Christianity was once so localized to Europe that the term “Christendom” largely meant Europe. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the last outpost of Christian rule in the East was lost. The history of Medieval Europe was flecked with Christians holding back Islam. The Battle of Tours in France prevented the overrunning of Western Europe by Muslims. The Reconquista in 1492 ended the remnants of Muslim rule in Iberia. The Battle of Lepanto ended the threat of Muslim naval power in the Mediterranean. 

On Monday, Gordon Chang, the author of The Coming Collapse of China and regular contributor at Forbes.com, was interviewed on Yahoo’s Daily Ticker, where he observed, “If you look at all of [China’s] indicators, they all point down.”

Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright and political figure who became Czechoslovakia’s President following a non-violent uprising in 1989 that ended decades of Soviet rule in that country, died December 18 at the age of 75. Almost immediately upon news of his passing, eulogies lionizing Havel as one of the great “liberators” of the 20th century began flooding the print, broadcast, and Internet media.

Is it certain that the nations of the European Union are heading for a hard fall? It certainly looks that way. When the overspending of governments such as Greece, Portugal, and Ireland were involved, the threat to the euro was real, but it could be psychologically contained (an important factor in maintaining the stability of financial institutions). Those three nations, after all, are small. Spain, the fourth member of the “PIGS,” was more than half the size of the Italian economy, but much of the industrialized West has viewed Mediterranean nations as inherently volatile.

North Korea’s official government-controlled media announced that the country’s “Dear Leader,” Kim Jong-Il, died on Saturday at age 69 from “physical and mental overwork.” A teary-eyed TV anchorwoman claimed, “It is the biggest loss by the party … and it is our people and nation’s biggest sadness … [but we must] change our sadness to strength and overcome our difficulties.”

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