence network, this is how Ulfkotte described his recruitment:

Prior to a particular semester break, when he hoped to visit Italy and meet young women, a professor asked if he would like to attend a two-week seminar in Bonn on the East-West conflict. This was during the Cold War in a divided Germany. Ulfkotte was not at all interested, but university professors in Germany were (and are) highly respected. It was difficult to refuse.

He was promised that his travel would be paid for, as well as lodging and meals, and he would receive spending money into the bargain. For a young man from poor economic circumstances, this was too much. Relates Ulfkotte, “I suddenly felt this deep feeling inside me that I had ‘always’ wanted to go” to such a seminar. Such “innocent” beginnings were the first bribes, which would draw him ever deeper into a widespread network of corruption and spying, where no one considered such behavior immoral, but rather “accepted practice.”

No one said, “I’m from the CIA,” or from the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND)—the German intelligence service. But the seminar leaders sorted out “who was communist and who was pro-Western” among the young attendees. After further similar events, someone asked Ulfkotte if he would work for the BND—the last thing on his mind. But again, a professor—his doctoral advisor—pressured him to “think about it.” And once more, a poor boy found a free automobile and a good salary very attractive.

Ronald L Ray relates that Ulfkotte’s journalistic career as a war correspondent was a good one in these terms:

Eventually, he did indeed meet agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), BND, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6 (Military Intelligence, Section 6), and Israel’s Mossad, who valued his ability to travel freely in countries largely closed to the West. His editors were knowing accomplices.

What follows is how Ray, using Ulfkotte’s experiences, describes the system working.

This is far worse than I had imagined.

There are the ‘unofficial covers’ — people who work with an intelligence agency but are not on their payroll as actual agents:

It is a broad, loose network of “friends,” doing one another favors. Many are lead journalists from numerous countries. This informality provides plausible deniability for both sides, but it means an “unofficial cover,” as Ulfkotte became, is on his own if captured.

Those involved leave their various connections and affiliations unknown. Ray says that Ulfkotte once accompanied then Chancellor Helmut Kohl to Jordan. There, he attended a function at which the president of Israel was also present. Ulfkotte began shaking the hands of journalists and officials he knew. All of them had intelligence agency ties:

He was ordered sharply back to his place. Otherwise, “everyone would know” who the other intelligence assets were. It must have been an appreciable percentage, because Ulfkotte then realized they were “all in the same boat.”

Ulfkotte’s ‘friends’ often asked for special favours, e.g. soil samples from various trips or a description of political opinions of leaders in certain countries.

But there was more — an ongoing bribery system of lavish favours — which he received when an intelligence agency or powerful institution approached him with an article to put under his own byline:

Large sums of money, gifts, public recognition and significant career advancement go to those journalists who provide useful information on people they meet or know, or on places to which they travel. Many times, the reporter, like Ulfkotte, need only put his name on an article written for him by some spy agency or financial institution. Money and gifts change hands; doors open to elitist groups, like the Trilateral Commission, Atlantik-Brücke, the Aspen Institute and the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Those who do not cooperate are fired.

Ulfkotte also believed that the CIA created Germany’s BND:

Because Iran has no U.S. embassy, he would enter the Turkish embassy and follow a then-secret, underground escape tunnel into the German embassy, where he would turn over his reports for the CIA or BND. In a recent RT interview, Ulfkotte noted that the BND was created by the CIA. To him, it is a symbol of Germany’s status as a “banana republic,” a “colony of the U.S.”

In closing, here is a direct quote from Ulfkotte that Ray included in his article (emphasis in the original):

“I’ve been a journalist for about 25 years, and I’ve been educated to lie, to betray—and not to tell the truth to the public. . . . The German and American media [is trying] to bring war to the people in Europe, to bring war to Russia. This is a point of no return, and I am going to stand up and say it is not right what I have done in the past, to manipulate people, to make propaganda against Russia, and it is not right what my colleagues do, and have done in the past, because they are bribed to betray the people not only in Germany, but all over Europe. . . . I am very fearful of a new war in Europe, and I don’t [want to see] this situation again. There are always people who push for war, and this is not only politicians, it is journalists too. We have betrayed our readers. . . . I’m fed up with this propaganda. We live in a banana republic [Germany], and not in a democratic country where we have press freedom.”  — Udo Ulfkotte

Reading that quote from 2014 and thinking about President Trump’s attempts at negotiating world peace, one can better understand exactly why the media — not to mention the Left and their paymasters — want Trump de-legitimised and, ultimately, suppressed.

May the Hand of God continue to protect the American president, his staff and his family.

