BEIJING, February 17. /TASS/. The number of people who died from the novel coronavirus in China has reached 1,770, more than 70,500 cases of the disease have been confirmed, while more than 10,800 people are said to have recovered from it, China’s health committee reported Monday.
On Sunday, the committee informed about more than 68,500 cases, 1,665 deaths and 9,419 recovered. According to the data update, the official coronavirus death rate is now standing at 2.5% compared to Sunday’s 2.43%
Among China’s regions, the Hubei Province has the most cases with 58,100 people identified to have contracted coronavirus, 1,696 of them dead and 6,639 recoveries. Hubei is followed by the Guangdong Province (south China) with 1,300 infections, the Henan Province (central China) and the Zhejiang Province (east China) which report 1,200 and 1,100 cases respectively.
According to data available on Sunday, there are 381 coronavirus cases in Beijing, 144 of them were discharged from hospitals, while four people died.
According to the latest official reports, more than 150,500 Chinese citizens are monitored in the country because they had close contacts with those who are known to have contracted the disease. China also says there are about 7,200 people placed in quarantine because of coronavirus fears. According to doctors, more than 10,600 people are in critical condition.
A pneumonia outbreak caused by the COVID-19 virus (previously called 2019-nCoV) was reported in China’s city of Wuhan – a large trade and industrial center in central China populated by 11 million people – in late December. The WHO declared it a global emergency, describing the outbreak as an epidemic with multiple foci.
The virus spread to 25 more countries, apart from China: Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, India, Italy, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vietnam. The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak in China a global health emergency. Chinese authorities have confirmed more than 68,500 cases of the disease, over 1,665 people died, while more than 9,400 people are reported to have recovered.
It has been a long time coming, it has even been alluded to in some Sci-Fi series such as Incorporated, where in the near future a corporation runs a country and is also a state in its own right. With Facebook earlier in 2019 officially unveiling plans to launch Libra, its own (along with other corporate partners) digital currency, in 2020, it is almost safe to say that Mark Zuckerberg’s (despite being a public company, Facebook’s share structure and voting rights afford Zuckerberg a lot of control and power) social network is almost a country in its own right.
With approximately 2 billion monthly active users as reported at the end of 2018, even if you had to account for duplicate and fake accounts, it would still measure up as one of the largest populations any country has on the planet.
If you add WhatsApp, considering that the messaging app’s users will also be able to transact using Libra (once, or rather if, it eventually launches), with its reported 1,5 billion active users (although some are already Facebook users), you are looking at a size of a country like one we have never witnessed before.
Welcome to the .
Strong political opposition
It didn’t take long after the official announcement of Libra earlier in the year that three countries, France, England, and Germany, started displaying signs that they were feeling threatened by Facebook & Co.’s newly proposed digital currency. Specifically, France’s Finance Minister stated unequivocally that Libra cannot be a replacement for sovereign currencies.
So far, it has not been an easy ride for Libra since that official announcement earlier in 2019. What looked like a good list of partners has been reduced with several of its (Libra Association) member companies deciding to pull their membership and support for Facebook’s proposed digital currency. It all started with PayPal withdrawing from the Libra Association, this was then followed by Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe and Mercado Pago who all announced that they will no longer be participating nor supporting Libra.
The withdrawals, which ended up leaving Libra without any major global payments companies as members, were politically motivated as the United States Senate sent a letter to the various Libra Association member organizations CEOs urging them “to proceed with caution until Facebook is able to provide real answers to you.”
Despite this strong political opposition to Libra by various countries and regulators, which has also seen Facebook being hauled before the USA’s policy makers to answer questions about the planned digital currency, I still think there is a high probability that not only will Libra launch in 2020, but it has better than average chances of gaining traction.
This is despite those involved in the Libra project at Facebook stating that there is no clear product roadmap nor a s et launch date.
However, important to note that Patrick Ellis, one of the board members of the Libra Association, confirmed to Reuters that Libra would launch during 2020, but couldn’t provide any indication of when or even the initial markets it would be launched in.
Before I elaborate on why I think it will succeed, what will it mean for your money to be controlled and managed by Facebook?
Your money in Facebook’s control
To further understand why some countries, including the USA, have been vocally opposing Libra in public, the letter that The United States House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg (COO at Facebook), and David Marcus (CEO of Facebook subsidiary, Calibra), gives us a few hints in my opinion.
Firstly, as compared to say, Bitcoin, it is easier and possible to write to Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Sandberg regarding Libra compared to trying to write to Satoshi Nakamoto. In this case, there are real people and organizations that can be held accountable. Secondly, and as they allude to in the letter, the policy makers feel that Libra is a threat to the US Dollar and the country’s monetary policy, despite it being merely a stablecoin and not a cryptocurrency in the strictest of terms.
There’s also the matter that should Libra ever get into trouble (eg. not be able to guarantee customers withdrawals etc.), the US government in one way or another would need to step in to protect Americans as we’ve seen it do before with some of the country’s large banks (side note: this is exactly what Bitcoin avoids, but alas. A discussion for another day).
However, more importantly for us in Africa is, does Libra offer any of us any value?
Does it help us with anything we are struggling with currently?
Does it make life easier?
To use and transact in Libra, users will have to download and run the official wallet, Calibra (a subsidiary company of Facebook). From what I’ve seen and what has so far led me to say in its current form Libra will struggle to gain traction (unless they address the following two issues) is that to use Calibra one will require a bank account and a government issued ID.
It’s no secret that Africa has a high number of unbanked people mainly as a result of low income and unemployment. As such, it is mind boggling that a product punting financial inclusion would require users to first have a bank account before using it. However, it’s possible that this will change by the time Facebook launches the digital currency and wallet in 2020. If it doesn’t, it could prove to be a stumbling block for gaining traction especially across Africa.
The second issue, which also leads me to explaining why I think Libra will succeed, is around the requirement of government issued ID.
