Some Perspective On The Ukraine

On Thursday the U.K. Telegraph posted an article by Edward Lucas about the situation in the Ukraine. Obviously, events there are moving very quickly. The U.K. Daily Mail posted an article by Mark Almond yesterday. Both articles point to the danger of the spread of the unrest in the Ukraine. Please follow the links to the articles. There is a lot of information in both articles.

The article in the Daily Mail reminds us that the Ukraine is made up of both Russians and Ukrainians. Each group has their own concept of what the country’s relationship with Europe and Russia should be. There is a serious division among the population of the country.

The article in the Telegraph states:

Without Vladimir Putin, Ukraine would be at peace today. It was Russia which forced Ukraine to shun the economic agreement offered by the EU in October, launching a crippling trade war against Ukrainian exports. It was Russia which offered cheap gas and soft loans as the Ukrainian economy tottered. It was Russia which installed hundreds of “advisers” in key Ukrainian public bodies and ministries, including the SBU secret police, to ensure that they toe the Moscow line. Without Russia’s silent putsch, Ukrainians would have not have needed to build barricades in the streets in protest at the regime’s misrule. Even then, without the continued and escalating Russian pressure on Mr Yanukovych, the conflict could have been defused.

We have seen enough of Putin to know that he will not let the Ukraine move toward Europe politically and economically without a fight. President Putin has openly stated that his dream is to bring back the old Soviet Union.

The Telegraph reports:

But Russia’s interference in Ukraine has intensified in recent months, just as Western efforts have floundered. European policymakers still cling to the notion that talks with Russia can bring a mutually beneficial solution to Ukraine’s agony. That is a false hope. The Kremlin does not like win-win solutions. It likes outcomes in which it wins, and its detestable Western rivals lose, preferably humiliatingly – this, for Mr Putin, is a matter of personal prestige. In short, though the EU finds the whole notion of geopolitics old-fashioned and unappealing, geopolitics is happening on its doorstep. And it is losing.

America is out of the game, too. The Obama administration has neglected its European allies since the day it took office. Its senior official dealing with Ukraine, Toria Nuland, is admirably energetic – and blunt (she recently declared “F— the EU” in a phone call to her ambassador in Kiev, bugged and then leaked by Russian intelligence). But she lacks the clout to make the wheels of policy turn in Washington. Without Moscow’s interference, the EU and United States could marshal their modest resources to make a difference. Faced with Russia in all its implacable fury, both are outgunned. The fallout from Edward Snowden’s leaks of secret material from the National Security Agency has corroded and weakened the transatlantic alliance: fury with American snooping in countries such as Germany has paralysed what should be vital discussions on security.

Hopefully this will end with freedom for the people of the Ukraine, but I am not optimistic. I remember how hard Poland fought to be free of the Soviet Union. Putin does not give up easily, and he does not compromise.

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Social Media And The Holocaust

The Blaze posted a story today about an Israeli-based social media genealogy company that is using the Internet to help match property stolen by the Nazis to heirs of the victims. A website called My Heritage founded by Gilad Japhet lets people build their family trees on line. The names on that website are being matched up with the names of businesses and properties seized by the Nazis during the reign of Adolph Hitler so that restitution can be made to survivors and heirs.

The article reports:

“We are only just seeing the huge impact that social media will have on Holocaust history,” said Robert-Jan Smits, the director-general of the European Union’s commission for research and design. “We are moving from dusty archives to digitized databases.”

One of the driving forces behind the new push has been Gilad Japhet, CEO and founder of Israel-based MyHeritage, a social media website with about 70 million registered users worldwide that lets individuals build their own family trees online.

A few months back, Japhet read a report about the Claims Conference’s list of over 40,000 buildings, stores and factories that could not be matched with their original owners. Japhet matched some names on the list to the millions of names that users had posted on MyHeritage’s family trees online.

This is fantastic. The article explains:

Japhet put together a team of five employees and had them write a computer program that automatically matches the names on the Claims Conference’s list with those on the virtual family trees. So far, they have been able to match about 150 names on the list with names on the family trees. They expect to continue working on this project for several more months.