Further reading:

‘THE WORLD – upside down’ – Udo Ulfkotte article about his experience in the Middle East (2006)

‘Leading German Journalist: CIA Media Pushing for World War’ – Infowars (2014)

St NicholasHappy St Nicholas Day!

If you had a celebration today, I hope it was a pleasant treat before Christmas.

My 2014 post has much detail on this famous bishop of the 4th century. There is much we can learn about — and from — this great man:

St Nicholas Day

My 2016 post discusses the customs and celebrations observed on this day:

More on St Nicholas — feast day December 6

In commenting on that post, one of my readers, sunnydaysall, shared her experience of living in Germany and being able to join in the festivities:

Wow! I had no idea St Nicholas was so many things to so many different cultures.

When I lived in Berlin Germany, I lived in the heart of the population… On the “economy” as it was called by military dependents! I loved the German people and their customs, and Christmas was a real treat for my family! We put our shoes out on the stoop for St Nicholas to stuff our shoes with sweet treats and trinkets, and sometimes there was a simple exchanging of gifts! But it was the neighborhood celebrations that we all enjoyed so much!

The European Christmas with St Nicholas was so very different from our American Santa Claus, and Christmas was celebrated with neighbors, family, and friends! The cobblestone streets were filled with carolers and snow! Being from the South, it was the first time I had lived where it truly snowed!! Large beer wagons were filled with hay and people hopped aboard and caroled from the wagons as well! The “huge” horses were draped in jingle bells and they were braided in their mane and tails! The kids would get so excited when they heard them coming!

There were also people in the streets singing and the neighborhood pubs, where everyone gathered, stayed open almost all night! But you had to be ready for Church the next morning! 🙂

For a country with a dwindling population, 40 years ago, Germany was all about celebrating the “family”… But now I hear it is so very different now.

Thanks, sunnydaysall, for documenting a lovely memory — and for letting me share it here.

Yesterday’s post covered Day 1 of Donald Trump’s and Emmanuel Macron’s first G20.

I also wrote about the riots and looting which occurred in host city Hamburg during the conference.

Day 2 — Saturday, July 8, 2017 — was equally eventful for world leaders, especially President Trump.

While Big Media were banging on about Russia or Trump’s mental health, some outlets actually reported on the G20 and two major victories for the American president (emphases mine below):

Hamburg (AFP) – US President Donald Trump won key concessions on climate and trade Saturday from world leaders at the most fractious G20 summit to date, in exchange for preserving the unity of the club of major industrialised and emerging economies.

In a final statement agreed by all 20 economies, 19 members including Russia, China and the European Union acknowledged Trump’s decision to go his own way on taking the US out of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

But they also accommodated Washington’s wish to “work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently”.

While renewing a key anti-protectionist pledge, the communique for the first time underlined the right of countries to protect their markets with “legitimate trade defence instruments”.

Such wording gives room for Trump to push on with his “America First” policy

Everyone in the media predicted that America First would not play overseas. Everyone in the media was wrong.

The Conservative Treehouse has an excellent analysis of what Trump’s wins mean not only for America but also allies who think similarly:

Team Trump focuses exclusively on bilateral trade deals with specific policy only looking out for the national interests of the United States and those who are allied with a similar perspective.

Under President Trump’s Trade positions exfiltration of U.S. national wealth is essentially stopped. This puts the multinational corporations, globalists who previously took a stake-hold in the U.S. economy with intention to export the wealth, in a position of holding interest of an asset they cannot exploit

There are trillions of dollars in economic activity now being restructured by President Trump. The downstream consequences are seismic shifts in geopolitical and strategic alliances. Through the use of economics America will engage in a process of protecting allies and simultaneously advancing freedom and democracy.

Simply put this approach destroys the cancer of elitist controlled leftist economic construct; which are entirely intended to benefit a small number of global elites who control the multinational banking and multinational corporate institutional systems …

Trump impressed Russian president Vladimir Putin during their meeting the previous day:

He was also taken with First Lady Melania Trump that evening:

On Day 2, Trump met with British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss trade post-Brexit:

Theresa May has hailed the “powerful vote of confidence” in Britain Donald Trump and other world leaders have shown with their “strong desire” to strike new trade deals after Brexit.

The Prime Minister said she is “optimistic and positive” about a future pact with the US after the president said he believed an agreement could be reached “very, very quickly”.

Even before their meeting, Trump said:

I’d like to thank Prime Minister May for being with us. We’ve had tremendous talks. There is no country that could possibly be closer than our countries. And I just want to say thank you very much. We are working on a trade deal — a very, very big deal, a very powerful deal. Great for both countries. And I think we’ll have that done very, very quickly.

Meanwhile, Mrs Trump joined G20 spouses on a local tour before rejoining her husband at the conference:

The Daily Mail has more on Mrs Trump’s G20 attire, including stunning photographs.