On the surface, in most countries in Africa at least, the requirement for a government issued ID could prove a real stumbling block to adoption. In many African countries, eg. Nigeria, there is no real organized government ID system. Immediately this makes it rather interesting how Facebook is going to verify identity in such cases.
However, Facebook and its Libra partners seem to already have thought of this and have a possible solution in mind. A solution which, once it can be implemented, will make a strong argument that Facebook is now essentially a country.
Facebook’s possible Trojan Horse
Earlier in 2019 when the noise around Libra was at its peak and being frustrated that no African policymakers we commenting on it or providing any clarification on how they view Facebook’s proposed digital currency that is mainly targeted a developing countries, I set out to read the Libra white paper for the third time. Somehow, I found something in the Libra white paper I had missed or wasn’t paying enough attention to previously.
Hidden (in plain sight) deep in the guts of a white paper light on details and heavy on marketing talk about financial inclusion and the world’s 2 billion without adequate financial services are two sentences that seem to be placed nonchalantly atop page 9 of the Libra white paper, yet they could have far reaching impact.
“An additional goal of the [Libra] association is to develop and promote an open identity standard. We believe that decentralized and portable digital identity is a prerequisite to financial inclusion and competition.”
This, the development of an open standard for digital IDs, as mentioned, could mean that Facebook already has a solution for part of this problem. The other part of this solution is that Facebook previously acquired a company that verifies government issued IDs in 2018. These two solutions combined could help onboard and verify people onto Libra and from there start issuing them with verified Facebook IDs.
Considering that Facebook, along with its subsidiary platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, is home to over 2 billion people, could this be the new global ID standard that will surpass and be more trusted than government issued IDs?
Although I could not find any further details on the proposed Libra digital ID and Facebook have also refused to comment when I asked, in my opinion it has a far bigger impact than the proposed currency as, if adopted and rolled out successfully it solves one of the web’s biggest issues, trust. I can already envision how it fits in with some of its other acquisitions, for example, Facebook acquired a face recognition tool that it incorporated into its main Facebook platform that would identify faces in the photos you post automatically and suggest you tag them. This, could possibly be used outside of government issued IDs given the trove of (tagged) photos Facebook already has of billions of people around the world, to verify identity.
This to me is Facebook’s Trojan Horse with Libra a necessary part but of lesser significance than the ability for Facebook to be able to run a platform that can verify and vouch for the identity of billions of people independent from any government.
Managing the flow of money gives you some power. Handling trust and identities gives you control, and essentially, makes you a nation state.
A virtual nation state
As far as why I now think this completes the idea of Facebook becoming a country, it’s simply because of the leverage it will hold over some countries especially across the continent who not only do not have near as accurate data about their citizens like Facebook has, but are struggling to maintain the value and usefulness of their own sovereign currencies (e.g. Zimbabwe).
At the heart of it (Libra) people just want a quicker and cheaper way to transact and send money, and already in Africa, many are used to using mobile money for their daily living.
Apart from having such a huge virtual population, a currency, and possibly its own verifiable IDs for its citizens, Facebook also does not fall under any single country’s jurisdiction. For example, its US-based users are governed by a corporation registered in the USA, its users in the rest of the world are governed by a corporation registered in Ireland, while in China it works under different laws. This not only applies to laws but where it pays taxes too. So, as such, you cannot exactly call it a US company as it is not bound any single country’s laws and to make matters worse (or good if you’re Facebook) it is a virtual entity.
It really, in my view, has officially become the People’s Republic of Facebook (and like its namesake, it’s not a democracy 😊)
Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) acting president, Honourable Olamide George says the death of another veteran athletics coach, John Obeya has devastated the athletics community in Nigeria.
Coach Obeya died Tuesday in Jos, Plateau state after complaining of stomach ache. He was aged 65.
“This is a very sad day for track and field in Nigeria. When we are still mourning the untimely passing of coach Tobias Igwe, another blow has been dealt our dear sport with the report of coach Obeya’s death in Jos,” said George in a statement.
“Coach Obeya complained of a stomach problem on Monday and was taken to an undisclosed hospital in Jos where he was operated upon, but sadly he didn’t survive,” said George who lamented Nigeria has lost one of her most talented track and field coaches.
Until his death, Obeya was a sprints coach with the Bahrain Athletics Association and was instrumental to the recruitment of reigning world 400m champion, Salwa Eid Naser (formerly Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu) by Bahrain in 2014.
He trained Eid Naser to win the 400m gold at the 2015 World Youth Championships in Athletics in Cali, Colombia and silver at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London.
Although Eid Naser struck gold at the 2019 IAAF World Championships in Doha,Qatar under another coach, Dominican Jose Ludwig Rubio, it was Obeya that laid the foundation for her incredible feats in the women’s quartermile where she ran 48.14 seconds, the third fastest time of all time behind (East) Germany’s Marita Koch (47.60 seconds in 1985) and Czech’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99 in 1983).
“Like coach Tobias Igwe, coach Obeya was also in the Nigeria team to the first IAAF World Junior Championships in Athens, Greece in 1986 where he took charge of especially the two jumpers in the team, Beatrice Utondu and Caroline Nwajei and has produced so many top stars for Nigeria. It is on record that he trained Tina Ozoro to the first national triple jump record and top jumper, Chinedu Odozor and Samuel Onikeku,” George further stated.
The AFN acting president says the federation will send a condolence message to the family of coach Obeya and prays that God grants the family the fortitude to bear this great and monumental loss.
For over a year now, a group of people has met at St Benet’s to celebrate the Mass in German on the first Sunday of the month at 4.00 pm. This group is soon to be registered as a “New Worshipping Community” of the Diocese of London. This forms part of the Diocese’s vision for evangelism, mission, and church growth laid out in its plan “Capital Vision 2020.”
Where did the idea come from?