Nothing can make up for the suffering the Jews went through under Adolph Hitler, but it is wonderful to know that members of families who lost everything will be compensated.

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Making Anti-Semitism Official

Last week the Daily Caller reported that the European Union has forbidden its member states from funding Israeli individuals or organizations based in the contested territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The article states:

In new guidelines that were originally published on June 30 and are scheduled to go into effect on Friday, the 28 nations that make up the E.U. are no longer allowed to contribute financially to or cooperate in any way with organizations that are headquartered beyond the historic “Green Line” that divides the West Bank from the rest of Israel.

Significantly, the guidelines also define East Jerusalem as one of the illegal Israeli settlements that cannot receive future funding. East Jerusalem includes Old City landmarks like the Temple Mount and the Western Wall that are central to thousands of years of Jewish faith and history, making Israeli agreement with the ruling very unlikely.

It’s amazing sometimes how some organizations rewrite history. In April 2011, the American Thinker posted an article stating:

…Except that there was no “border” on Israel’s eastern flank from 1948 until 1967 — only a 1949 armistice line that marked the farthest westward military penetration by Jordan during Israel’s War of Independence when half a dozen Arab armies unsuccessfully tried to exterminate the nascent Jewish state.

The 1949 armistice line was never recognized internationally as a “border.”  Neither of course were Jordan’s aggression and illegal occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem since  they occurred in flagrant violation of the 1947 UN partition plan to divide British Mandate Palestine between a Jewish state and an Arab state.

Israel needs defensible borders. Israel lives in a tough neighborhood where its neighbors won’t even admit that it has a right to exist there. The European Union is definitely coming down on the wrong side of history.

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The Roots Of The Collapse In Cyprus

Yesterday the New York Times posted an article about a decision made by the European Union in October 2011 that began the unravelling of the banks in Cyprus.

The article reports:

“It was 3 o’clock in the morning,” recalled Kikis Kazamias, Cyprus’s finance minister at the time. “I was not happy. Nobody was happy, but what could we do?”

He was in Brussels as European leaders and the International Monetary Fund engineered a 50 percent write-down of Greek government bonds. This meant that those holding the bonds — notably the then-cash-rich banks of the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus — would lose at least half the money they thought they had. Eventual losses came close to 75 percent of the bonds’ face value.

The decision resulted in the country of Cyprus, with a gross domestic product of 18 billion euros, taking a hit of four billion euros. Laiki, also known as Cyprus Popular Bank, alone took a hit of 2.3 billion euros. This is not the sole cause of the banking collapse in Cyprus, but it is a major factor.

The article further reports:

As well as hitting Cyprus over its banks’ holdings of Greek bonds, the European Union also abruptly raised the amount of capital all European banks needed to hold in order to be considered solvent. This move, too, had good intentions — making sure that banks had a cushion to fall back on. But it helped drain confidence, the most important asset in banking.

“The bar suddenly got higher,” said Fiona Mullen, director of Sapienta Economics, a Nicosia-based consulting firm. “It was a sign of how the E.U. keeps moving the goal posts.”

The European Union did what it needed to do to protect itself–it did not look at the long-term consequences of its actions, and its actions were tilted toward the interests of the larger countries in the E.U.  Cyprus never really had a chance.

The article further reports:

After the Greek write-down, Cyprus compounded its problems by dithering on whether to seek a bailout from the European Union. At first, it appealed to Russia, which provided a 2.5 billion-euro loan in December 2011. But this money quickly ran out, and when Cyprus did finally go cap-in-hand to its European partners for a lifeline, it received a rude shock: Germany, already gearing up for an election this year, wanted not just budget cuts and other conventional austerity measures but a complete overhaul of Cyprus’s economic model, built around financial services for foreigners seeking ways to dodge taxes and, Berlin suspected, launder dirty money.

