Current Events & Trends: July/August 2018

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July/August 2018

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MP3 Audio (19.67 MB)


Current Events & Trends: July/August 2018

MP3 Audio (19.67 MB)

China looks to unseat America as top global power

America remains at the top of the global order, and its place seems fairly secure—at least for now. With a strengthened economy and several recent foreign policy victories (albeit in the midst of many more unresolved), the United States looks determined to remain top dog for some time. Yet there are challengers to the status quo, and one in particular looks set to keep pushing over the next decades to take the top spot.

China, one of humanity’s oldest civilizations, plans long-term. “China has outlined strategies for 2018, 2025 and 2050 all designed to displace the United States as the dominant global economic and national security superpower . . . While America dawdles and bickers, China is thinking long-term—and acting now, everywhere. There is no U.S. equivalent of a plan for 2025 or 2050—or really for next year” (Jim VandeHei, “China Is the Greatest, Growing Threat to America,” Axios, May 21, 2018).

One of the chief factors in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decades-long development program is a focus on domestic and foreign infrastructure. “The truth is that the West long ago ceded leadership in this area to China, a phenomenon that was largely driven not by foreign policy but by domestic infrastructure policy. The same factors that keep large infrastructure projects from getting off the ground in the United States and Europe make Western-sponsored projects in developing countries less viable than their Chinese counterparts” (Bushra Bataineh, Michael Bennon, and Francis Fukuyama, “Beijing’s Building Boom,” Foreign Affairs, May 21, 2018).

While much of U.S. infrastructure crumbles amid bureaucratic inefficiencies and poor funding, China now spends a total of 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure, three times what America spends. If these trends continue, America can’t expect to remain on top for long. (Sources: Axios, Foreign Policy.)



Russia testing powerful ballistic missile

A  nuclear submarine under the White Sea in northwestern Russia recently test launched four ballistic missiles. The Daily Mail reports, “It is the first time four missiles have been simultaneously launched from a vessel of the kind used in the exercise, which according to reports was the biggest of its kind since the Cold War” (Tariq Tahir, “Russia Launches Four Ballistic Missiles From Under the Sea in What It Claims Is the Most Powerful Weapons Test From a Single Submarine Since the Cold War,” May 23, 2018).

Photos and videos show massive plumes of smoke exiting from the sea during the test. The supposed range for these weapons is 6,200 miles, but initial reports say the test did not go as expected. “The Kremlin has denied US claims that Russia’s nuclear-powered cruise missile with ‘unlimited’ range crashed after only 22 miles” (Alec Luhn, “Putin’s ‘Invincible’ Missile Crashes After 35km Says US,”The Telegraph, May 24, 2018).

The vessels these missiles launched from are new submarines Russia put into service just last year. It plans to have eight of these submarines by the year 2025.

Whether this test was a success or failure, the Russians will no doubt continue development until they meet their target. As has been the case for centuries, advances made for military purposes trickle down to consumers and are used in everyday life. Sadly, war and conflict have fueled much of the technological advances we now think of as commonplace.

But the power and threat of weapons of mass destruction have a shelf life. We look forward to the return of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, who will usher in world peace. This peace will spread throughout the whole world. We pray for His Kingdom to come as we read these headlines—not praying in fear of these, but in hope for the bright future God has promised. (Sources: The Daily Mail, The Telegraph.)



Sweden sends citizens war-prep pamphlet

The Scandinavian nation of Sweden has not fought against other nations since the Swedish-Norwegian War in the 19th century. While Sweden often provides support to U.N. policing efforts around the world, the government itself is rarely in conflict with another.

It might seem strange, then, that the Swedish government has distributed a pamphlet to its citizens on what to do should war break out. With a title translated into English as “If Crisis or War Comes,” it “explains how people can secure basic needs such as food, water and heat, what warning signals mean, where to find bomb shelters and how to contribute to Sweden’s ‘total defence.’

“The 20-page pamphlet, illustrated with pictures of sirens, war-planes and families fleeing their homes, also prepares the population for dangers such as cyber and terror attacks and climate change, and includes a page on identifying fake news” (Jon Henley, “Sweden Distributes ‘Be Prepared for War’ Leaflet to All 4.8m Homes,” The Guardian, May 21, 2018).

To the Swedish government’s credit, it’s good to prepare (Proverbs 22:3). And the release of this pamphlet is an acknowledgment of the thin layer of civilization that often overlays a darker, more violent human nature. War and conflict are the inescapable products of existing apart from a close relationship with God and the way He has established that leads to peace and safety for mankind. (Source: The Guardian.)



Lesser-known global conflicts worthy of our attention

While all eyes rest on the perennial global hotspots of North Korea, Jerusalem, Iran, China and Russia, several other areas in the world are well worth our attention due to developing and potentially dangerous situations that could easily lead to greater conflict.