The idea came from the fact that a number of people at St Benet’s noticed just how many German-speaking families there were worshipping with us. Some were bilingual families with one parent from Germany or Austria. Others were German-speaking families who had moved to London, and whose children were, therefore, thoroughly bi-lingual.
Our vicar, Fr Peter Anthony, read German as an undergraduate and had been involved in our Diocesan link with Berlin for several years. He wondered whether people would welcome a service now and then in German. After a few initial Masses in German, it became clear there was definite interest, and a small but sustainable number of people willing to support the project. We decided on a trial run of a service on a Sunday afternoon once a month for a year.
Our intention was to see if we could reach out to a new category of people who did not already worship with us, and who might welcome the ability to worship in German. We wanted to help them come to faith, or grow deeper in their relationship with the Lord, especially through sacramental worship.
What happens & when?
We usually have a said Mass at 4.00 pm on the first Sunday of the month with a homily, and the entire service takes place in German.
We have had a range of guest preachers over the past year. Some have been native German speakers, such as Dr Andrea Werner, a lay reader at St Michael’s Camden Town; or Robert Pfeiffer, an ordinand at S. Michael’s, Highgate; or Fr Andreas Wenzel, the Shrine Priest at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.
Others have been English people who happen to be good German speakers: Dr Colin Podmore, well known expert in German Church history, for example; or Fr Desmond Bannister, Vicar All Siants’ Hillingdon, who used to teach German.
We have also sought to invite people associated with our Diocesan Partnership with the Church in Berlin-Brandenburg. Fr Brian Leathard and the Fr Luke Miller, the Archdeacon of London, both of whom have responsibility for the diocesan link, have visited to preach, as have august visitors from Berlin such as Pfarrer Holger Schmidt.
The liturgy is always followed by a time for refreshments and chat over that most venerable of German traditions – “Kaffee und Kuchen.” The conversation is mainly in German, but if people want to talk in English they are also welcome to, and a mixture of conversations in both languages usually emerges. There is no language police!
Fr Andreas Wenzel, Shrine Priest of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, came as our guest preacher for All Saints’ Day.
A range of people attend this Sunday afternoon service. Many of the bi-lingual families living in our parish, who have both English and German, are frequently there. Bilingual children are also frequently present.
There have also proven to be a number of English speakers who have German and who want to keep their language up or enjoy worshipping in German (one of whom comes all the way from York for the liturgy!). Word of mouth has proven to be very important and several new German speakers have started worshipping with us who had never previously worshipped with us on a Sunday morning.
A number of academics in the realm of philosophy who need German for their academic work have also been present on several occasions. German and Austrian students who have come to London universities also frequently form part of the congregation, which has proven to have a pretty young average age over all.
The numbers at the monthly Mass in 2018-19 have ranged between 8 and 21, with an average in the first year of 13, but on big occasions larger congregations have gathered: our first German Advent Carol Service last Sunday, for example, attracted 63 people. We have also celebrated one baptism in German.
Why do Germans want to worship at an Anglican Church?
Fr Peter Anthony, our vicar, and Dr Andrea Werner, lay reader from our neighbouring parish, St Michael’s, Camden Town, photographed after one of Andrea’s excellent homilies.
We have welcomed a wide range of people from a large sweep of theological and liturgical traditions. One of the characteristics of this worshipping community has been a strong spirit of ecumenical welcome. Our ministry has also been resolutely rooted in the concept that the Church of England’s ministry is available for all living within our parochial boundaries, or who wish to avail themselves of it.
St Benet’s liturgy lies in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England, and we have found many German or bilingual families have been happy to make their spiritual home with us. There may be something going on in terms of the Church of England’s ministry representing a theological middle way between the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Roman traditions. It may also be that the parochial commitment of St Benet’s to the parish in which it is set simply makes it a place where visitors and those moving from abroad find it easy to settle. Many of our German speaking families send their children to our parish school, and so that might also be a connection which makes St Benet’s a place where they feel they want to worship.
Some of our younger German students have been genuinely intrigued and captivated by what they have discovered in the Anglicanism they find at St Benet’s – i.e. a church which they perceived as “protestant” but which turned out to have a rich and quite catholic liturgical and theological tradition.
Where to now?
We have proven over the first year of this project that the core congregation which supports this project is large enough to sustain a monthly Mass into the future. However, we are keen to explore other ways in which we can grow and expand this ministry. We recently organised a German Advent Carol Service, and this proved to be popular.
We plan in the next few weeks to register the congregation as a “new worshipping community” with the Diocese of London in order to release extra funds to help us plan slightly larger or more adventurous events.
Social media have been a crucial part of the way in which we have made contact with German speakers, so we want to ensure our social media presence continues to be the best it can be. Word of mouth has also been crucial to making new contacts amongst the German/Austrian ex-pat community, and will be something we intend to build upon.
We ask all our friends to keep praying for us as we explore further where God is calling us to go in this venture, and we thanks the Diocese of London and its bishops for their support and encouragement as we become one of its latest “new worshipping communities.”
Our first German Advent Carol Service: Sunday 1st December 2019.
Nigeria’s Nollywood industry has evolved over the years while progressively producing beautiful actors we cannot forget in a hurry.
The industry has enjoyed unprecedented growth over the years and has witnessed a lot of resharpening from what it used to be.
Nollywood had in years back been graced with multitalented actors who once starred on our screens, week-in-week-out; it has also experienced the sudden fading out of some of its best acts, more to the shock of their fans.
Below are 15 Nollywood actors who have faded out of our screens.
1. Susan Patrick
Beautiful gap-toothed Susan was born in Akwa Ibom state, she came into the limelight after she acted in the movie ‘Sakobi: The Snake Girl’. This made her one of the most sought after Nollywood actresses in the early ’90s. She was alleged to have snatched another woman’s hubby while a student at Lagos State University (LASU). She eventually faded away as a result of competition for most of the roles she acted.
