Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mount Sinabung Erupts, Iran's War On Christians, Greece: A Lesson In Socialist Failure

Analysis: Iran’s war on Christians casts doubt on nuclear agreement - Middle East - Jerusalem Post

After his campaign promises in 2013 to guarantee the rights of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country’s self-declared moderate President Hassan Rouhani has remained silent about the ongoing crackdown on Christians. Rouhani’s indifference to imprisoned Christians is a form of complicity in human rights violations and a window into a flawed nuclear negotiation proce

US Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) captured the severe deficits in the bargaining process between the world powers and Iran to end the Islamic Republic’s illicit nuclear weapons program, telling The Jerusalem Post recently, “The Iranian regime’s systematic persecution of Christians, as well as Baha’is, Sunni Muslims, dissenting Shi’a Muslims, and other religious minorities, is getting worse not better. This is a direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to de-link demands for improvements in religious freedom and human rights in Iran from the nuclear negotiations.”

The UN Security Council members (US, France, UK, China, Russia) and Germany have failed to draw a connection between Rouhani’s broken campaign promises and the worthlessness of his assurances that Tehran will be abide by a nuclear agreement.

Todd Nettleton, director of media communications for the American-Christian organization Voice of the Martyrs, was quoted on Wednesday by the Mission Network news outlet, saying that Rouhani “is still someone who wants to protect the Islamic Republic of Iran. He wants to protect the mullahs who are in charge of that country. And he sees Christianity as a direct threat to his government and particularly to the mullahs there.”

All of this helps to explain the necessity of getting behind deceptive appearances in Iran. The country’s opaque power structure has helped to hoodwink many in many Western capitals, swayed by Rouhani’s affable rhetoric.

Just last month, Iran’s revolutionary court sentenced 18 Christian converts to sentences that totaled nearly 24 years on charges including evangelism, propaganda against the Islamic Republic and founding home-based churches, according to a Persian-language report on the website of Radio Farda.

In its annual report last month, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote, “Over the past year, there were numerous incidents of Iranian authorities raiding church services, threatening church members, and arresting and imprisoning worshipers and church leaders, particularly Evangelical Christian converts.”

The report further noted, “Since 2010, authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained more than 500 Christians throughout the country.”

Saba Farzan, the German-Iranian executive director of Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin, argues, “They [nuclear talks] never made sense and never will. The West can’t discuss arms control with a leadership that oppresses religious minorities and human rights activists.”

Moreover, Mansour Borji, a spokesman for the Article 18 Committee initiative of the United Council of Iranian Churches (Hamgaam), told the Iranian Christian outlet Mohabat news, “The Islamic regime of Iran treats Christians cruelly, while Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, claims that no one is in jail in Iran for their beliefs. Despite President Rouhani’s promises in his campaign, not only do we see no relief of suppression of Christians, but we see an increase in the number of arrests and unfair sentences, and the security atmosphere imposed by the Islamic regime on the Iranian Christian community still continues.”

[The photographs in this link are amazing]

A volcanic eruption in western Indonesia has unleashed hot ash over a mile into the air and threatens the lives of thousands in nearby villages.
Mount Sinabung, which is located on the island of Sumatra, had been dormant for over 400 years before erupting in August 2010 when it killed at least two and made over 30,000 homeless.
Its status was raised to the highest alert level on June 2 because of the growing size of its 'lava dome', a magma-filled mound which grows inside the volcano before erupting violently.

  • Hot ash from Mount Sinabung eruption forced at least 2,700 people living in villages four miles away to evacuate
  • Authorities have been monitoring the volcano closely for weeks after suspecting it was going to explode violently
  • Had been dormant for over 400 years before erupting in 2010 when it killed two and made at least 30,000 homeless
  • Sinabung one of 130 active volcanoes on Indonesia's deadly 'Ring of Fire' which are prone to erupt unpredictably

Over 2,700 people have been evacuated from their homes in villages as far as four miles away but no injuries have yet been reported - even though hot ash is falling a staggering two miles from the source of the eruption. 
As many as 11 avalanches of hot ash have been recorded during this eruption and volcanologists have warned smoldering rocks mixed with heated gases could tumbled down the 2,460m-high mountain at any time. 
An eruption in February last year left at least 16 people dead and in October the same year, it spewed out rivers of molten lava and giant plumes of ash for four days.
Mount Sinabung is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia known as the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' which are prone to erupt because of their location between tectonic plates.
Even though Indonesia's volcanoes erupt sporadically and violently, farmers remain working on its deadly slopes because the ground there is so fertile.

'Ring of Fire': Mount Sinabung (pictured) is one of 130 volcanoes on Indonesia's infamous 'Ring of Fire' which are prone to violent and unpredictable eruptions because of their location between tectonic plates

Greece has become an object lesson in how not to run an economy.  This week, the International Monetary Fund packed up and left its negotiations with far-left Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras over his absolute intransigence on the issue of necessary fiscal reforms.

"There has been no progress in narrowing these differences," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said Thursday.  Basically, the IMF and the EU want some assurances that Greece will cut its spending from its current socialist-dream levels to a more rational basis before they grant the nation another $8.2 billion in loans.

The first Greek problem is that a huge percentage of its able-bodied population is not working and simply collecting state pensions.  It goes without saying that Greece’s economy is in recession, and its official unemployment rate is 26.6%, something the U.S., for example, hasn’t seen since the Great Depression.  But fully four fifths of Greece’s budget goes to pensions and state wages, and 10 percent of the nation’s entire economic output comprises pensions alone.

The second problem is that Greek taxes are sky-high, killing incentives for hard work, enterprise, and industry.  

 It seems likely that so few people are bothering to work because so much of their income is sacrificed to other people’s pensions and government wages.  The IMF’s Rice pointed out that "[t]he policy of increasing already-high rates on a low tax base again is not sustainable. It is critical to significantly broaden the tax base."  Rice did not point out that the tax base is broadened only by more people working in the private sector, which itself can be accomplished only by lowering the tax rates.
In a way, Prime Minister Tsipras is a symptom and not the cause of Greece’s cultural disease of hard socialism.  He was thrust into office last January specifically on an anti-austerity pledge, and the voters kicked out his predecessor government for being too willing to compromise with the eurozone creditors and, indeed, the free market.

But whatever the reason, if Greece defaults on its debt payments due by the end of the month, as it surely will do absent IMF and eurozone funding, it will take big step in the direction of Venezuela and the Third World.  Cutting Greece out of the eurozone of trade and currency would make it an international lending pariah, a dead zone of credit, with only a partial ability to pay for its own government functions.

There is, alas, as yet no sign that the Greek public would have it any other way.  This week, Communist trade unionists occupied the Finance Ministry and tore down the EU flag while draping a banner that read: "We have bled too much, we have paid, stop the new measures!"

EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, French president Hollande, and German chancellor Angela Merkel have been in frenzied negotiations with Tsipras all week, without the slightest concessions to austerity being offered by the prime minister.  Whether Europe will cave and continue to subsidize Greece’s failed experiment in socialist idealism or allow the nation to leave the eurozone and crash on its own misery is anyone’s guess.

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