Germany could lose its role in Europe

As the largest EU member state, Germany enjoys unmatched influence in the bloc. But Europe isn’t a topic in the country’s parliamentary election campaign, something which German political thinker Ulrike Guerot lamented in a recent interview with EUobserver.

“There isn’t much debate about anything, actually. [Incumbent chancellor] Angela Merkel seemed to have won before she even began campaigning. It could be a generational factor: for the first time in German history, more than half of the electorate is over 50. These people like stability,” said Guerot, a professor of European affairs and a writer, whose provocative books about Europe and democracy have won her a growing following.

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“But stability could in a way be the worst for Europe. Everything needs to change in Europe, and especially the Germans,” she added.

Voters in the federal republic will head to the polls on 24 September, in a year rich with elections in the EU – often taking Europe as a key theme

Most recently, Emmanuel Macron won the presidential race in France on a pro-EU ticket, promising eurozone reform and a more social Europe, while the runner-up, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, campaigned on anti-EU messages.

Macron’s triumph has helped dissipate much of the fears surrounding far-right populism, but Guerot said it was too early to celebrate.

“He wasn’t elected because of his programme, but because people didn’t want Le Pen’s dark visions,” she said. “Despite a good start, his support remains fragile.”

The EU still needed an overhaul, she insisted, to become more social and democratic – reforms that would require Berlin’s backing.

“Unfortunately, we see close to no will to change, at least not substantially.”

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She said some of it may be linked to the fact that the German economy is doing well. In this situation, “it is easier for German elites to pressure politicians into the discourse that it’s enough for others should just do whatever Germany does to be successful.”

A European republic

“It’s just that what works for us doesn’t work for others and it cannot work for others because the euro zone is flawed in its set-up. There is no model to copy,” she added.

In her first book, Why Europe Should Become a European Republic, written in the wake of the Greek debt crisis, Guerot argued that Europe is almost completely integrated in terms of economic and monetary policy, but lags behind in democracy.

She called it “a single market and a currency without a democracy behind it”, unable to care for people.

“Merkel has famously said that if the euro fails, Europe fails,” Guerot told EUobserver.

“But I believe this sentence should be: keep the euro as it is and democracy fails in Europe. And this is what is happening.”

The bloc’s inability to go forward had led to resistance from within, in the form of right-wing populism directed at the EU and the common currency.

It did not matter if populists win elections or finish second, she said.

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“When they reach critical mass, say 30 percent, it starts to get systemic. Their arguments win even if they don’t win elections. The whole system shifts to the right and that is what we experience all over Europe,” Guerot said.

She stressed that anti-EU feelings initially didn’t come from the people – “what people want has never mattered that much” – but from business and political elites, who instrumentalised frustrations over material inequalities. She traced the emergence of Germany’s populist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), to the German liberals (FDP).

“AfD wasn’t formed by globalisation losers in east Germany or the Nazi party and their sympathisers. It arose when half of the Liberals in 2012 decided to go against their own government and oppose a bailout of Greece and parts of Europe’s bourgeois establishment u-turned on Europe,” she said.

They had managed to convince voters that Germany was already shouldering its responsibility for Europe.

“I think many realise that, without restructuring, the eurozone is a looming disaster and that Germany won’t survive as a happy island if there is an economic downturn,” she said.

“However, many Germans think they are already doing enough, because we took in a million refugees in 2015, German tax payers are footing the bill for the Greek bailout, or that we started playing a more active role in European foreign policy, especially in the relations with Russia where Germany was previously accused of being too close to president Vladimir Putin.”

“All this is true. But it hides other aspects, especially that the eurozone was skewed to their country’s benefit to start with.”

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‘Europe is made by the right’

The German intellectual said the case for a social Europe must come from Germany’s centre-right.

“The German social-democrats (SPD) have a very interesting campaign on everything social: the growing income gap and increasing rents. But it seems as this isn’t credible to voters, out of which some 85 percent are happy with their social situation, according to recent polls,” she argued.

“The nurse earning €50,000 a year would rather distance herself from the poor. She doesn’t think she would benefit from a tax raise; she sees herself as part of the up-and-coming, even if we know that this doesn’t happen … wealth today comes from capital and not work.”

“This is why social Europe must come from the centre-right, from Macron who is neither right or left, but social-liberal, or from the conservatives. When they propose social programmes it is seen as the general interest, rather than stealing people’s taxes.”

The question was what Angela Merkel would do if she wins another term as chancellor.