2. Lilian Bach
Famous Nollywood actress and former model Lilian Bach who turned 49 recently was shot to the limelight for her prominent roles in blockbuster movies like ‘Ogidan’ and ‘Married to a Witch’. Lilian was born in Lagos Island to a Yoruba mother and a Polish father.
Lilian came into the limelight as a model in the 1990s when she competed in the Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria (MBGN) pageant. She also featured in several television commercials and she was at some point the Face of Delta Soap. She took a break from doing movies to pursue a career in production and has faded out since then.
3. Hanks Anuku
Hanks Anuku was a Nigerian actor known for his numerous roles as a villain in many Nollywood films. He used to be the go-to guy when producers needed a perfect movie ‘bad boy.’ Trailed by personal controversies and alleged nonchalant attitude while on location, Hanks has gradually faded out of the movie scene. As of 2017, Anuku was said to have naturalized and become a Ghanaian.
4. Shan George
Nollywood diva and movie producer Shan George was well-known the ’90s. The beautiful singer, prior to debuting in the movie ‘Thorns of Rose’, had previously featured in a 1997 soap opera titled ‘Winds of Destiny’. She is best known for her role in the movies ‘Outkast’ and ‘Welcome to Nollywood’.
5. Saint Obi
Obinna Nwafor popularly known as Saint Obi, is a Nigerian actor, producer and director. As a great actor and Nollywood’s ‘bad’ boy, in the 1990s, hje was often called Nollywood’s Mr Quality because of his attention to details when producing or directing movies. He joined Nollywood in 1995 when he started attending movie auditions and featured in a number of soap operas which aired on NTA after which he was called by Opa Williams to star in a movie. Saint Obi is best known for his roles in Candle Light, Sakobi, Goodbye Tomorrow, Heart of Gold, Festival of Fire, Executive Crime and Last Party.
6. Pat Attah
Patrick Uchenna Attah popularly known as Pat Attah is a famous Nollywood actor, director, television personality, model and musician. He the Nigerian Movie Industry in 1993 upon graduation and rose to popularity in 1994 after a brilliant performance in the movie “Glamour Girls”. In 2015, Pat became a born-again Christian and relocated with his family to Germany where he is a minister of the Gospel.
7. Sandra Achums
Popular Nollywood actress, Sandra Achums in the ’90s was probably one of the most popular actresses in the Nollywood industry. She joined the Nigerian movie industry in 1995 and acted in her first movie Deadly Affair. Her acting skills were excellent as she could interpret any role she was given hence, she was known as the bad girl of the Nollywood industry because she majorly acted as a bad girl, one role she always interpreted well. In the early 2000s, Sandra Achums took a break from acting and decided to face her family as she got married and started having children. She has since relocated to Germany with her family.
8. Charles Okafor
Popular Nollywood actor, Charles Okafor is recognized as one of the veteran actors in the Nollywood film industry. He was known in 1996 when he appeared in his first movie ‘Domitilla’ and in 1999, he rose to fame after starring in the blockbuster movie ‘End of the Wicked’. He is currently an ordained pastor.
9. Ejike Asiegbu
Ejike Asiegbu is a Nigerian film actor and film director who once served as President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria. He was also previously appointed as personal assistant to former Biafran leader Odumegwu Ojukwu during the 1994 National Constitutional Conference in Abuja. He joined the Nigerian movie industry in 1996 and was shot into the limelight when he acted in his first movie, ‘Silent Night’.
Rita Nzelu is a renowned Nigerian actress, model, television personality who joined Nollywood in 1990. She made her debut in the movie “Living in Bondage”, a movie that brought her to fame and recognition in Nollywood. She is also known for Ortega and His Enemies (2014), Stigma of Womanhood (2016) and Terrible Sin (2001).
11. Ernest Asuzu
Ernest Asuzu is an actor, known for Last Wedding (2004), Ògìdán (2004) and Broad Day Light (2001). He was known for being dynamic in with his movie characters. Ernest also helped in contributing to the movie industry during his active years. He suffered a stroke in 2015.
12. Victoria Inyama
Nollywood sweetheart, Victoria Inyama, began her acting career with a soap opera titled ‘Ripples’ between 1998/1999. She was featured after she was discovered by Alex Usifo who saw, the talent in her and invited her over for an audition. Victoria is married to the legendary author, Ben Okri. She relocated to the United Kingdom after she got married and this was responsible for her acting hiatus. She recently returned from her acting hiatus to feature in ‘Talking dolls,’ a 2017 movie which was rated as one of the best dramas of contemporary Africa.
13. Ndidi Obi
Nollywood actress, Ndidi Obi became popular when she took the lead role in the movie, ‘Nneka The Pretty Serpent’, she has since then been referred to as ‘Nneka The Pretty Serpent’ because of her epic role in the movie. She was recently featured in Ramsey Noah’s ‘Living In Bondage: Breaking Free’.
14. Nkiru Sylvanus
Nkiru Sylvanus is a famous Nigerian Nollywood actress who was known for her teary eyes and crying roles. Nkiru is one of the Nollywood actresses who created a niche for others to follow and one of the pillars that hold Nollywood firmly. She has acted in more than 150 movies playing minor and leads roles before delving into politics as the Special Assistant on Public Affairs to Rochas Okorocha, former Governor of Imo State.
15. Grace Amah
Nollywood actress and mother of one, Grace Amah joined the Nigerian movie industry in 1999 when she started her acting career at the age of 13. She made her first debut as a 13-year-old character in the movie ‘Chains’. She became a public figure when she was featured in Teco Benson’s Nollywood blockbuster movie, ‘Elastic Limit’.
This article was first published on January 17, 2019
When Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the new Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, settled into his office at the Kirya after being sworn in Tuesday, he had a long list of military challenges to plan for: Rockets and tunnels by Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s persistent threatening stance against Israel in Syria, Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
One thing he probably never thought he would have to add to that list was planning for the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from NATO.
