Prophecy News Watch - Week In Review/June 25- June 29
Keeping You Informed of World Events From A Biblical Perspective
Prophetic Trends & Headline News
1. Where is the United States in Bible Prophecy?
Too Much Debt: Our Biggest Economic Problem
What is the biggest economic problem that the United States is facing? Very simply, our biggest problem is that we have way too much debt. Over the past 30 years, household debt, corporate debt and government debt have all grown much faster than our GDP has. But no nation on earth has ever been able to expand debt much faster than national output indefinitely.
All debt bubbles eventually burst. Right now, we are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world. All of this debt has fueled a "false prosperity" which has enabled many Americans to live like kings and queens. But no nation (or household) can pile on more debt forever. At some point the weight of the debt becomes just too great.
It is amazing that the United States has been able to pile up as much debt as it has. Over the years, many authors have predicted that U.S. government finances would collapse long before the U.S. national debt ever got to this level. So the mountain of debt that we have accumulated is quite an "achievement" if you want to look at it that way.
But the clock is ticking on this debt bubble and when it collapses we will say "bye bye" to our vastly inflated standard of living and we will discover that we have destroyed the economy for all future generations of Americans.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. When most Americans think of the "debt problem" in this country, they think of the debt of the federal government.
But that is not the only debt bubble that we are facing.
Thirty years ago, household debt in the United States was approaching the 2 trillion dollar mark. Today, it is sitting at about 13 trillion dollars....
We have been trained to pay for everything with debt.
We pay for our homes with debt, and mortgage debt as a percentage of GDP has more than tripled since 1955.
We pay for our cars with debt, and at this point about 70 percent of all auto purchases in the United States involve an auto loan.
We pay for higher education with debt, and the total amount of student loan debt in America recently surpassed the one trillion dollar mark.
Wherever we go we pay with plastic.
If you want a heated cat bed and a cute little cat sweater for your little kitty just put it on your Visa or Mastercard.
Amazingly, consumer debt in America has risen by a whopping 1700% since 1971, and if you can believe it, 46% of all Americans carry a credit card balance from month to month.
We are absolutely addicted to debt and we do not know how to stop.
State And Local Government Debt
Our state and local governments are also addicted to debt.
30 years ago, state and local government debt was approaching the 400 million dollar mark. Today, state and local government debt is hovering around the 3 trillion dollar mark....
In the United States today, we don't just have one "government debt problem" - the truth is that we have hundreds of them. All over the country, state and local governments are facing bankruptcy because of too much debt.
For example, according to Fox News the city of Stockton, California is right on the verge of declaring bankruptcy. In fact, an announcement could come as early as this week.
Stockton, Calif., is set to declare bankruptcy as early as this week, according to local officials, a move that would make it one of the largest U.S. cities ever to file for reorganization.
On Monday, a state-required mediation with creditors to find a fiscal solution is scheduled to expire. Stockton's City Council is then slated to meet Tuesday to decide whether to adopt a budget for operating in bankruptcy, a move widely considered the last step before the city formally submits a Chapter 9 petition to federal bankruptcy court.
Federal Government Debt
Of course the biggest offender of all is the federal government. 30 years ago, Ronald Reagan was running around proclaiming what a nightmare it was that the U.S. national debt was reaching the one trillion dollar mark.
Well, now we are about to blast through the 16 trillion dollar mark with no end in sight....
Running up debt at a much faster rate than our GDP is rising is a recipe for national financial suicide. Our politicians continue to steal about 150 million dollars an hour from future generations and everybody just acts like this is perfectly normal.
We are going down the same path that Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain have gone.
In fact, we already have more government debt per capita than all of those nations do.
Both political parties have been doing this to us, and it just keeps getting worse and worse.
Incredibly, the national debt has grown more under Obama in less than 4 years than it did under George W. Bush during his entire 8 year term.
Since Barack Obama entered the White House, we have accumulated more than five trillion dollars of additional debt.
We are on the road to national financial oblivion, and most Americans don't seem to care.
Debt From Sea To Shining Sea
Now let's add up all the debt in the country. When you total up all household debt, business debt and government debt, it comes to more than 300% of our GDP....
In fact, if current trends continue we will hit 400% of GDP before too long.
As you can see from the chart, there was a little "hiccup" during the last recession, but now the debt bubble is growing again.
So how high can it go before the entire system collapses?
Total credit market debt owed is roughly 10 times larger than it was about 30 years ago.
How in the world did we accumulate 10 times more debt in just 30 years?
If we do that again in the next 30 years, our total debt will be more than 500 trillion dollars in the 2040s.
Unfortunately, that is the way that debt spirals work. They either have to keep expanding or they collapse.
So will the U.S. debt spiral continue to expand?
Or will we soon see a collapse?
Sadly, this exact same thing is happening all over the world. The government debt to GDP ratio in Japan (the third largest economy in the world) blew past the 200% mark quite a while ago, and almost every country in the EU is absolutely drowning in debt.
The world has never faced anything quite like this. There is way, way too much debt in the world, but the only way we can continue to enjoy this level of prosperity under the current system is to pile up a lot more debt.