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“She has been pretty quiet on this. Maybe she’s smarter than we think and will use her four years to u-turn the whole thing: set up a parliament for the euro-zone, build up its fiscal capacity, introduce Franco-German bonds for a start, strengthen European democracy and build a European security union with Macron,” Guerot speculated, adding: “But I am not sure she will do it, and part of it will be very difficult if she enters a [coalition] government with the FDP.”

Guerot said, however, that things could change more quickly than one may think.

“The Volkswagen scandal, the unravelling of Germany’s automobile industry and all the sectors that depend on it, could kick Germany out of complacency,” she said.

“And if not that, something else could suddenly come up. Europe is fragile. Germany could lose its leading role very quickly – for the better or for the worse.”

Ulrike Guerot is a Berlin-based German political thinker

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Serbia recalls all staff from embassy in Macedonia, alleges espionage

Serbia recalled its entire diplomatic staff from its embassy in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Monday, claiming that it wanted to protect its diplomats from “offensive intelligence activities” directed against them. The move came without warning and surprised journalists in the two former Yugoslav republics. No official reason was given for the recall on Monday morning. Later, however, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said that he had decided to recall the diplomats back to Belgrade due to “sufficient evidence of highly offensive intelligence activities against certain bodies and institutions in Serbia”. He did not specify what he meant, but added that the duty of the government of Serbia was to ensure that “our people be prepared and ready”.

Some reports in Macedonia media suggested that Serbia’s move was related to rumors in Skopje that the Macedonian government plans to support an expected attempt by the Republic of Kosovo to join the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Kosovo was a province of Serbia until 2008, when it proclaimed its independence, a move that was backed by many Western powers, including the United States. However, Serbia has not recognized Kosovo’s independence and has actively opposed Kosovo’s attempts to become a full member of international bodies. Belgrade successfully blocked Kosovo’s entry into UNESCO in 2015. At that time, the former Serbian province country did not receive enough votes to join the organization. But there are concerns in Serbia that, Kosovo might apply again this year and that this time it may be successful.

Serbia has kept a cautionary stance on the current political crisis in Macedonia, which began in 2015 when thousands of people took to the streets in Macedonian capital Skopje to protest against the conservative government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. The crisis deepened in late 2016, when many intelligence officers, including a former director of the national spy service, were accused of illegally wiretapping thousands of people on orders of the government. Under growing pressure, Gruevski stepped down and was eventually replaced by the leader of the center-left opposition, Zoran Zaev, who is now prime minister. During his election campaign last spring, Zaev was critical of Serbia, which he accused of behaving nationalistically against other former Yugoslav republics.

Speaking to reporters in Belgrade on Monday, Serbia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ivica Dačić, said he believed Serbian diplomatic staff would be back in Skopje by the end of August. Mr. Vucic simply commented that there was a “different, new atmosphere” in the Macedonian capital and said he hoped that the situation would become clearer in the coming days.

Is It Significant That The USS John S. McCain Was Damaged In A Collision On The Same Day As The Solar Eclipse?

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22 Aug 2017

Could it be possible that it wasn’t just a “coincidence” that a naval vessel named the USS “John S. McCain” was severely damaged on the exact same day as “the Great American Eclipse”.  I have previously written about how solar eclipses have long been believed to be warnings that judgment is coming upon a nation, and this eclipse was the first in all of U.S. history to only be seen within the borders of our own country.  Tens of millions of Americans looked up into the sky to watch this eclipse take place, but it certainly wasn’t the only historic event to happen on Monday.  When a 600 foot long oil tanker rammed into the USS John S. McCain, according to local time it was already August 21st.  Many are wondering if these two events could be related somehow.

Of all the members of Congress, Senator John McCain has long been considered the most outspoken advocate for the aggressive use of U.S. military might.

And of all the vessels in the U.S. Navy, it was a ship bearing his name that was involved in this collision.  Of course this warship was not actually named after Senator McCain.  Rather, the destroyer was named after Admiral John S. McCain, Sr. and Admiral John S. McCain Jr.

You see, Senator McCain’s grandfather and father were both high ranking admirals, and that is how we got a destroyer with Senator McCain’s name on it.  If you are not familiar with the accident by now, the following account from the Daily Mail is a pretty good summary…

Ten sailors are missing and five were injured after the USS John S McCain destroyer was involved in a collision with a 600-foot oil tanker in busy Southeast Asian waters on Mondaymorning.

The collision between the US guided-missile destroyer and merchant vessel Alnic MC occurred east of Singapore at about 5.24am local time.