The day is almost over, and no one from the Administration has denied the NYT story about Trump wanting to pull out of NATO. Worse, no one from the Administration would dare say he would never do it. Because they know he might.
— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro)
But as he learned from the New York Times, the possibility is very much on President Donald Trump’s mind.
It is no small matter for Israel.
In the first instance, Israel benefits from NATO because of the way it broadens U.S. influence. NATO is an alliance, but it also entails its European members willingly accepting the United States’ leadership position on the continent.
U.S. allies outside the alliance benefit from the association. It has helped earn Israel a seat at the table as a NATO partner, has opened doors to cooperation with non-U.S. militaries, and helps prevent escalatory scenarios in moments of tension between Israel and NATO members, notably Turkey. In a post-NATO world, Israel’s alignment would be with an isolated United States that lacks the multiplying effect of broader Western support.
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But the operational effects could be far more challenging. Israel maintains impressive self-defense capabilities, which will be sustained in any scenario, but its security partnership with the United States, another critical pillar of its defense policy, will be forced to adapt in complicated ways.
The day-to-day relationships between the IDF and the U.S. military are conducted via U.S. European Command. U.S. forces based in Germany are the ones who travel to Israel by the thousands to conduct joint exercises, including those that drill bringing Patriot missile batteries to augment Israel’s domestic capabilities and help defend Israel in the case of a major conflict.
U.S. Navy destroyers, home-ported in Spain and equipped with Aegis missile defense capabilities, are among the Sixth Fleet’s ships that sail regularly in the Eastern Mediterranean (and make port calls in Haifa) to ensure adequate support for Israel’s defense. U.S. Air Force squadrons based in Italy come to Israel to conduct joint air exercises with the Israeli Air Force. Other U.S. troops sit even closer, at Incirlik Air Force Base in Eastern Turkey.
Remove the United States from NATO – and forward-deployed U.S. forces from Europe, which would certainly follow – and the United States’ ability to respond to a Middle East crisis would be diminished.
Could U.S. support for Israel be shifted and coordinated instead through U.S. Central Command, based in the Persian Gulf? It has been proposed before as an efficiency measure. But Israeli generals have always resisted the proposal. Their worry is that they would find it challenging to enjoy the same level of intimacy they currently have with Europe-based U.S. commanders, with commanders who maintain a similar closeness with Arab militaries.
True, Israel is closer strategically today with the Arab Gulf states than at any time in its history, because of a focus on the common threat of Iran and the lower priority of the Palestinian issue. But those relationships are a long way from being normalized – and could still backslide.
Israeli security planners are, therefore, still most likely to want to maintain separation between their relationships with the U.S. military and with their Arab neighbors. Having observed the intense friendships formed between Israeli military commanders and their U.S. counterparts based in Europe, I can say that these ties will not be easily replaced.
The broader Middle East would also experience the effects of NATO’s demise in the form of further empowerment of Russia. That is happening already, but losing NATO would turbocharge those trends.
Already, Russia’s brutally decisive intervention in Syria, combined with successive U.S. administrations’ preference to reduce active U.S. military engagements in the region, have led many regional states to explore expanded security ties with Russia.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets more frequently with Putin than he does with Trump, and the IDF and Russian Air Force deconflict their operations in Syria. The leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all close partners of the United States, have visited Moscow and explored acquiring advanced Russian weapons systems in addition to their American-supplied arsenals.
Should Russia decide to exert leverage, such as by constraining Israeli freedom of action against Iranian military targets in Syria, the United States would be ill-equipped to push back.
A U.S. withdrawal from NATO would unmistakably be understood as a major pullback from the United States’s leadership in global affairs. The effect of expanding Russian influence would be felt far beyond Europe and the Middle East.
Military planners are renowned for imagining, and developing options for, every possible scenario. So General Kochavi and his colleagues will find a way to prepare, and put themselves in a position to adapt. But there are certain anchors that any country hopes to maintain, particularly one facing as many threats, and so tied to its American ally, as Israel.
To avoid having to grapple with the nightmarish set of problems that would result from the U.S. leaving NATO, General Kochavi might consider recommending to his Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he use his influence with President Trump to dissuade him from such a dangerous course.
Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro
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If that’s true, it won’t be until nearly 2100 when a full measure of Mr. Glass’s footprint will be possible. But some weighing can start now. The most instantly recognizable voice in contemporary music, he opened a new chapter in operatic history, pushing the bounds of duration and abstraction. At a time when the most lauded composers disdained overproduction, Mr. Glass wrote unashamedly for everyone and everything — and all stubbornly in the distinctive style he created, establishing a model for serious artists moving from the opera house to the concert hall to the film studio, garnering both Met commissions and Academy Award nominations.
MR. GLASS WAS BORN, almost literally, into music: His father owned a record store in Baltimore, where the composer-to-be absorbed Beethoven, Schubert, Bartok, Shostakovich and Stravinsky — and, perhaps, an intrinsic connection between art and commerce. Over a few years in Paris, Nadia Boulanger was his composition teacher as he was exposed to the jittery-fly modernism of Boulez and Stockhausen. He didn’t hate them, but he didn’t want to compose like them, either.
Those pieces culminated in “Einstein on the Beach,” a dreamlike meditation on scientific discovery, human relations and nuclear apocalypse that progressed in enigmatic episodes, austerely designed and directed by Robert Wilson and with swirling choreography by Lucinda Childs, the dancers representing atomic particles in ceaseless motion.
“When ‘Einstein’ opened,” Mr. Glass said, “we had never performed it straight through without stopping. We didn’t know how long it was. It turned out to be five and a half hours.”