The western world is like a debt addict in a deep state of denial. Some debt addicts end up with dozens of credit card accounts. They will keep opening more accounts as long as someone will let them. Most debt addicts actually believe that they will be able to get out of the hole at some point, but most never do.
Most Americans still believe that we are experiencing "temporary" economic problems that will eventually go away. Most Americans still believe that even greater prosperity is still ahead.
Sadly, what the mainstream media and the two major political parties are telling them is a bunch of lies.
We have enjoyed the greatest prosperity that we will ever see in the United States, and when the debt bubble bursts there is going to be an immense amount of pain.
That is a very painful truth, but it is better to come to grips with it now than be blindsided by it later.
17 Reasons To Be Extremely Concerned About The Second Half Of 2012
What is the second half of 2012 going to bring? Are things going to get even worse than they are right now? Unfortunately, that appears more likely with each passing day. I will admit that I am extremely concerned about the second half of 2012. Historically, a financial crisis is much more likely to begin in the fall than during any other season of the year.
Just think about it. The stock market crash of 1929 happened in the fall. "Black Monday" happened on October 19th, 1987. The financial crisis of 2008 started in the fall. There just seems to be something about the fall that brings out the worst in the financial markets. But of course there is not a stock market crash every year.
So are there specific reasons why we should be extremely concerned about what is coming this year? Yes, there are. The ingredients for a "perfect storm" are slowly coming together, and in the months ahead we could very well see the next wave of the economic collapse strike.
Sadly, we have never even come close to recovering from the last recession, and this next crisis might end up being even more painful than the last one.
The following are 17 reasons to be extremely concerned about the second half of 2012....
#1 Historical Trends
A recent IMF research paper by Luc Laeven and Fabi¯n Valencia showed that a banking crisis is far more likely to start in September than in any other month.
So what will this September bring?
#2 JP Morgan
Do you remember back in May when JP Morgan announced that it would be taking a 2 billion dollar trading loss on some derivatives trades gone bad? Well, the New York Times is now reporting that the real figure could reach 9 billion dollars, but nobody really knows for sure. At some point is JP Morgan going to need a bailout? If so, what is that going to do to the U.S. financial system?
Last week, Moody's downgraded the credit ratings of 15 major global banks. As a result, a number of them have been required to post billions of dollars in additional collateral against derivatives exposures....
Citigroup¯s two-notch long-term rating downgrade from A3 to Baa2 could have led to US$500m in additional liquidity and funding demands due to derivative triggers and exchange margin requirements, according to the bank¯s 10Q regulatory filing at the end of the first quarter.
Morgan Stanley ¯ which Moody¯s downgraded from A2 to Baa1 ¯ said a two-notch downgrade from both Moody¯s and Standard and Poor¯s could spur an additional US$6.8bn of collateral requirements in its latest 10Q. The bank did not break down its potential collateral calls under a scenario where only Moody¯s downgraded the bank below the Single A threshold.
Royal Bank of Scotland estimated it may have to post ¯9bn of collateral as a result of the one-notch Moody¯s downgrade to Baa1 in a statement on June 21, but did not detail how much of this additional requirement was driven by margin for swaps exposures.
The worldwide derivatives market is starting to show some cracks, and at some point this is going to become a major disaster.
Remember, the 9 largest U.S. banks have a total of more than 200 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives. When this bubble completely bursts it is going to be impossible to fix.
#4 LEAP/E2020 Warning
LEAP/E2020 has issued a red alert for the global financial system for this fall. They are warning that the "second half of 2012" will represent a "major inflection point" for the global economic system....
The shock of the autumn 2008 will seem like a small summer storm compared to what will affect planet in several months.
In fact LEAP/E2020 has never seen the chronological convergence of such a series of explosive and so fundamental factors (economy, finances, geopolitical¯) since 2006, the start of its work on the global systemic crisis.
Logically, in our modest attempt to regularly publish a ¯crisis weather forecast¯, we must therefore give our readers a ¯Red Alert¯ because the upcoming events which are readying themselves to shake the world system next September/ October belong to this category.
#5 Increasing Pessimism
One recent survey of corporate executives found that only 20 percent of them expect the global economy to improve over the next 12 months and 48 percent of them expect the global economy to get worse over the next 12 months.
The Spanish financial system is basically a total nightmare at this point. Moody's recently downgraded Spanish debt to one level above junk status, and earlier this week Moody's downgraded the credit ratings of 28 major Spanish banks.
According to CNBC, Spain's short-term borrowing costs are now about three times higher than they were just one month ago....
Spain's short-term borrowing costs nearly tripled at auction on Tuesday, underlining the country's precarious finances as it struggles against recession and juggles with a debt crisis among its newly downgraded banks.
The yield paid on a 3-month bill was 2.362 percent, up from just 0.846 percent a month ago. For six-month paper, it leapt to 3.237 percent from 1.737 percent in May.
Needless to say, this is very, very bad news.
The situation in Italy continues to deteriorate and many analysts believe that it could be one of the next dominoes to fall. The following is from a recent Businessweek article....