“They did not want the Cypriot model to exist as it did — they wanted Cyprus to stop being a financial center,” said Pambos Papageorgiou, a former central bank board member who is now a member of parliament and on its finance committee. “It was very brutal, like warfare.”

Mr. Papageorgiou complained that the European Union had shown “the opposite of solidarity” in its dealings with one of its weakest and most vulnerable members.

The role Cyprus played in harboring money from questionable sources is not unique and has occasionally in the past gone unpunished. I recently watched a documentary about the role the Swiss banks played in holding the wealth the Nazis confiscated from the Jews of Germany. Most of that money still sits in Swiss banks. There was no reason the banks of Cyprus would have assumed that their business model would face a day of reckoning.

The article concludes:

“We are looking at a very grim future for Cyprus,” said Michael Olympios, chairman of the Cyprus Investor Association, a lobbying group. “Even firm believers in European project like myself see now that it was a bad idea and that we should have at least stayed out of the euro.”

As jobs disappear and the economy contracts, Mr. Olympios said, faith in Europe will wither. “I used to be a believer. Not anymore.”

There is such a thing as giving a small people too much power. ‘Nuff said.

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Making Friends All Over The World

On Friday the U. K. Mail posted an article entitled, “A Meddlesome Obama Should Keep His Nose Out Of Our Affairs.” Wow. How’s that for diplomacy? What is this about?

The article reports:

…Yet it was outrageous for a White House official to warn this week that our membership of the EU was ‘in the American interest’ and that pulling out would be a mistake.

State Department official Philip Gordon may hold a post that is the equivalent to a junior under-secretary in our Foreign Office but he is the authentic voice of the Obama administration.

His unwelcome interference in this country’s internal affairs comes at a most sensitive time, considering that David Cameron is soon due to make a major speech on the subject — and is expected to say whether we are to be offered the in/out referendum that the majority of voters want.

Ironically, those on the Left who normally revile America — for its interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, support of Israel and alleged mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay — are happy to use the U.S. official’s remarks as a stick with which to beat Mr Cameron.

…As for Mr Gordon’s specific comments about the possibility of Britain holding a referendum on our future membership of the EU, he reveals America’s own myopia.

He said: ‘Referendums have often turned countries inwards.’

Such a remark is pretty rich coming from an American whose country is one of the most parochial societies in the world. What’s good for the U.S. should be good for Britain.

Mr Gordon and his Washington buddies must accept that we, too, should be able to decide what our national interest is — whether America likes it or not.

How to win friends and influence people…

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The Saudis Bring Reason To OPEC

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is meeting this week. The Financial Times reminds us that oil prices have dropped from $128 a barrel in March to a current price of about $100. The drop is partially due to the financial difficulties in the European Union and the general slowdown in the world’s economy. Normally when the price of oil drops, OPEC calls for a decrease in production so that the price will rise again (supply and demand works!).

Recently OPEC has been producing more oil than its quota in an effort to lessen the impact of the oil sanctions that Europe and America have placed on Iran in an attempt to end Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia seems to be responsible for the increase–Ali Naimi, Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, told the Financial Times in March that he would like to see lower oil prices  “that will not hurt the global economic recovery”.

The Saudis have called for higher oil output levels despite the lower prices. I would love to be a fly on the wall (one who understood whatever language is spoken) at the coming OPEC meeting!

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This May Be One Reason Why ‘We Can’t All Just Get Along’

Yesterday Breitbart.com reported that the European Union (EU) has been asked to intervene to prevent the execution of a man who sold the Bait HaMachpela (House of the Patriarchs) to Jewish families in Hebron.

The Jewish community of Hebron has asked the EU to stop the execution. The story reports the response of EU Committee for Foreign Affairs Chairman, Dr. Fiorello Provera:

“Abu Shahala’s conviction has no justification, and therefore the European Union will intervene to save his life. It is inconceivable that a man who sells his house will be convicted of a crime and sentenced to death. The PA is the foremost beneficiary of a European assistance, so we must intervene interest and demand the PA immediately cancel Abu Shahala’s death sentence. And, to remove the death penalty for the sale of property and land [to Jews].  I call on the PA to immediately block the implementation of death sentence on Abu Shahala, as required by the UN General Assembly.”