Mr. Glass became a maestro of excruciatingly delayed gratification. “I have no idea what Philip was thinking when he wrote ‘Satyagraha,’” Mr. Guérin said of that 1980 opera, a highly stylized but (compared with “Einstein”) more traditionally plotted story about Gandhi’s early ventures into nonviolent protest in South Africa. “The third act is 45 minutes long, and has just two harmonies. But when it explodes into pure Phrygian scale in the final aria, it’s, like, oh, this totally makes sense.”
When it came to “Satyagraha” and “Akhnaten” (1983), Mr. Glass said, “many people were waiting for the son of ‘Einstein.’ They liked that experience of that throbbing, relentless ensemble playing that we did. Of course I wasn’t going to do that. Why would I do that? I had just done it. So I did something completely different, and it was much too lyrical for some people.”
The bronzed character of the “Akhnaten” score emerged through necessity. The company in Stuttgart, Germany, that commissioned the work was renovating its theater, so the performances took place in a space with a much smaller pit.
With the violas now taking the place of the violins, the sound shifted down an octave, its burnished sheen given body with brasses and punctuated by sometimes raucous percussion. As for the title character, the Egyptian pharaoh who is said to have pioneered monotheism — and to have had all traces of him erased for that blasphemy — Mr. Glass put him onstage from almost the beginning, but tantalizingly delayed his first musical entrance.
“How do I introduce him to the audience so that the first time they hear him, they understand he is a completely radical, unforgivable event in the Egyptians’ history, and they have to destroy him?” Mr. Glass recalled asking himself. “I’ll make him a countertenor, to sound not unnatural, but radical. Radical can be natural. He just was who he was.”
“The world had caught up with his music,” Mr. Guérin said. “The Philip Glass sound became digestible to mass audiences. If you had told the people in New York that the composer of ‘Music in Twelve Parts’ would be able to maintain his musical language and score major Hollywood pictures, they wouldn’t have believed you. But he got to be himself.”
Two gay U.S. military personnel say they were attacked by a mob in a nightclub in Croatia, and local media is saying they were attacked because they were “acting gay.”
Ny’Zavian Dozier, 24, and Keith Rowe, 25, say that they were at the Opera nightclub in the city of Zadar.
Dozier posted on Facebook that it was “one of the most scariest moments ever.”
“There was one point when I believe there was a guy that had me in a headlock,” he added.
In an Instagram video, Rowe explained that at 3 a.m. this past Saturday night the pair “got jumped by 10 Croatian men and basically we were fighting for our lives.”
“These guys had every intention of not letting us walk away alive,” Dozier said. “I have never felt so defenseless in my entire life. I truly couldn’t protect my friend.”
Rowe said that a woman they met at the club came to help them after the mob dispersed.
“She is my angel, an amazing friend,” he said.
The two were taken to the hospital and treated for minor injuries.
Rowe and Dozier are in the U.S. Air Force, according to their social media accounts, and they are stationed in Germany. They were on vacation in Croatia – Zadar is known for its historic center and beaches.
A that they received reports of the attack.
“Upon entering the field, it was determined that the men, American citizens ‘danced a little more vigorously’ and that annoyed these men who attacked them,” the spokesperson said.
The police said that they have not yet determined whether the attack was bias-motivated, and no arrests have been made.
, local media is reporting that they were attacked because they “had been acting gay” and were seen “twerking.”
The U.S. embassy in Zagreb condemned the attack in a statement.
“The well-being and security of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the State Department’s top priorities. The Embassy is ready to provide appropriate assistance to American citizens in need and their families.”
Pijerino Bebić, the owner of the Opera Club, said, “I condemn any violence, we at the Opera have such a relationship that all our guests are welcomed and no one ever looks at skin color, religion or anything like that.”
He added that club staff attempted to intervene and called for help after the attack occurred.
Literally experienced one of the most scariest moments ever last night. A group of 8-10 Croatian men targeted my friend…
The term “global village” was invented when the global reality was much less apparent. Today, I can read the The New York Times in real time in Oslo and Ottawa and Osaka just as easily as in the city of its publication. CNN brings the world to a global audience of viewers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I have digital subscriptions to The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and a Norwegian newspaper, and I sometimes read German or British newspapers online. This makes me an exception: newspapers and magazines compete for a shrinking audience. Visual news, by contrast, like CNN or Fox, is ubiquitous. We cannot avoid them even if we try.
And the subject — in print or on the television screen? There is more than one, but the main subject is President Donald J. Trump. He is the new chief in the global village; he attracts an audience; he keeps it up, tweet after tireless tweet. For the last four years, in outlets like CNN or Fox, there has not been one twenty-four-hour news cycle that failed to mention candidate Trump and later President Trump. Indeed, for the last four years, there has hardly been a twenty-four-hour news cycle when he was not the main subject.
I do not plan to engage this subject broadly. My focus will be narrow, announced in the headline. “Will the Seventh-day Adventist Church in America Survive the Storm?”
Why do I ask the question, why do I pose it as a matter of survival, and why do I ask it now?
I have wondered about the impact of the political climate on the church on many occasions. A broad approach to my question would not be a waste of time, thinking particularly about the connection between the Sabbath and care for the world or the social conscience of the seventh day. Here, my focus will be narrow; it will have one issue only. While some issues can be discussed dispassionately as matters belonging to gray zones, my concern cannot be discussed dispassionately, and it does not belong to a zone where there are varying shades of gray. Some things are black or white. This is one of those things.
On October 10, 2019, the President of the United States of America traveled to Minneapolis to give a speech. The stands were filled with people, twenty thousand in all. Many were dressed in the colors signifying support for the president’s aspiration to “Make America Great Again.” The president’s speech lasted one hour and thirty minutes. About one hour into the speech, the president turned to talk about the Somali-born Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and the immigration and refugee resettlement programs that brought many Somalis to Minnesota.