The euro zone¯s third-biggest economy is seen as the next domino at risk of toppling after the European Union¯s June 9 deal to lend Spain $125 billion in bank bailout funds. Yields on Italy¯s 10-year government bonds reached 6.2 percent on June 13, up from just 4.8 percent in March. By pushing up Italy¯s borrowing costs out of fear of default, investors are making a default more likely.
A recent Fortune article detailed some of the economic fundamentals that have so many economists deeply concerned about the Italian economy right now....
The main glaring risk threats that could propel Italy down the path to become Europe's next domino is the size of country's outstanding debt (at ¯1.9 trillion or 120% of GDP); the mountain of debt it has to roll over in the next 12 months (nearly ¯400 billion); and the market's cracking credibility around Prime Minister Mario Monti's ability to reduce the country's fiscal footprint and spur growth.
Further, fear around Italy's creditworthiness, which has recently been expressed by near cycle highs in sovereign CDS spreads and government yields on the 10-year bond, follow some rather glaring negative fundamentals over recent quarters and years: declining GDP over the last three consecutive quarters; a rising unemployment rate (especially among its youth); deterioration in labor market competitiveness; and increased competition for export goods to its key trading partners.
I have written extensively about the financial nightmare that is unfolding in Greece. Unemployment has soared past the 20 percent mark, youth unemployment is above 50 percent, the Greek economy has contracted by close to 25 percent over the past four years and now Greek politicians are saying that a third bailout package may be necessary.
The tiny island nation of Cyprus has become the fifth member of the eurozone to formally request a bailout. This is yet another sign that the eurozone is rapidly falling apart.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to promote an austerity path for Europe and she continues to maintain her very firm position against any kind of eurozone debt sharing.
Merkel, speaking to a conference in Berlin today as Spain announced it would formally seek aid for its banks, dismissed ¯euro bonds, euro bills and European deposit insurance with joint liability and much more¯ as ¯economically wrong and counterproductive,¯ saying that they ran against the German constitution.
¯It¯s not a bold prediction to say that in Brussels most eyes -- all eyes -- will be on Germany yet again,¯ Merkel said. ¯I say quite openly: when I think of the summit on Thursday I¯m concerned that once again the discussion will be far too much about all kinds of ideas for joint liability and far too little about improved oversight and structural measures.¯
In fact, Merkel says that there will be no eurobonds "as long as I live". This means that there will be no "quick fix" for the problems that are unfolding in Europe.
#11 Bank Runs
Every single day, hundreds of billions of dollars is being pulled out of banks in southern Europe. Much of that money is being transferred to banks in northern Europe.
In a previous article I included an extremely alarming quote from a CNBC article about the unfolding banking crisis in Europe....
Financial advisers and private bankers whose clients have accounts too large to be covered by a Europe-wide guarantee on deposits up to 100,000 euros ($125,000), are reporting a "bank run by wire transfer" that has picked up during May.
Much of this money has headed north to banks in London, Frankfurt and Geneva, financial advisers say.
"It's been an ongoing process but it certainly picked up pace a couple of weeks ago We believe there is a continuous 2-3 year bank run by wire transfer," said Lorne Baring, managing director at B Capital, a Geneva-based pan European wealth management firm.
How long can these bank runs continue before banking systems start to collapse?
#12 Preparations For The Collapse Of The Eurozone
As I have written about previously, the smart money has already written off southern Europe. All over the continent major financial institutions are preparing for the worst. For example, just check out what Visa Europe is doing....
Visa Europe is holding weekly meetings to discuss scenarios in the event the euro zone collapses, joining other companies that are preparing for a potential breakup of the currency bloc.
Chief Commercial Officer Steve Perry said Tuesday that management at the U.K.-based credit-card company meets weekly to explore various possible outcomes, including a total collapse of the euro zone.
#13 Global Lending Is Slowing Down
All over the globe the flow of credit is beginning to freeze up. In fact, the Bank for International Settlements says that worldwide lending is contracting at the fastest pace since the financial crisis of 2008.
#14 Sophisticated Cyber Attacks On Banks
It is being reported that "very sophisticated" hackers have successfully raided dozens of banks in Europe. So far, it is being estimated that they have stolen 60 million euros....
Sixty million euro has been stolen from bank accounts in a massive cyber bank raid after fraudsters raided dozens of financial institutions around the world.
According to a joint report by software security firm McAfee and Guardian Analytics, more than 60 firms have suffered from what it has called an "insider level of understanding".
What happens someday if we wake up and all the money in the banks is gone?
#15 U.S. Municipal Bankruptcies
All over the United States there are cities and towns on the verge of financial disaster. This week Stockton, California became the largest U.S. city to ever declare bankruptcy, but the reality is that this is only just the beginning of the municipal debt crisis....
Stockton, California, said it will file for bankruptcy after talks with bondholders and labor unions failed, making the agricultural center the biggest U.S. city to seek court protection from creditors.
¯The city is fiscally insolvent and must seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection,¯ Stockton said in a statement released yesterday after its council voted 6-1 to adopt a spending plan for operating under bankruptcy protection.
#16 The Obamacare Decision
The U.S. economy is already a complete and total mess, and now the Obamacare decision is going to throw a huge wet blanket on it. All over America, small business owners are saying that they are going to have to let some workers go because they cannot afford to keep them all under Obamacare.