Elsewhere, at the Vatican, Pope Francis fretted. He told Eugenio Scalfari, a journalist with Italy’s La Repubblica, of his concern about the G20. Leo Lyon Zagami, who is in the process of uncovering recent Vatican scandals (yes, he is a Mason but I will have more on his reporting), summarised and translated the article:

Pope Francis told him [Scalfari] during the encounter to be very concerned about the summit meeting of the “G20” in Hamburg, that witnessed President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, together for the first time.

Pope Francis said to Scalfari: “I’m afraid there are very dangerous alliances between powers which have a distorted view of the world: America and Russia, China and North Korea, Russia and Syria’s Assad in war”.

The Pope was also worried that the G20 might end mass immigration to Europe:

” … they fear an invasion of migrants. That’s why the G20 worries me.”

Then to save his idea of Europe, he promotes the destruction of the sovereignty of the single European countries, and the coming of a Federal Government for Europe, that will take over the decision making from the single countries: ”For this, and other reasons, I came to the conclusion that Europe must assume a federal structure. Laws and political behaviors arising here shall be decided by the Federal Government, and the Federal Parliament, not by individual confederated countries.”

That afternoon, a huge flap arose over Ivanka Trump presiding temporarily over a meeting when her father was called into a private one. The media — and abetted by NeverTrumpers (John Dean and Richard Painter) — went berserk:

Trump had addressed those attending the Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance Event then excused himself to attend the meeting. Afterwards, he returned.

Regardless, host Angela Merkel was bombarded with questions from the media. She explained that this is normal at a conference such as the G20:

Reaction from citizen journalists back home was outrage at the media:

Alternative media’s Jack Posobiec noted:

Media More Outraged at Ivanka Sitting in a Chair than Antifa Army Burning Hamburg

He wrote:

Today at the G20 meeting, Ivanka Trump briefly sat in a chair. The media utterly lost their minds. They also seemed to completely not notice the Antifa Army burning the streets of Hamburg outside the meeting.

Perhaps they do not think a woman should be representing the United States?

Ivanka was sitting in the back and then briefly joined the main table when the President had to step out, and the president of the World Bank started talking as the topic involved areas such as African development — areas that will benefit from the facility just announced by the World Bank.

When other leaders stepped out, their seats were also briefly filled by others, but the media didn’t seem to notice that, either.

Precisely.

Later that day, Trump tweeted:

Here is the White House transcript of the public remarks of that meeting.

USA Today reports that Trump spent much of Day 2 with Asian leaders:

HAMBURG — President Trump met with his Chinese counterpart at the G-20 summit Saturday, hoping to revamp a relationship that he once hoped could provide the key to resolving the North Korea crisis …

In a separate meeting Saturday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump also addressed what he called “the problem and menace of North Korea.”

Abe said the security situation in the region had become “increasingly severe.” Addressing Trump by his first name, Abe said he “would like to demonstrate the robust partnership as well as the bond between Japan and the United States.”

Trump’s final day of his second foreign trip took what his predecessor, Barack Obama, might have called an “Asia pivot.” Having already met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, Saturday afternoon’s meetings were dominated by Pacific Rim nations

President Widodo of Indonesia was delighted to meet with Trump. USA Today reported:

Meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Trump said the U.S. would soon be doing “a lot of business” with the Island nation. “We’re going to be doing a lot of deals together — trade deals,” Trump said.

Widodo said Trump had “millions of fans” in his country who wanted him to visit.

“We’ll get there,” Trump said. “It’s a place I’d like to go.”

Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsein Loong, must be equally as positive:

Trump said the U.S. had a “big relationship” with the small city-state, and he expected the relationship to “get bigger.”

Before leaving Hamburg, Mrs Trump tweeted:

This brief video has highlights of Trump’s G20 conference:

Although the media emphasised the negative …

… from watching G20 coverage on YouTube, Bernie Sanders and Green supporters in the US were pleasantly surprised to find out about the ceasefire in Syria that Trump and Putin negotiated on Day 1.

Former Senator Bob Dole (R – Kansas) had high praise for the American president’s trips to Poland and Germany:

The Trumps flew back to the White House:

When Trump reached the White House, the press asked the usual questions about Russian hacking. Give it a rest, guys! The president ignored them.

Earlier, at Joint Base Andrews, he retrieved a Marine’s cover in the strong wind:

Mrs Trump did not return to the White House with her husband. My guess is she went to collect 11-year-old Barron.

I’ll close with this:

Neither Trump nor Obama was ever in the military, but you can certainly see how differently they view the armed forces.

That view, in my estimation, will determine a shift in foreign intervention during the present administration. Any US action will be carefully considered.

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