Donald Trump: (54:16)
So in desperate attempt to attack our movement. Nancy and Chuck, two beauties, have given control of the Democrat party entirely over to the radical left, including Minnesota’s own representative Ilhan Omar. I know you people. I know you people. I know the people of Minnesota, and I want to tell you, and I also, at the same time, it’s both a question and a statement, how’d the hell did that ever happen? How did it happen? How did it happen? Congresswoman Omar is an America-hating socialist.
Donald Trump: (01:21:05)
Thank you very much. Thank you. Great people. Thank you. What a group. I think your very weak mayor made a mistake when he took them on. As you know, for many years, leaders in Washington brought large numbers of refugees to your state from Somalia without considering the impact on schools and communities and taxpayers. I promised you that as president, I would give local communities a greater say in refugee policy, and put in place enhanced vetting and responsible immigration controls.
Donald Trump: (01:22:13)
And I’ve done that. Since coming into office, I have reduced refugee resettlement by 85%, and as you know, maybe especially in Minnesota, I kept another promise. I issued an executive action, making clear that no refugees will be resettled in any city or any state without the express written consent of that city or that state. So speak to your mayor. You should be able to decide what is best for your own cities and for your own neighborhoods, and that’s what you have the right to do right now.
Donald Trump: (01:23:12)
If Democrats were ever to seize power, they would open the floodgates to unvetted, uncontrolled migration at levels you have never seen before. Do you think you have it bad now? You would never have seen anything like what they want to do. But in the Trump administration, we will always protect American families first, and that has not been done in Minnesota.
What is the problem? The president is speaking about foreign-born generally non-White people who are already in the country, many of them by now American citizens, including Ilhan Omar. The speech was given in her district, in the same area where some fifty thousand Somali refugees are settled. They came there, the refugees have said, because they were well received and felt safe. And now? The President of the United States of America tracks them down in their neighborhood. He vilified one of them by name, twisting things she has said in the most negative manner. He accused her for minimizing the September 11 tragedy, charged to her “a history of launching virulent anti-Semitic screeds” before delving into her marital history. At the mention of “Somalis,” the president’s mostly white crowd broke out in boos — “in effect jeering their neighbors,” as one person present put it.
In better days, Ilhan Omar would be proof that America is a great country, the greatest there is. How she, a Somali-born refugee found a home in the United States, how she got an education, how she overcame obstacles to make herself into a person who exemplifies the best there is of diversity and opportunity in the U.S. In the president’s world, however, Omar is repeatedly thrashed. She has become one of the members of Congress targeted by the Trump-inspired chant, “Send her back!”
Let us leave Omar out, if need be, for the conversation to proceed without allowing allegations about her to distract us. Let us not leave out the other more than fifty thousand refugees of Somali descent now living in Minnesota. The president had a special line for the mayor of Minneapolis, saying that he showed weakness when he took the refugees in. (33:57) “Minneapolis, Minneapolis, you’ve got a rotten man. You’ve got to change your mayor. You’ve got a bad mayor. You’ve got a bad mayor.” And now the Somali refugees, who fled one of the most broken countries in the world. They are there, in Minnesota, on October 10 the target of a viscerally hostile speech by the president of their new homeland.
Others are there, too. I am now referring to the people in the stands. Let the president do the vilification of the Somalis by himself. It is not necessary to become his accomplice in disparaging a vulnerable group. It is not necessary to attend the rally. It is not necessary to cheer.
This is where the question of survival comes in. Will the Seventh-day Adventist Church in America survive this storm? Eighty percent of evangelical Christians support this man and his policies. Fifty percent of Catholic white males are said to support him. How high is the percentage among Seventh-day Adventists? Were Adventists in the audience in Minneapolis? Did Adventists cheer the part of the speech that singled out the refugees? One journal, secular, of course, had a fitting headline afterwards. “Trump’s Minneapolis Rally Was a Demonstration of the Moral Suicide Pact He’s Made with His Supporters.” The author, Jack Holmes, the political editor of Esquire magazine, does not want to be in on the moral suicide pact.
This is a virulently racist tirade aimed at ginning up the worst instincts of the people in the crowd. It is not a coincidence Trump chose to come here, or to target a refugee community that is black and Muslim. This is how he thinks he can win reelection: by continuing to pull his base of support towards more vitriolic expressions of this vision of America as a country for and by white people; by scaring other constituencies away from speaking out; by using the Republican Party’s machinations to stop inconvenient voters from voting; by smearing his opponents as Just As Bad As Him, They Just Pretend to Be Prim and Proper; by soliciting foreign meddling that will benefit him in exchange for favors when he is reelected.
“I know you people. I know you people,” the president said as he began the part about the refugees. What does he know about them? Does he seek to unleash some hidden, inner hostility that resonates with his sentiment, knowing that it is there? What does he know? One of Adolf Hitler’s critics in the German Reichstag said before voices like his fell silent — before the Reichstag went into a twelve-year de facto hibernation — that Hitler had an uncanny ability to spot and stir to life a person’s “inner swine.” Surely, the talk about the Somali refugees in Minnesota, in public, before a cheering audience, some of whom are next-door neighbors to the Somalis, could be an example of inner swines cut loose from moral restraint.
In what sense does this qualify as moral suicide, a term that is well chosen? I will offer three reasons.
First is the biblical perspective. In the Old Testament, the refugee has special status as an object of God’s protection. Who will not be inspired and humbled by a walk-through of some of these texts? Their thrust is not only an obligation to treat refugees and immigrants with respect. It goes deeper than that. Believers are called to see themselves in the other person — to remember that we are in the same boat: what they are, we used to be. This should be easy to do for people in Minnesota. The ancestors of many in that state were not refugees but economic migrants from Scandinavia and Germany, but they came as aliens.
You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exod. 22:21).
You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt (Exod. 23:9).
When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien (Lev. 19:33).