The McCain suffered ‘significant damage to the hull’ after a hole was torn in the warship beneath the waterline. It led to flooding of crew sleeping areas, machinery and communications rooms.

Could it be possible that the USS John McCain was used as a symbol to warn us that some sort of disastrous war or military incident is coming if we don’t change our ways?

And it is also interesting to note that this warship bearing John McCain’s name was damaged exactly 33 days after Senator McCain’s brain cancer was diagnosed.  The following comes from the Daily Crow

8 days before John McCain’s 81st birthday. It is already 8/21, or the date of the eclipse in the part of the world this took place. This came 33 days after the discovery of John McCain’s brain cancer diagnosis and today is 33 days before Revelation 12 sign.

Also on Monday we learned that after 16 years (8 + 8) in Afghanistan, the U.S. military will be making a renewed commitment to that conflict.  This is already America’s longest war by a wide margin, and there is no end in sight.

I have already shared so many numbers regarding this year in general, and the solar eclipse specifically.  But before we wrap up this article, let me throw just a few more at you.  The following comes from Pastor Mark Biltz

“I do believe we are headed for major judgment, based on scientific and historical data tied to biblical prophecy. In Matthew 24, Jesus discusses His coming as being similar to the days of Noah and Lot. He also ties the generation that will see His coming to the restoration of the nation of Israel.

“The timing is significant. God gave Noah’s generation a 120-year warning. It just so happens this year is the 120th anniversary of the first Zionist Congress held by Theodore Herzel on August 29, 1897. It also just so happens that very day was the first of Elul, and here we have the eclipse happening at the new moon of the month of Elul, beginning the month of repentance! This year is also the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration presented on November 2, 1917, which just so happens to be the very day Noah’s flood rains began! This is also the 70th anniversary of Israel becoming a nation and the 50th anniversary of recapturing Jerusalem!”

To me, it definitely feels like we have reached a “turning point”.  Like the rest of you, I don’t know exactly what is going to happen next, but I have written about the extraordinary confluence of events that are going to happen over a 40 day period beginning with the eclipse and ending with Yom Kippur on September 30th.

I certainly don’t anticipate anything too cataclysmic during the coming weeks, but I do believe that someone up there is trying to tell us something.

Are we paying attention?

Michael Snyder 

Aviation entities to meet over Air Zimbabwe flight

Johannesburg – Minister of Transport Joe Maswanganyi will be meeting all aviation entities from the department to discuss the grounding of the Air Zimbabwe aircraft on Friday, allegedly due to non-compliance.

The department on Saturday said the aircraft was grounded allegedly due to non-compliance with the South African Civil Aviation regulations.

The department said the Air Zimbabwe flights’ main issue was the required Foreign Operators Permit, together with other documents, which must be on-board an aircraft at all times, and made available for inspection on request by the relevant authorities.

“As a result, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has instructed the operator not to take off until such time that there is full compliance with the applicable South African civil aviation regulations and the requisite international aviation standards as set by the International Civil Aviation Organization.”

Maswanganyi apologised for inconveniences that might have been caused to passengers, the department said.

“In the same vein, the Minister emphasised that civil aviation safety and security is critical, and all licence and permit holders operating into and within the South African airspace need to comply with the applicable international standards, and the South African civil aviation regulations.”

The Friday flight was set to take off for Harare shortly after 18:00, but was cancelled before then.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace are in South Africa for a Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting underway in Pretoria.

‘The silence is deafening’

Mugabe’s personal airplane, operated by Air Zimbabwe, is not believed to be affected by the cancellation.

DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Finance Alf Lees however, disagreed saying the grounding flights, between SAA and Air Zimbabwe, seemed to be due to the diplomatic impasse over the assault charges against Zimbabwean First Lady, Grace Mugabe.

“Now, it seems that tensions between Zimbabwe and South Africa are mounting, leading to airlines being grounded.”

He called on Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba to urgently address “these concerning incidents”.

“The silence from our government on the Grace Mugabe matter has been deafening. The reality is that the South African government has completely mishandled this situation, which is now affecting the operations of the national airline.”

Meanwhile, a “red-alert” was issued by police in the event that Grace attempted to cross the SA border after she allegedly assaulted a 20-year-old model in a Sandton Hotel on Sunday.

Air Zimbabwe is operated by Mugabe’s son-in-law, Simba Chikore.

In 2011, an Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767-200 was seized in London over a $1.2m debt. Later that year, a Boeing 737-500 was impounded by South African authorities after the airline failed to pay a $500 000 debt, the African Independent reported.

In April, all five Air Zimbabwe planes operating in South Africa were grounded when it was declared not airworthy.