It would be hard to imagine a more job killing law than Obamacare, and now that the Supreme Court decision has finally been announced we are going to see many businesses making some really hard decisions.
#17 The U.S. Election
It is being reported that Barack Obama is putting together an army of "thousands of lawyers" to deal with any disputes that arise over voting procedures or results.
It certainly looks like this upcoming election is going to be extremely close, and there is the potential that we could end up facing another Bush v. Gore scenario where the fate of the presidency is determined in court. This campaign season is likely to be exceptionally nasty, and I fear what may happen if there is not a decisive winner on election day. The possibility of significant civil unrest is certainly there.
We definitely live in "interesting" times.
Personally, I am deeply concerned about the September, October, November time frame.
The other day, Joe Biden delivered a speech in which he made the following statement....
"It's A Depression For Millions And Millions Of Americans"
And what Biden said was right for once. Millions of Americans are out of work right now and millions of Americans have fallen out of the middle class in recent years. If you have lost everything, it does feel like you are living through a depression.
When people lose everything, they tend to get desperate. And desperate people do desperate things - especially when they are angry.
A whole host of recent opinion polls have shown that anger and frustration in the United States are rising to unprecedented levels. The ingredients are certainly there for an explosion. Someone just needs to come along and light the fuse. We truly do live in frightening times.
Let us hope for the best, but let us also prepare for the worst.
Where Does Money Come From? The Giant Federal Reserve Scam That Most Americans Do Not Understand
How is money created? If you ask average people on the street this question, most of them have absolutely no idea. This is rather odd, because we all use money constantly. You would think that it would only be natural for all of us to know where it comes from. So where does money come from?
A lot of people assume that the federal government creates our money, but that is not the case. If the federal government could just print and spend more money whenever it wanted to, our national debt would be zero. But instead, our national debt is now nearly 16 trillion dollars.
So why does our government (or any sovereign government for that matter) have to borrow money from anybody? That is a very good question. The truth is that in theory the U.S. government does not have to borrow a single penny from anyone.
But under the Federal Reserve system, the U.S. government has purposely allowed itself to be subjugated to a financial system in which it will be constantly borrowing larger and larger amounts of money. In fact, this is how it works in the vast majority of the countries on the planet at this point.
As you will see, this kind of system is not sustainable and the structural problems caused by such a system are at the very heart of our debt problems today.
So where does money come from? In the United States, it comes from the Federal Reserve.
When the U.S. government decides that it wants to spend another billion dollars that it does not have, it does not print up a billion dollars.
Rather, the U.S. government creates a bunch of U.S. Treasury bonds (debt) and takes them over to the Federal Reserve.
The Federal Reserve creates a billion dollars out of thin air and exchanges them for the U.S. Treasury bonds.
So why does the U.S. government go to all this trouble? Why doesn't the U.S. government create the money itself?
Those are very good questions.
One of the primary reasons why our system is structured this way is so that wealthy people can get even wealthier by lending money to the U.S. government and other national governments.
For example, last year the U.S. government spent more than 454 billion dollars just on interest on the national debt.
Over the centuries, the ultra-wealthy have found lending to national governments to be a very, very profitable enterprise.
The U.S. Treasury bonds that the Federal Reserve receives in exchange for the money it has created out of nothing are auctioned off through the Federal Reserve system.
There is a problem.
Because the U.S. government must pay interest on the Treasury bonds, the amount of debt that has been created by this transaction is greater than the amount of money that has been created.
So where will the U.S. government get the money to pay that debt?
Well, the theory is that we can get money to circulate through the economy really, really fast and tax it at a high enough rate that the government will be able to collect enough taxes to pay the debt.
But that never actually happens, does it?
And the creators of the Federal Reserve understood this as well. They understood that the U.S. government would not have enough money to both run the government and service the national debt. They knew that the U.S. government would have to keep borrowing even more money in an attempt to keep up with the game.
That is why I call the Federal Reserve a perpetual debt machine. The Federal Reserve was created to trap the U.S. government in an endlessly expanding debt spiral from which there is no escape.
And the Federal Reserve is doing a great job at what it was designed to do. Today, the U.S. national debt is more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was first created.
Another way that money comes into existence in our economy is through the process of fractional reserve banking.
I originally pulled the following simplified explanation of fractional reserve banking off of the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but it has been pulled down since then. But I still think it is helpful in understanding the basics of how fractional reserve banking works....
"If the reserve requirement is 10%, for example, a bank that receives a $100 deposit may lend out $90 of that deposit. If the borrower then writes a check to someone who deposits the $90, the bank receiving that deposit can lend out $81. As the process continues, the banking system can expand the initial deposit of $100 into a maximum of $1,000 of money
When you put your money into the bank, it does not say there. The bank only keeps a relatively small amount of money sitting around to satisfy the withdrawal demands of account holders. If all of us went down to the banks right now and demanded our money, that would create a major problem.
If I put 100 dollars into the bank and the bank lends out 90 of those dollars to you, now it looks like there are 190 dollars floating around. I have "100 dollars" in my bank account and you have "90 dollars" that you just borrowed.