The PA has been clear from its founding that it wants to drive the Jewish people from Israel. That in itself is the main obstacle to peace in the Middle East. I am not convinced you can negotiate with people who would kill a man for selling his house.

The Secret Service Were Not The Only People Caught With Their Pants Down In Columbia

Yesterday Investor’s Business Daily reported on a major event at the Colombian summit that seems to have been overlooked in the reporting.

The article reports:

Never was a response to a global outrage more mealy-mouthed than the one from the U.S. after Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, standing under a portrait of Evita Peron, announced a brazen grab for YPF, the Argentine oil company that’s 57% owned by Spain’s Repsol.

Markets fell, world leaders denounced the violation of contracts and economically battered Spain rallied European Union support.

But the U.S.? “We are following developments on this issue. We are not currently aware of any WTO complaints related to this issue,” the State Department said.

The article points out that Argentina is in financial trouble because of overspending. If Argentina defaults or Spain defaults, the IMF will be called in to do a bailout. That will directly impact the pockets of American taxpayers.

The article reminds us:

Meanwhile, U.S. investors own about 5% of Repsol. Its takeover hurts U.S. investors and our tax base. This should concern the indebted U.S., which if it did what other countries do, would defend its investors.

The U.S. buys 29,000 barrels a day from Argentina, a third of its output, and will need to find a new supplier as that collapses. Worse still, Argentina will lose investment in its vast shale reserves, the world’s third-largest at 22%. As that goes, prices will rise.

Worst of all, the expropriated assets may now go to China, significantly raising its influence in the region.

It sounds as if our State Department was not paying attention to the events around them.

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Why America Needs To Be Energy Independent

President Obama’s blocking of the Keystone Pipeline had an obvious negative impact on jobs–the pipeline would have created thousands of jobs instantly–but it had a more dangerous long term impact on America’s energy independence. Alternative energy will not give us that independence at this time–we are a carbon based economy. The fruits of the decision to block the Keystone Pipeline and limit domestic energy production are becoming very obvious today.

Reuters is reporting today that Iran has stopped selling crude oil to British and French companies in retaliation for sanctions imposed because of Iran’s nuclear program.

The article reports:

Iran was supplying more than 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) to the EU plus Turkey in 2011, industry sources said.

By the start of this year imports had sunk to about 650,000 bpd as some customers cut back in anticipation of an EU ban.

Saudi Arabia says it is prepared to supply extra oil either by topping up existing term contracts or by making rare spot market sales. Iran has criticized Riyadh for the offer.

The European country most impacted by the Iranian move is Greece.

CNBC reported today that in December Saudi Arabia cut its oil production and exports.

CNBC reports:

Iraq, another frequently-cited supplier to make up for part of the Iranian oil shortfall following European Union sanctions,  reported no major changes to its supply and export regime. Authorities there are pursuing an ambitious production expansion plan with the aim of reaching 12 million bpd by 2016.

The Reuters article reports:

Brent crude oil prices were up $1 a barrel to $118.35 shortly after Iran’s state media announced last week that Tehran had cut oil exports to six European states. The report was denied shortly afterwards by Iranian officials.

“We have our own customers … The replacements for these companies have been considered by Iran,” Nikzad said.

This is not good news for the western world. Now is the time for America to develop any and all of its energy sources. Even if we drilled everywhere today, we would still be facing a summer of at least $5 a gallon gasoline, but if we drilled everywhere today, we would at least have a better outlook for the future.

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One Way To Deal With A Shakedown By Extreme Environmentalists

Reuters is reporting today that China is banning its airlines from the European Union (EU) policy that charges a carbon fee for flights in and out of Europe. The carbon fee is essentially an additional tax and China has said that it simply will not pay the tax.