In May, the airline was banned from flying to Europe over safety concerns.

Read more on:    saa  |  air zimbabwe  |  grace mugabe  |  joe maswanganyi

Donald Trump Warns Pakistan Will Pay For Harbouring Terrorists

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations,” Donald Trump declared, outlining a new US security strategy in South Asia.

 

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump warned Pakistan on Monday that Washington will no longer tolerate Pakistan offering “safe havens” to terrorists.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations,” Trump declared, outlining a new US security strategy in South Asia.

“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”

Going further, Trump suggested that military and other aid to Washington’s nuclear-armed ally is at stake if it does not clamp down on extremism.

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Pakistan’s few Al-Qaeda extremists

 

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said.

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A Resilient Al-Qaeda in  Pakistan

“That will have to change and that will change immediately,” he said.

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Drone strikes are extremely unpopular in Pakistan

“It is time for Pakistan to dedicate to civilization and order and peace.”

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Pakistani air bases

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มัสยิดบัดชาห์นี เมืองละฮอร์ (Badshahi Masjid, Lahore)

Doklam stand~off

  • Indian troops started throwing stones at Chinese military personnel who were conducting routing patrolling activity, Beijing said

  • PLA now holding live fire drills to awe India

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | Sikkim | Updated: August 21, 2017 2:19 pm

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Doklam Standoff: Pema Sherpa at her cafe in Gnathang village.

(Express Photo by Deeptiman Tiwary)

At Nima Lhamu’s cafe and gift shop at Laxuman Chowk in Gnathang Valley, there is a steady stream of Armymen, belonging to various divisions including the artillery, who have braved pouring rain to pick up Old Monk quarters and beedi packets. They are all headed to Doka La, just 9 km away, where Indian and Chinese forces have been locked in a standoff for the past two months.

Lhamu’s cafe is in the line of sight of Doka La and thus in the line of fire. So is her village downhill. Gnathang is among two villages — the other being Kupup, which is just 5 km from Doka La — which are expected to be the first targets of Chinese area weapons in case a war breaks out.

The 30-year-old cafe owner, however, is not overly concerned. “None of us is worried here. As long as it’s going fine, it’s going fine. When it won’t, we will move. Till then it’s good business,” she says with a smile, pointing towards Armymen whose increased presence in the area has meant that her shop has decent sales even in the lean tourist season.

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The three villages of Kupup, Gnathang and Dzuluk, in a stretch of about 30 km, are closest to the trijunction between India, China and Bhutan that is under dispute, and virtually survive on tourism and jobs provided by the Army.

While Lhamu believes war is unlikely, she admits she hasn’t seen so much movement by the Army in her entire life.

Nearly 350 soldiers of the Army’s battalion at Doka La moved into the Dolam plateau on June 18 to stop the Chinese from constructing the road to Jampheri ridge.

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 More than 300 Chinese soldiers are arrayed against the Indians, across Torsa nala.

India has moved up an additional brigade to the area, but not to the site of the standoff. Other units in the area are also in a state of readiness, as per sources.

At Kupup, almost every minute, an Army truck passes by or a vehicle takes a turn towards the trijunction, carrying supplies. The road towards Gnathang has armed personnel keeping guard every few hundred metres.

A steady stream of vehicles makes a halt at Baba Harbhajan Mandir close to Kupup, built in the memory of a martyred Army soldier who is said to have acquired an afterlife. It’s a custom among Armymen to stop by at the temple and pay obeisance before going for border duty or war.

At Pema Sherpa’s cafe in Gnathang village, which has mountain slopes on either side with boards warning of land mines, sit a few Army personnel enjoying an afternoon meal.

One of them talks about the cold and showers that the 400 men stationed at Doka La are weathering, and how neither side is budging. They also speak of setting up mine fields in the area to thwart any terrestrial Chinese aggression.

Another one cuts him, laughing, “They (Chinese) are borrowing and smoking our bidis. And we are enjoying their cigarettes. Why will there be a war?”

Yet villagers have been asked to be prepared. Labourers from Dzuluk, who work with the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the Army on a daily basis, inform that everyone has been asked to keep their documents and necessary belongings ready, to move at short notice.

On the night of June 8, China initiated a manoeuvre in Doklam that would trigger a chain of events leading to the most dangerous standoff between India and themselves

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“A Major-rank officer recently held a public gathering at Kupup and told residents of nearby villages not to panic. But he asked us to keep our passes and some clothes handy. He said China attacked India without warning last time, that is why we must stay alert,” a labourer says.