The new debt that you have taken on (90 dollars) has "created" more money. But of course you are going to end up paying back more than 90 dollars to the bank, so more debt has been created than the amount of money that has been created.
And that is one of the big problems with our financial system. It is designed so that the amount of debt and the amount of money are supposed to be perpetually expanding, and the amount of debt created is always greater than the amount of money that is created.
So is it any wonder that our society is swamped with nearly 55 trillion dollars of total debt at this point?
A debt-based financial system is unsustainable by nature because it will always create debt bubbles that will inevitably burst.
Are you starting to see why so many Americans are saying that we need to abolish the Federal Reserve system?
Our founding fathers never intended for our financial system to work this way.
According to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the U.S. Congress is supposed to have the authority to "coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures".
So why has this authority been given to a private institution that is dominated by the big Wall Street banks and that has actually argued in court that it is "not an agency" of the federal government?
Thomas Jefferson once said that if he could add just one more amendment to the U.S. Constitution it would be a ban on all government borrowing....
I wish it were possible to obtain a single amendment to our Constitution. I would be willing to depend on that alone for the reduction of the administration of our government to the genuine principles of its Constitution; I mean an additional article, taking from the federal government the power of borrowing.
But instead, we have become enslaved to a system where government borrowing actually creates our money.
The borrower is the servant of the lender, and we have allowed our government to enslave us to the tune of nearly 16 trillion dollars.
There are alternatives to this system. Things do not have to work this way.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of our politicians consider the Federal Reserve to be good for America and steadfastly refuse to do anything to change the status quo.
So if you are waiting for "solutions" to these problems on the national level you are going to be waiting for a very long time.
The debt problems that the United States and Europe are experiencing did not come into existence by accident. They are the result of fundamental structural problems with the financial system.
A debt-based financial system is always going to fail in the long run. Unfortunately, most Americans still do not understand this and so we will all get to suffer the consequences.
2. Israel - God's Timepiece
Bible Predicted Date Of Israel's Return
The author of ¯Covenant: G-d¯s Plan for Israel in the Last Days,¯ a book by Baruch Battlestein published in Italy, cites prophecies by Ezekiel and Moses that pinpoint with precision the date of Israel¯s return to the land in May 1948.
¯Was May 14, 1948, chosen by G-d as the exact day in time to resurrect the nation of Israel, or was it just some random date in human history?¯ Battlestein asks. ¯Could it be possible that this exact date was prophesied thousands of years before in Scripture?¯
Battlestein cites three verses to reach his conclusion that the date of Israel¯s return to the land after 1,900 years was indeed prophesied accurately.
The first is Ezekiel 37:21-22: ¯And say unto them, ¯Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.¯¯
This verse, Battlestein points out, shows ¯that it was the will of the Lord to bring them back to their own land and make them one nation in the land.¯
The second citation of interest is Leviticus 26:23-24: ¯And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.¯
¯As a stand-alone verse this is very strange, and when applying it to the history of Israel it seems impossible to fully understand,¯ writes the author. ¯However, when we read the Book of Ezekiel we find another strange prophecy that leads us back to G-d¯s prophecy in Leviticus. It is through these prophecies that we come to an understanding that May 14, 1948, was the exact date chosen by G-d for the resurrection of Israel thousands of years before it took place.¯
That second Ezekiel citation is Ezekiel 4:4-6: ¯Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.¯
¯In this strange prophecy, Ezekiel is commanded to first lay on his left side for 390 days and then on his right side for 40 days, for a total of 430 days, as punishment for the iniquities of the house of Israel,¯ explains Battlestein.
¯We are told that this punishment represents one day for each year. Taken alone, the prophecies in Leviticus and Ezekiel do not take on any specific significance. However, when we combine them, the results are astonishing.¯
He continues: ¯G-d decreed to Israel a total of 430 years of punishment for her sins against Him. That punishment consisted of physical removal from the land G-d had promised His people. Israel¯s captivity in Babylon was exactly 70 years as prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10). Therefore, the first 70 years of Israel¯s punishment was completed when the Babylonian captivity ended.
By the decree of King Cyrus, conquerer or Babylon, the Jews were set free from their captivity in the year 538 B.C.E. The year 538 B.C.E, therefore becomes the base year with which we begin our calculations: 430 years minus 70 year captivity equals 360 years of remaining punishment to come.¯
That¯s where the Leviticus prophecy kicks in, says Battlestein. The 360 years needed to be multiplied by seven, for a total of 2,520 years.
Using the 360-day Hebrew calendar, that totals 907,200 days. When converted to the 365-day calendar, the 2,520 years or 907,200 days becomes 2,485 years and five months or 2,485.5 years and months. If you subtract 538 years B.C.E, you get 1,947 years and five months.
Battlestein reminds that there was no year zero.
¯Therefore, the year 1,947.5 we call the year 1948.5,¯ he explains. ¯So exactly 1,947.5 years after 538 B.C.E., we come to the year 1948.5,¯ he writes. ¯May is the fifth month of the modern calendar, and on May 14, 1948, Israel arose from the ashes of extinction to become a nation!¯
Battlestein is a messianic Jew who lived in Israel until moving to the U.S. He is the author of several books.
