Trending and Significant

Steven LeBlanc
07272016

These emergent stories are worth watching:

Is Europe spinning out of control? The headline out of the Wall Street Journal reads: Europeans Ask if Violence Is Becoming Fact of Life. In two weeks, Western Europe has experienced a massacre in Nice, an axe attack on a German train, a shooting spree in Munich. The Syrian bomber who killed himself and injured 15 others at a festival in Ansbach Germany was revealed to have declared his support for Isis. The latest attacks will push more Europeans to the far right. The publics of Europe – in France and Germany in particular – are becoming increasingly troubled about events that their politicians seem unable to control. Brexit, economic stagnation, the rise of terrorist events, the European banking crisis; there is a growing sense in Europe, that Europe is slowly spinning out of control.

The Southern European economic crisis is picking up steam. Italy is struggling with high rates of non-performing loans, on top of low growth and high unemployment. An Italian crisis has much more far-reaching repercussions than Greece’s, since Italy is the third-largest economy in the Eurozone. Italy’s economic problems will have ripple effects across Europe’s major economies, impacting the stability of the euro, European banks, and exporters. The problem for the U.S. is that it is much more exposed to France and Germany, which have significant positions in Italy notwithstanding the best efforts of their banks in recent years to reduce exposure to Italy.

Of greater concern, is the emerging parallel crisis in the Eurozone’s largest economy. Germany is sitting on an export bubble. Germany depends on exports for nearly 47% of its GDP (World Bank Data). If demand continues to decline in China and Europe for German goods, and America buys fewer German products, Germany will be heading towards trouble. German production is falling. German companies like Siemens are laying off thousands of workers. Many German banks are bleeding from bad shipping industry loans and low interest rates. Germany’s largest bank Deutsche Bank is operating billions of dollars in the red. Europe’s banks are in trouble, serious trouble!

Further off on the horizon is Israel’s next war with Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon. Everyone in the region knows this is a matter of ‘When’, not if. Hezbollah for now is deeply occupied with the Syrian civil war and does not have the resources or stamina to fight Israel. But they continue to build up their supplies for the future war. According to the Israeli Defense Force, the country is preparing for the future fight by undergoing intensive exercises aimed at a major ground assault aimed at the hills of southern Lebanon. As well, the Israeli Air Force has honed its ability to deliver more “efficient” precision strike efforts when they bomb Hezbollah targets. One Israeli officer asserted that when the next war begins with Hezbollah ground forces will move quickly to attack Hezbollah positions, “We will use all of our power to destroy Hezbollah militarily”. The war is coming, just hard to know exactly when.

New disturbing statistics out of Russia: Russia’s Muslim population is growing rapidly. Nearly 13 percent of Russians are Muslim. Russia now has more than 23 million indigenous Muslims—at least 3 million more than previously thought. Most live in the country’s eight autonomous Muslim republics: Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, Dagestan and Adygea.

And notice this perceptive statistic from the Middle East. Nearly half the men in the Middle East between the ages of 25 and 29 are single. These men are poor and have little hope of marrying and are often angry. They are most likely to attempt to make their way to Europe for a better life.

“To say that Saudi Arabia is on the verge of its most significant change in decades is not an exaggeration. It has the potential to reshape not only the Middle East but the entire world”—George Friedman. Saudi Arabia is facing an extreme crisis. Its economic underpinning is oil . Oil prices have dipped in the past, but this time it is different. This decline has every appearance of being a long-term re-pricing of oil. A rise in oil prices over the next four to five years is uncertain at best. Even at $50 or $60 oil, Saudi Arabia will still run reserve-draining budget deficits without further cuts in spending, which would likely lead to internal unrest.

In Syria, the United States is facing the Assad regime and ISIS, both harsh to the United States. There is a mixed bag of opposition groups, of various ideologies and competencies. The Russians and Turks, each have their own agenda. If Assad’s regime were destroyed, who would fill the vacuum? George Friedman writes: “At this point, a post-Assad Syria would result in even worse outcomes than leaving him alive. And if you doubt that, consider the fall of Gadhafi and Saddam. There will come a time when we will deal with Assad, but this is not the time”.

We need to stay awake to the dangerous happenings in the world at large. “But keep on the alert at all times,” said Jesus, “praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36, New American Standard Bible).

The Bible describes disciples as living in a state of expectancy, in a state of tension, between two worlds. We live in the present world, which we know will end, while we look for the world to come with the return of Christ. “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44).

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