Foreign Policy’s Steven Cook provides a rundown of several of these lesser-known areas of interest:

“Take, for example, the Aegean Sea, where Greek and Turkish warplanes routinely engage each other in a long-running dispute over territory and airspace” (“And Now for Some Crises That Are Completely Different,” May 15, 2018). This old conflict over territory recently turned deadly after a Greek pilot died in a crash related to Turkish forces.

“Then there is Bosnia and Herzegovina . . . [where] nationalist Serbs are no longer willing to live with arrangements that brought peace to the region with the 1995 Dayton Accords” (ibid.). The uneasy peace of the Balkans can be upset at any moment, as we have seen time and again in the past century.

Finally and perhaps most troublingly, he points to burgeoning multinational conflict in northeastern Africa. “The Egyptians are at loggerheads with the Ethiopians over the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which threatens a 1950s treaty that gives Egypt the bulk of the Nile River’s water . . . The Sudanese have sided with the Ethiopians in an apparent effort to secure for themselves more Nile water and to pressure the Egyptians on areas near the Red Sea . . . that Egypt controls but Sudan claims. Add to the mix Turkey and Qatar, both of which have upgraded security ties with Sudan” (ibid.).

This goes to show that, while most media coverage is understandably focused on a few high-priority news items on the international scene, there is truly much going on that we may not know about. Staying abreast of some of the lesser-known goings on in the world helps in maintaining a balanced and knowledgeable worldview. (Source: Foreign Policy.)



U.S. moves embassy to Jerusalem

In May the United States acted on a 1995 law that dictated the U.S. embassy move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Politically, this validates Israel’s capital, which is already in Jerusalem. The move was met with immediate protests at Israel’s border with Gaza, which is ruled by the terrorist group Hamas and which threatened to overrun the border and attack and kidnap Israelis.

“The opening ceremony is at a U.S. consular building in the Arnona neighborhood. It will house an interim embassy for the ambassador and a small staff until a larger site is found” (Stephen Farrell, “The U.S. Is Opening an Embassy in Jerusalem. Why Is There a Furor?” Reuters, May 14, 2018).

In addition to the United States, Guatemala and Paraguay moved their embassies as well. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “said in April ‘at least half a dozen’ countries were now ‘seriously discussing’ following the U.S. lead. He did not identify them” (ibid.).

The relocating of the U.S. embassy and subsequent protests show the importance of the city. Jerusalem is a spiritually and historically important site for the three great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—and has been a hotbed of conflict for millennia.

Why now? “Trump acted under a 1995 law that requires the United States to move its embassy to Jerusalem. But Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama consistently signed waivers delaying the relocation. Announcing his decision on Dec. 6, Trump cited the Jerusalem Embassy Act and suggested his predecessors had ‘lacked courage.’ He said: ‘They failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering’” (ibid.).

Jerusalem is a city we should take note of anytime we hear it in the news. It’s a location at the center of Bible prophecy. We read that before the return of Jesus, armies from around the world will surround the city. It’s easy to see from the headlines that it doesn’t take much in this area to ignite international contentions. (Source: Reuters.)



Cholera plagues Zambia

The cholera outbreak that began last October, one of the worst in recent years, has infected more than 5,000 people and killed 110, according to Chitalu Chilufya, Zambia’s health minister” (Adrian Blomfield, “‘We Are Facing a Sanitation Crisis’: Zambia’s Uphill Struggle Against the Deadly Scourge of Cholera,” The Telegraph, May 22, 2018).

Cholera is one of those diseases that in the Western world is a distant memory. Yet there are parts of the world where pestilence is still very much reality. Cholera is a bacterial infection of the small intestine spread through contaminated water and food due to poor sanitation. It leads to the deaths of tens of thousands of people every year.

The cholera outbreak in Zambia is heartbreaking for this African country that is typically peaceful compared to its neighbors.

Zambia is not the only nation fighting this disease. “There have been nearly 1,200 deaths in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Yemen, experiencing the worst epidemic in the world, 1 m[illion] suspected cases and 2,000 deaths have been reported since 2016.

“But all three countries have been in the grip of wars and conflicts, dating back decades in the case of Somalia and Congo. War causes basic health and sanitation infrastructure to collapse, allows cholera to spread rapidly in overcrowded refugee camps and hampers the ability to respond to an outbreak” (ibid.).

Cholera is most often spread through contaminated water. Because of some of the conditions in the nation, Zambia is reaching a sanitation epidemic. Contaminated water supplies not only affect the health of the citizenry but also the economy. Many business and street vendors have had to shut down to prevent the spread from going any further.

We look forward to the return of Jesus Christ when He will bring not only spiritual healing to this earth, but physical healing as well. There will be no more diseases causing pain and suffering. (Source: The Telegraph.)