The Incredible Shrinking US-Israel Security Cooperation
In light of increased sensitivity to intelligence leaks, it seemed innocuous ¯ or even admirable ¯ when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) asked the Senate to remove a few words from the US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act: the "sense of the Senate" part of the bill included the sentence, "Expand already close intelligence cooperation, including satellite intelligence, with the Government of Israel;" ODNI wanted the words "including satellite intelligence" to go.
An ODNI spokesman said it was "simply a matter of clarifying the intelligence aspects of the bill and being sensitive to the level of specificity of the language¯nothing nefarious here, just more clear language."
This is just the latest example of the Obama Administration making clear that it does not want to be seen as Israel's partner in regional affairs ¯ several of them predicated on Turkish desires. Despite Israel's status as a Major Non-NATO ally, a NATO "partner" country, and a member of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, Turkey is increasingly insistent that Israel be isolated and cut out.
This surrender to Turkey -- which Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has for years been aggressively making ever more fundamentalist -- coincides nicely with the Administration's increasingly open courtship of Turkey's Islamist-leaning and virulently anti-Israel Prime Minister and what appears to be the desire of the Administration to enhance security relations in the Arab-Muslim world as it dials back visible cooperation with Israel.
This is no small matter. Israel's security is threatened -- above all by the refusal of the Arab States to accept that it is a legitimate, permanent part of the region in which it lives.
For the U.S. or Turkey -- formerly a partner in regional security ¯ to distance themselves from Israeli security is to raise hopes among enemies that they will ultimately be able to threaten Israel without fear of a U.S. or NATO-allied response.
Turkey bluntly objects to sharing intelligence information with Israel ¯ specifically the intelligence from NATO's Turkey-based, U.S.-run X-Band early warning radars. At a NATO meeting in Brussels, Turkish Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz told reporters, "We need to trust states' words.
This is a NATO facility and it shouldn't be used beyond the scope of this purpose." The "state" in question was clearly the U.S., and "beyond the scope" referred to sharing information with Israel. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta replied, "Clearly, the NATO members are the ones that will participate in the program and access information produced by the missile defense system."
In a meeting in February, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen parroted the Turkish formula. "We do stress that data within this missile defense system are not shared with a third country. Data are shared within our alliance, among allies, it is a defensive system to protect the populations of NATO allies," Rasmussen said.
Agreeing publicly to keep intelligence information from Israel ¯ a more likely target of Iran than Europe/NATO ¯ at the behest of Turkey is a serious diminution of the U.S.-Israel security relationship as well as the Israel-NATO relationship, and elevates Turkey to the role of spoiler.
According to one source, Turkey assured Iran that the X-Band radars were not aimed at the Islamic Republic and that a Turkish military officer was in charge of receiving the intelligence information.
Here the U.S. appears to have balked, telling Israel that Americans were in charge of the information, but not reassuring Israel on the subject of information sharing. Further, since the station in Turkey also acquires information from the X-Band radar based in Israel, it raises Israeli concerns that Turkey will have access to security information from Israeli skies.
Turkey also demanded the exclusion of Israel from Anatolian Eagle, a NATO exercise conducted every few years to enhance aerial cooperation. The Turkish decision caused Italy and the U.S. to pull out, and the exercise was canceled ¯ "postponed," according to US sources as was the planned U.S.-Israel missile defense exercise, Austere Challenge, which would have had a strong intelligence-sharing component.
NATO's snub of Israel at the meeting in Chicago in May was simply waved away: "Israel is neither a participant in ISAF nor in KFOR (Afghanistan and Kosovo missions)," said Rasmussen, even as he acknowledged that 13 other "partner" nations would attend because, "In today's world security challenges know no borders, and no country or alliance can deal with most of them on their own."
It was said then that Turkey used its NATO veto. But Israel was similarly not invited to the inaugural meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum in Istanbul -- not a NATO meeting.
Coming on the heels of Eager Lion 2012, a Special Operations exercise involving 12,000 troops from 19 countries (excluding Israel and including several countries at war with Israel), the counterterrorism forum was designed by Secretary of State Clinton to "build the international architecture for dealing with 21st century terrorism."
The State Department was responsible for the invitations, so Turkey had no veto. If the Administration had wanted to make the point that Israel is a valued partner in counterterrorism activities, it could have insisted that Israel be there or else moved the meeting.
Perhaps as compensation, a U.S. delegation visited Israel separately. But private bilateral meetings are no substitute for leading by example so that other countries ¯ particularly in the Middle East, North Africa and Southwest Asia ¯ understand that the United States sees Israel as a legitimate partner in solving regional problems, including terrorism, and that U.S.-Israel security cooperation is a priority of the American government.
Turkey is riding high with the Administration right now; and President Obama welcomed the Turkish Prime Minister in March as an "outstanding partner and an outstanding friend on a wide range of issues" -- including, apparently, in reducing relations with Israel.
ODNI's determination to remove language about satellite intelligence from the Senate bill was most likely intended to ensure that the State Department and Pentagon were not caught between the Senate's interest in keeping U.S.-Israel security relations strong, and Turkey's interest in wedging Israel out of its place as an American security partner.