The article reports:

The EU plan is intended to curb rising greenhouse gas pollution from aviation and fight climate change. Globally, emissions from aviation comprise about two percent of mankind’s greenhouse gas pollution and this share is expected to grow.

“China hopes Europe will act in the light of the broader issues of responding to global climate change, the sustainable development of international aviation and Sino-European ties, strengthening communication and coordination to find an appropriate solution acceptable to both sides,” an unnamed official from China’s civil aviation authority said, according to the announcement.

The interesting fact in this little dust up is that China is included in the EU plan to reduce air pollution. One of the problems with the Kyoto Protocol of 2006 was that the restrictions on greenhouse gases were not extended to India and China.

The National Geographic Magazine reported in July of 2007:

Damaging air pollutants include sulfur dioxide, particulate matter—a mixture of extremely small particles and water droplets—ozone, and nitrogen dioxide. China accounts for roughly one-third of the global total for these pollutants, according to Krzyzanowski (Michal Krzyzanowski, an air quality adviser at the WHO Regional Office for Europe).

China is not willing to play the global warming game. As I have stated before, I do not support dirty air. However, I think we need to make sure that any climate change is man-caused before we cripple the major free economies of the world in the name of saving the planet. The current ‘solutions’ to global warming are nothing more than a global redistribution of wealth–the major polluters are not included in the restrictions. Evidently China does not like being included in the efforts to save the planet.

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Why I Am Concerned About Free Speech

The thing to remember when dealing with Muslim blasphemy laws is that under Sharia Law, the charge of blasphemy has nothing to do with truth. If what has been said about the Muslim religion or its past or present leaders is negative, it can be considered blasphemy, whether it is true or not. I believe that in America some time in the near future, we will see the same standard applied to the concept of ‘hate speech’ against Islam. The case of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria is an example of this happening in the European Union.

Front Page Magazine posted an interview with of Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff today. Please follow the link to read the entire article–it is fascinating. Because of her years of living in Muslim countries in the Middle East, both under Sharia Law and under secular governments, she understands totally how Muslims use ‘hate speech’ laws to curtail free speech.

In the article she explains where she is and how she got there:

What happened? A young woman, a journalist, had infiltrated two of my seminars in October and November, illegally recording my presentation, and then reported me to the Austrian authorities, who in turn began an official investigation. The charge: Hate speech.

The outpouring of criticism from official Austria was astounding. From the vice chancellor to the chief rabbi, from a high-ranking bishop to party leaders: My statements – all taken out of context – were condemned through and through. I was even compared to Bin Laden by one Muslim official. Not one of these so-called leaders bothered to ask for clarification from my side. I was to be vilified, my statements were to be condemned, for two reasons. First, I gave these seminars for the “right-wing, xenophobic” Freedom Party and second, the content of the seminars described Islam.

She continues:

Simply put, I have now been made a victimless convict. On December 20, 2011, my conviction for denigration of a legally recognized religion was upheld by the higher court.

What was the reason for this conviction, you may ask. Well, during the course of my seminars, I mentioned the choking EU directive “Framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia,” and in order to illustrate my point I told the audience about a conversation I had with my sister and how she believed that one should find a different word for Mohammed’s actions with Aisha. I said, “How does one name what he did if not call it pedophilia?” And this sentence got me convicted, for I am allowed by law to say that Mohammed had sex with a young girl, but I may not qualify this behavior as this is deemed “excessive” and thus denigrating. The Austrian state has created a victimless crime, and a criminal without a single victim.

The trial is now officially over. There is only one way to appeal, and that is taking the matter to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg. But– this will cost a lot of money and will take a lot time (6-8 years minimum).

The law that Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff was convicted under took effect in November 2010, when all members of the European Union were required to implement the “Framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia”, or, more fully, the “Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008. The intent of the law was to combat racism and xenophobia. The impact of the law was to severely limit free speech.  