Villagers above 10 years of age in border areas are issued yearly permits. “But now all age groups have been asked to get them, and get them monthly. The authorities said it is to ensure that a quick evacuation is possible, and based on the permits, villagers can come back when the war is over,” another labourer says.

China Doesn’t Believe In Peace, Had They Done That Dalai Lama Wouldn’t Have Been Here

Most of the children in the area are away though, Sherpa says, as they study either at Gangtok or towns nearby.

A labourer says that movement of civilians, including workers, has also been restricted at Nathu La. After Independence Day, some top Army officers held a meeting there and a commanding officer was chief guest and a part of the meeting.

“There is cafe at Nathu La. The women who worked there have been asked to leave. Right now no civilians are there. Civilians taking supplies to the Army have also been restricted,” one of the labourers regularly employed at Nathu La claims.

The labourers say they are being employed to clear roads of landslides or large potholes. “The Army does not want movement on the roads to be restricted even for an hour. That is why small repairs of roads are being done,” one of them says.

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Rather than the stand-off though, what worries the residents more is the Gorkhaland agitation, that has disrupted supplies and flow of tourists.

Gopal Pradhan, who runs a homestay in Dzuluk and whose wife was till recently the sarpanch of the village, says, “All this talk of war is in the newspapers and in Gangtok. Look at the village. Everyone is going about their job. In fact all this news has scared away tourists. If there is war, we will see. We have not been told to move or do anything by the authorities yet. When there is threat of war, lights have to be switched off. But see my homestay is lit up all night.”

Most homestays though are shut, with this being off season, and most men have found work with the BRO for now.

Nima Lhamu of Gnathang says that the only flipside of the standoff is that the trade with China through Nathu La and Sherathang — a market near the border where Chinese come to trade — has stopped. “This has led to serious paucity of Chinese goods, which is the mainstay of business here,” she says.

Adds Pema Sherpa, “No one has been asked to leave the village. Where will we go? We are one with the Army. If war happens, the men will help the Army and we will provide food. How far can we run? 10 km?”

Laughing, labourers in Dzuluk say the talk in the village is that if China takes Doka La, it would annexe Sikkim and Bhutan. “Our elders, who have seen the 1962 war, say bullets flew past their heads and the Armymen stayed with them in the village. We will again face it. But many are saying if this goes awry, it will be the third world war,” a woman smiles.

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German footballer Lukas Podolski threatens to sue Breitbart over human trafficker photo

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Breitbart London has issued an apology after posting a picture of German footballer Lukas Podolski on an article about human trafficking gangs. The jet-ski photo was actually snapped during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

A lawyer representing German footballer Lukas Podolski said he would take the right wing news site Breitbart to court after it posted an article about human traffickers in Spain with a picture of the World Cup champion riding a jet-ski.

The article, published on Friday by Breitbart London, was entitled “Spanish Police Crack Gang Moving Migrants on Jet-Skis.” It discussed a group of smugglers who charged refugees 5,000 euros ($5,900) to bring them from Morocco to Spain via jet-ski.

The article’s main image included a picture of a smiling Podolski flashing a peace sign on board a jet-ski with another man. The picture, which showed Podolski wearing the German national team kit underneath his life jacket, was taken in 2014 during the World Cup in Brazil.

Podolski ‘not being human trafficked’

On Sunday, Breitbart switched out the picture after the original post sparked outrage, and more than a few jokes, on social media.

The anti-immigration website also posted an apology at the bottom of the article. “Breitbart London wishes to apologize to Mr. Podolski. There is no evidence Mr. Podolski is either a migrant gang member, nor being human trafficked,” the editor’s note read.

The apology “isn’t enough for us,” Podolski’s lawyer Simon Bergmann told Germany’s EPD news agency on Monday. He said he would take legal action against Breitbart on behalf of the 32-year-old footballer.

“Our goal is also be sure there will not be a violation of his rights in the future,” Bergmann said.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry made fun of Breitbart’s mistake on Monday, posting the jet ski photograph under a Facebook post announcing an upcoming open house at the ministry.

Podolski currently plays in the Japanese J-League for Vissel Kobe.

Read more: Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon leaves the White House

Founded in 2007 in the US by Andrew Breitbart, Breitbart is known for running conspiracy theories and sensational headlines on Islam and refugees.

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Lethal left peg

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the editorial and entrepreneurial staff of Blogfactory do not necessarily subscribe to  (or agree with) every point of view,or the views expressed and are not responsible for any inaccurate, incorrect or offensive statements in this article.