What an odd place for a U.S. intelligence agency to find itself. What an odd place for the Administration to find its intelligence agency -- or what an odd place to put it.
3. A Revived Roman Empire?
The Perils Of Political Union
Under pressure to take bold steps to avert an economic meltdown the European Union is in danger of sleepwalking into a political union that might save the euro in the short-term but could lead to the EU¯s collapse in the long-term.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already come out in favour of political union ¯ as have the foreign ministers of 10 EU states. The presidents of the European commission, council and central bank have also called for much tighter EU control over national taxes, budgets and economic policies.
Even British premier David Cameron believes in an ever closer union of eurozone states ¯ although safe in the knowledge that the UK will never take part in it.
To a certain extent, calls for a political union are both logical and predictable. Logical because monetary union without a real economic union was always a non-starter. And predictable because when faced with a crisis, the default position of most EU leaders is always ¯more Europe.¯
The fundamental problem is there is little desire for political union from the peoples of Europe and moves towards EU control over taxes, budgets and other core state competences could split the union asunder.
In a Pew Research Center poll published last month, only one-third of respondents in the eight countries surveyed believed European economic integration had strengthened their country¯s economy.
And in another study carried out by YouGov-Cambridge in March, 68% of Germans, 70% of French and 89% said that tax rates and national budgets should be controlled by national governments, not by the EU.
Giving unelected officials in Brussels, rather then elected politicians in capitals, the power to decide tax levels and national budgets hardly seems the most sensible way of bringing the EU closer to its citizens.
Neither is it consistent with the democratic system Europe prides itself on and so energetically tries to export to the rest of the world. ¯Elected representatives must¯retain the ability to keep control of fundamental budgetary decisions,¯ German Constitutional Court President Andreas Vosskuhle said in March, adding: ¯It would be tragic and fatal if we were to lose democracy on the road to saving the euro and to more integration.¯
Aside from widening Europe¯s democratic deficit, there are two grave risks with moving towards economic and political union. The first is that governments and electorates will be unwilling to accept the loss of sovereignty this entails. Will, for example, governments slash health and education spending in order to comply with debt diktats from Brussels ¯ even if that runs counter to the wishes of voters?
Will taxpayers in richer states willingly part with large chunks of their hard-earned money to subsidise poorer parts of the union they have little in common with? And will prime ministers agree to send their sons and daughters to fight for the EU if they are opposed to a war sanctioned in the Union¯s name by the majority?
There is already plenty of evidence from the current financial crisis to suggest that governments are loath to comply with painful policies they have signed up to. Almost the first act of Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy was to tell the Commission he had no intention of meeting the debt cuts agreed in Brussels.
And when Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn asked the Belgian government in January to slash ¯1.2-2 billion in spending or face the prospect of hefty fines, the response of Socialist minister Paul Magnette was ¯Who knows Olli Rehn? Who knows this man¯s face?¯
The second great risk with political union is that it will tear apart the EU. As countries like Britain, Denmark, Sweden and half a dozen central European countries will remain outside the federal eurozone through choice or necessity, the European Union will cease to be a union in anything but name.
Some may rejoice at the prospect of ridding the EU of its most skeptical members. But a smaller European grouping without Britain and others will inevitably be a weaker actor globally and poorer economically.
At the end of the recent G20 summit in Mexico U.S. President Barack Obama confidently predicted: ¯Europe is moving towards further integration rather than break-up.¯ In fact, it is precisely further integration on the scale envisioned by Merkel and co. that will lead to the break-up of the union.
From the Austro-Hungarian empire to the Soviet Union, history is littered with examples of artificial political constructs that have come unglued because of overstretch. The dilemma for the EU is that without more integration the euro will fail and with it the 27-member club risks splintering.
The obvious solution would be to admit the euro was an ill-conceived project that has no popular legitimacy, has created division not unity and brought penury not prosperity to many. A looser club of sovereign nations ¯ as the EU has been for most of its history ¯ would disappoint the dwindling band of EU federalists but at least preserve some of the big benefits the Union has brought over the last 65 years.
Of course, European leaders would never agree to this because scrapping the euro would entail too much loss of face. The EU also doesn¯t possess a reverse gear. And so, like a cruise ship heading towards an iceberg, it braces itself for a collision with the captain shouting ¯full steam ahead.¯
US Concerned Israel Will Strike Damascus Before WND Fall Into Islamist Hands
U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching Israel¯s military for signs it will conduct strikes on Syria¯s stockpiles of chemical weapons, amid concerns the deadly nerve agents could fall under the control of Hezbollah or al Qaeda terrorists, U.S. officials said.
Syria¯s arsenal remains vulnerable as the result of the internal conflict currently underway in Syria between government forces and opposition rebels, one official said.
¯Everyone suspects Syria maintains an active chemical weapons program; and it would be dangerous not to plan accordingly,¯ the official said.
As for concerns the weapons will be captured or transferred, the official said: ¯Most countries that have CW stocks view it as a strategic, not tactical, tool¯and strategic tools are usually pretty well protected and aren¯t given away lightly.¯
However, other U.S. officials said special operations forces are prepared to take action inside Syria in the event the regime falls and the country spirals further into chaos. The teams would seek to secure or destroy stockpiles of chemical arms to keep them from being taken over by terrorists. Hezbollah has been very active in Syria, and there are reports that al Qaeda terrorists have moved into Syria during the current crisis.