In the article, Ms. Sabaditsch-Wolff details here supposed ‘crime':

What was the reason for this conviction, you may ask. Well, during the course of my seminars, I mentioned the choking EU directive “Framework decision on combating racism and xenophobia,” and in order to illustrate my point I told the audience about a conversation I had with my sister and how she believed that one should find a different word for Mohammed’s actions with Aisha. I said, “How does one name what he did if not call it pedophilia?” And this sentence got me convicted, for I am allowed by law to say that Mohammed had sex with a young girl, but I may not qualify this behavior as this is deemed “excessive” and thus denigrating.

Again, under Sharia Law, blasphemy has nothing to do with truth. Evidently, under the new speech rules in the EU, that is also true.

 

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When Laws Get Totally Out Of Control

Last week the U.K. Telegraph reported that the European Union (EU) has banned drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration. I am still trying to figure that one out.

The article reports:

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.

Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

There are a few problems with this statement. First of all, with all the current problems in the EU, why in the world are they worried about whether or not water is the solution to dehydration? Second of all, this does seem to be a rather odd conclusion.

The story began when German professors Dr Andreas Hahn and Dr Moritz Hagenmeyer, asked the European Commission if the claim that “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration” could be made on drink labels.

The article reports:

However, last February, the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) refused to approve the statement.

A meeting of 21 scientists in Parma, Italy, concluded that reduced water content in the body was a symptom of dehydration and not something that drinking water could subsequently control.

Now the EFSA verdict has been turned into an EU directive which was issued on Wednesday.

I am not a scientific type, but this just seems odd to me!

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Why Global Regulations Don’t Work

Theoretically the idea of all countries working together to make the world a better place is a really good idea. Unfortunately, it loses something when you put it into practice. My current case in point–the debate over greenhouse gas emissions.

Breitbart.com reported yesterday that Brazil, South Africa, India and China have asked industrialized nations to step up their commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a key UN climate summit later this year. China’s climate change minister Xie Zhenua called for greater cooperation from industrialized countries. Well, wait a minute. This is ridiculous. This is like having a race with someone who when you take the lead says, “Stop, I need a chance to pass you so I can win.” Why are China and India not considered industrialized countries?

The article reports:

Former president George W. Bush said Kyoto was fatally flawed because it does not require developing giants, already major polluters, to take on similar constraints.

European countries are generally on track for their emissions reductions, but Canada is poised to miss its target by a wide margin.

At the same time, emissions by China, India, Indonesia and Brazil have rocketed — nations bound by Kyoto account for less than 30 percent of global CO2 emissions, which hit record levels in 2010.

Japan, Canada and Russia have said they will not sign up for a new round of carbon-cutting vows.

The European Union (EU) says it will only do so if other nations — including emerging giants such as China and India, which do not have binding targets — beef up efforts in a parallel negotiating arena.

Developing countries, though, insist the Protocol be renewed in its current form. 

Of course the developing countries want the Protocol renewed in its current form–it puts no restrictions on them, just on everyone else.

In September of 2010, a website called Alttransport.com reported:

For the first time this decade global CO2 emissions decreased 1.3 percent in 2009, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. But that drop was offseted by a significant rise in emissions in China and India by 9 and 6 percent.

While the drop is a reason to celebrate, the decrease in emissions is linked to the slow global economy. China and India, on the other hand, have had two of the fastest growing economies — with India’s growth rate at about 8.6 percent and China’s at 10.3 percent.

I don’t wish any harm on the ‘developing’ counties–I just want to know at what point they cease to be ‘developing’ and become developed. It seems to me that with the amount of jobs outsourced from America to India, that maybe America should be seen as de-developing and India should be seen as developed. Considering the trade deficit between America and China, are we sure China is ‘developing,’ or is it developed? The debate over carbon emissions is another way to penalize countries that have achieved commercial success in an attempt to let other countries achieve that success. I have a better idea. If ‘developing’ countries truly want to become commercially successful, they need to look to the model of America at its founding–give everyone an equal chance to own property and to be successful. You’d be surprised what equal opportunity does to the growth of a country’s economy!
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