Friday, January 13, 2012

Europe Downgraded

After Standard and Poor's credit downgrades today, nine European countries found their credit ratings lowered. France, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Slovakia and Slovenia all felt the effects of the latest slashing. Last summer the S&P struck down the United States from AAA to AA+, which is where France and Austria find themselves at now. Europe's strongest economy in Germany was left untouched at AAA. The European Financial Rescue Fund, which is mostly funded by the combined power of France and Germany, was left alone at AAA.

Stocks fell across European and US markets as the rumors of the downgrading began, and were only halted as they closed. French Finance Minister Francois Baroin declared that France has nothing to worry about when even "the United States, the world's largest economy, was downgraded over the summer". Portugal on the other hand, responded quite angrily blaming the S&P's own shortcomings for the credit lowering. And European Commission Vice President Olli Rehn stated that S&P failed to take all things into account and accused them of being biased.

The downgrading will likely make it harder for the various indebted members of the European Union to escape their current financial troubles, as now they will have to pay higher interest rates on their debt. Greece specifically is considered likely to default if they can not get out of their current woes. Italy however seems to be improving, though what effect their downgrade will have is yet to be seen. The United States may be risking seeing it's credit downgraded again, as President Obama has asked for another $1.2 trillion to be added to the debt ceiling. 

The Debtor in Chief

 The Debtor in Chief has asked for more money, yet again. In a press conference Thursday, President Obama requested that the debt limit be raised by $1.2 trillion more, stating that it was needed for current commitments. A spokesperson for Speaker of the House Boehner replied that there is already too much strain on the economy because of the massive debt and that any more would make it all the harder for a timely recovery. Congress has 15 days to block the increase, or it will go into effect.

The national debt clock shows that current debt is already greater than $15.2 trillion. When Obama took office, the debt was only $9.2 trillion. Obama's agenda and government has increased debt at the average of $2 trillion each year that he has been in power. Which means that by the time he is either re-inaugurated or another PoTUS takes his place next January, it will have almost doubled. He has by far added more debt than any other President in history, and is entirely too close to adding more than all of the rest combined.

Congress you have no choice but to say no. The debt must be taken care of. All non-apathetic Americans need to show concern and act by doing everything they can to drown Congress in calls, emails, and letters demanding action against this increase. To the Tea Party specifically, this is what you stated that you came to fight, make the rest of us believe in you. To the Occupy movement, if you have any legitimacy at all, join us in fighting this. We only have two weeks to halt this ridiculousness, and begin the recovery of the greatest economy ever known. Don't wait for November, act now!

Pakistan: Military vs. Government

Pakistan's military has issued threats upon it's own government, stating "This has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the country." after Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was critical of how the military has handled the political situation.

Since gaining independence in 1947, the military has maintained a majority of control in the country. Already have three coups within that time. After Osama bin Laden was killed in the country, last May, the Prime Minister had asked the United States to protect Pakistan from yet a fourth, but nothing came out of the threats then.

 Defense secretary Naeem Khalid Lodhi has been removed from his position by Prime Minister Gilani, for "gross misconduct". Lodhi was considered to be much more loyal to the military than the Pakistani government, and is accused of trying to cause strife between the two.

Pakistan's military has on various and increasing occasions involved itself in fire fights against United States and NATO forces, bringing real question to the strength of their cooperation against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The finding of bin Laden near one of the main Pakistani military bases only highlighted that not all was going well.

Increased Clashes in Yemen

With all of the protests and rebellions occurring around the world Yemen seems at times to be forgotten. The official conflict began almost a year ago, and has been mostly peaceful protests against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh's government has faced difficulties before. Back in 2004, Zaidi Shias, rebelled against the elected government citing that they were being persecuted by the majority Shiite government and country.

President Saleh has officially handed power over to Vice President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi. He signed an agreement to step down, in November, and continues to serve as honorary President until polls are held in February. The UN and Saleh's opposition are unhappy with the US written agreement, as it contains an amnesty clause for Saleh. The latest violence threatens the peaceful transition though.

In parts of Yemen, there is out right civil war, though most of the fighting is not actually against the government. It is almost between the different ethnic groups: the now familiar Sunnis versus Shia Muslims, though in Yemen the Houthis are at war with the Sunnis as well.

United States military forces have at times taken part in this conflict, mostly through air strikes against Al Qaeda linked rebel groups. The US is considered a strong ally of Saleh's government. Yemen is positioned in a very key strategic location, south of Saudi Arabia, along the Gulf of Aden, and stuck between the Red and Arabian Seas.

The Saber Rattles in North Korea

It has been released that, on Wednesday, North Korea test fired three short range missiles into the East Sea. Oddly the weapons fired appeared to be ground to ground missiles. Possibly just general North Korean saber rattling, or maybe an actual test to improve or see how new weapons work.

The US 7th Air Force announced that it will be deploying twelve F-16s to Gunsan, South Korea. The air base, located about one hundred and fifty miles south of Seoul, will be the home for the 55th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and it's two hundred and forty airmen. Their mission is to "maintain stability in the region". Whether this was in response to the missile tests, or was already in the works is unclear.

The region has really been unstable since the Korean War, but has gained increased scrutiny due to the passing of Kim Jong Il and the installment of his son, Kim Jong Un, as the new dictator. People who did not mourn the death either at all or 'properly' are now being punished by the regime (thanks to BBUMH for that info).

Since his take over Un, has made the expected saber rattling, which is likely the purpose of the missile tests. The fighter deployment could have been in the works since then. Other possible reasons for the deployment, could include the increased hostilities with Iran or the ring around China that the Obama administration has been forming.

Also curious is that once again we see US forces announcing their own movement, rather than the Pentagon Washington DC or the President's administration. In December, it was the US 5th Fleet that initially responded, not anyone from DC, to threats by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz. Eventually Washington did join in, but this brings about it's own dangerous questions of how much the US military and Obama administration are seeing eye to eye, or is the military just being given a freer hand?

Pam's Story

In a recent email, I read about a woman named Pam, who knows the pain of considering abortion. More than 24 years ago, she and her husband Bob were serving as missionaries to the Philippines and praying for a fifth child. Pam contracted amoebic dysentery, an infection of the intestine caused by a parasite found in contaminated food or drink. She went into a coma and was treated with strong antibiotics before they discovered she was pregnant.

Doctors urged her to abort the baby for her own safety and told her that the medicines had caused irreversible damage to her baby. She refused the abortion and cited her Christian faith as the reason for her hope that her son would be born without the devastating disabilities physicians predicted. Pam said the doctors didn't think of it as a life, they thought of it as a mass of fetal tissue.

While pregnant, Pam nearly lost their baby four times but refused to consider abortion. She recalled making a pledge to God with her husband: If you will give us a son, we'll name him Timothy and we'll make him a preacher.

Pam ultimately spent the last two months of her pregnancy in bed and eventually gave birth to a healthy baby boy August 14, 1987. Pam's youngest son is indeed a preacher. He preaches in prisons, makes hospital visits, and serves with his father's ministry in the Philippines. He also plays football. Pam's son is Tim Tebow.