Does it count as oppression when the president of your adopted country seeks you out in your back yard, there to call your mayor “a rotten person” for letting you in, there to make you be his foil for a vision of America that uses disdain for you to inspire them to be his supporters? Does it count as oppression when the speaker clearly intends to outsource to his audience to change the terms of the alien’s existence?
The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Lev. 19:34).
You and the alien who resides with you shall have the same law and the same ordinance (Num. 15:16).
What is most impressive in these texts is the insistent, unprecedented, vociferous call to remember. Historical amnesia is a dangerous and ever-present risk. To counter the risk, Deuteronomy inscribes the memory of past oppression as a constituent of the believer’s present identity.
Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today (Deut. 15:15).
Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and diligently observe these statutes (Deut. 16:12).
You shall not abhor any of the Edomites, for they are your kin. You shall not abhor any of the Egyptians, because you were an alien residing in their land (Deut. 23:7).
Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this (Deut. 24:18).
There they are, the Edomites and the Egyptians. They are there, in the text, but they are here, too, in the neighborhood. Just look on the map to see how little has changed even though the world has expanded. Lucky ones, are they not, to have a verbal footprint left for them in the Bible, the people who are now coming from where the Edomites used to live (Syria, Iraq, Palestine) or from Egypt (close enough to Somalia to count).
It was part of the liturgy of these believers to rehearse their story over and over in assembly, to say the following out loud:
You shall make this response before the LORD your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous” (Deut. 26:5).
The wandering Aramean, of course, is Abraham. In the New Testament, he is the role model for believers in Jesus (Rom. 4:16). In one New Testament iteration, Abraham never ceases to be an itinerant. For such a person and for such an itinerant faith-identity, understanding and empathy for those on the outside will only be stronger.
By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:8-10).
For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come (Heb. 13:14).
For anyone working with refugees and seeing their plight first-hand, it helps to ponder such a faith identity. To be a migrant or a resident alien, as a believer, is not a stage left behind, a distant chapter to remember. It is a stage — even a state — of present existence.
Second, we have a historical reason not to be part of the moral collapse playing out with respect to refugees and resident aliens. Now as then, at issue is not refugee status only. It is also minority status, ethnic, racial, or religious. Two immense historical realities obligate and inform us, the history of slavery and the Holocaust. Fifteen million Africans were brought to the New World against their will (not all of them to the US); six million Jews were gassed and cremated in the Nazi era. Might it be possible to see in the face of the Somalis seeking entrance the face of Africans who were forced to come against their will? Now they come willingly, in a state of need. Is this a time to shut the doors — or ever to shut them? Is there not still an unpaid debt from us to them, “us” the enslavers of European descent and “them” the enslaved?
And the Holocaust? It was “Not Long Ago, Not Far Away,” as an exhibit now on display in New York puts it. What happened had a toxic rhetorical antecedent. I am not suggesting that something on that scale is in the making today. But I am saying that there is a family resemblance at the level of rhetoric. I do not envision that today’s rhetoric will become tomorrow’s genocide. But yesterday’s genocide makes today’s rhetoric indecent, dangerous, and unconscionable even if it is only rhetoric. For a Somali minority in the US to be disparaged by the nation’s president with a crowd of mostly white Americans cheering him on is immoral because of what happened “Not Far Away, Not Long Ago.” We cannot go near it again; we cannot cheer except to put our souls in the gravest peril. Think of it this way, too: he speaks that way not to show us what he is like but because he thinks he knows what we are like.
I find sobering support for the unfinished work history teaches us to do in the recent book by the philosopher I admire the most. Susan Neiman says that “I began life as a white girl in the segregated South, and I am likely to end it as a Jewish woman in Berlin.” Her remarkable geographic, intellectual, and professional journey is as compelling as her message: the need for Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, as they say it in German: the need for “working-off-the-past.” The spectacle in Minneapolis and other spectacles like it result, in Neiman’s story, “from America’s failure to confront its own history.”
Third, we have a special Seventh-day Adventist reason not to condone, participate in, or in any way engage in the conduct on display in Minneapolis on October 10, 2019. This has to do with our history and self-understanding. Early Adventists saw themselves called to proclaim a message of everlasting good news or, as I propose to translate it, “an eternally valid message” (Rev. 14:6). The target audience is broadly specified in Revelation. The message is to be proclaimed “to those who live on the earth — to every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev. 14:6). There are no favorites here, no national or ethnic or tribal preference. The first angel in Revelation takes the stage with an equal opportunity proposition with respect to “those who live on the earth.”
When Adventist pioneers contemplated the scope of this commission, they took comfort in how they saw Providence at work in the American experience. Human beings from “every nation and tribe and language and people” had come to the United States! The mission could be accomplished here, in the New World, because God had raised up a nation of migrants and immigrants, of refugees and fortune seekers, in the New World. It would not be necessary to go to them. God had brought them to us; God brought them here.
This vision has since undergone a much-needed correction. They did not all come here; it was necessary to go there to be faithful to the commission. But the early perception should not be abandoned without a trace. Seventh-day Adventists have a special reason to be welcoming to people from other nations and tribes. Not so long ago it was a settled Adventist conviction that God had brought them here as an element in God’s eschatological vision for the nations. God — not simply destitution or need or hope or opportunity.
It is a global village now. We are all in on this. “Immigrants and refugees are welcome in Minneapolis,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey after the president’s visit. I am glad he did. According to the transcript, verbatim, people chanted, “Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years. Four more years” even though the visitors had told them that they have “a rotten mayor.”
Moses wasn’t there, but he gave a different speech to his migrant congregation before they took possession of the Promised Land. Then, too, there was a big crowd. Then, too, there was a pact. It was not a moral suicide pact but a moral pact meant to bring security to the most vulnerable. “Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice,” said Moses.
And the people, back then, what did they say?
“All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’” (Deut. 27:19)
Notes & References:
Sigve K. Tonstad is Research Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Loma Linda University.
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