The exact size of the Syrian chemical arsenal is not known. The Center for Strategic and International Studies reported several years ago that Syria has stockpiled 500 to 1,000 metric tons of chemical agents. The weapons are said to include long-lasting VX nerve agent and less-persistent Sarin nerve agent, as well as mustard blister agents.
Most but not all of the weapons stockpiles are known to U.S. intelligence agencies.
The New York Times reported Thursday that CIA operatives are working in southern Turkey to coordinate foreign assistance to Syrian rebel forces.
Recent statements by senior Israeli military officials prompted U.S. concerns over an Israeli strike on Syria.
Senior officials in Israel told the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that if Syria¯s army gave chemical weapons to Hezbollah or other terrorists an Israeli attack would be needed.
The newspaper reported May 31 that Israel failed to prevent Syria¯s transfer of M-600 rockets to Hezbollah and the weapons can now threaten central Israel. One military source was quoted as saying that mistake would not be repeated.
Israeli Maj. Gen. Yair Golan, commander of forces deployed on the Syrian and Lebanese front, was quoted in press reports expressing concerns about Syria being used as ¯a warehouse for war materiel that feeds terrorist elements in the region.¯
Golan also said there were reports that al Qaeda terrorists are working against the regime in Damascus and those terrorists eventually would target Israel, perhaps in the coming months.
IDF Deputy Chief Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh also said June 11 that Israeli forces must be on alert because Syria¯s military has ¯the largest chemical weapons arsenal in the region, which can reach any spot in Israel.¯ He expressed worries that the weapons could ¯fall into the hands of the rebels or the terrorists.¯
A State Department arms compliance report from 2010 stated that Syria is also believed to have an offensive biological weapons program in addition to the chemical arms.
Calls for military intervention could increase if Syrian forces begin using the deadly chemical weapons in battling opposition forces.
A Syrian rebel leader, Col. Riad al-Asaad of the Syrian Free Army, told Al Jazeera June 8 that Syrian military aircraft had dropped chemical bombs that poisoned people, and that government forces had distributed gas masks to troops 10 days earlier in preparation for the use of the weapons against northern areas of the country.
State Department cables disclosed last year revealed Syria had obtained large quantities of chemical weapons precursor agents from China, Italy, and other states.
A July 10, 2008, cable said: ¯While Syria proclaims its desire to cooperate with the IAEA in investigating serious evidence of a covert nuclear program and allowed an extremely restricted June 22-25 IAEA visit to investigate a covert nuclear program, Syria has never accounted for its [chemical weapons] stocks, refuses to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, and is modernizing its long-range missile systems in cooperation with Russia, North Korea, and other countries.¯
¯There remain suspicions Syria could be sharing missile technology with Hezbollah,¯ the cable said, noting, ¯Just as Washington has done in past demarches regarding Syrian WMD and missile programs, Post believes a new scrub of releasable intelligence would strengthen our arguments regarding the gap between Syrian rhetoric and actions.¯
A June 20, 2006, cable reported that Iran was assisting Syria¯s chemical warfare program with construction of four to five precursor chemical production facilities.
¯Iran would provide the construction design and equipment to annually produce tens to hundreds of tons of precursors for VX, sarin, and mustard,¯ the cable said.
Tensions Boil As Israeli Oil Riches Grow
Israel¯s once hidden oil riches are now certain to be so large its treasures could make it the richest oil country in the world. And, its neighbors are not only noticing, they¯re boiling mad.
It was just forty years ago when Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel once famously quipped, ¯Why did Moses lead us to the one place in the Middle East without oil?¯
Well Prime Minister, Moses turned out to have a pretty good eye for what a promised land might look like.
Since oil was first discovered in the Middle East, Israel has been cut off from the world¯s exploration resources because of its Arab neighbors. No major oil company would dare explore there in fear of an Arab backlash. Over time technologies in oil exploration have improved and international experts have noticed Israel¯s potential.
In the past, oil-exploration adventurers would visit Israel, some of them reminiscent of Indiana Jones, arguing enthusiastically that there had to be legendary oil reserves in the promised land. The adventurers picked their drilling sites according to concealed hints in the Tanach, especially Yehezkel, but the drillings ended in disappointment. The legend of oil riches in Israel turned into a cruel joke. They simply didn¯t know what they were looking for and didn¯t have the proper technology to find it.
But, in the last three years Israel has discovered one mega-discovery after another. First, it discovered 1.5 billion barrels of oil onshore at Rosh Ha'Ayin, located about 10 miles inland from the Tel Aviv coastline. It was a small but important find that sparked a flurry of exploration activity.
Then, a big one followed by another ¯ both are noteworthy, and rare, and are the largest finds anywhere in the last decade. US Geological Survey (USGS) estimates, the entire Leviathan Basin holds 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 700 billion cubic meters of recoverable gas.
Expert surveys for the Tamar field conducted by the U.S. petroleum consultants Netherland, Sewell & Associates indicate that the field contains proven reserves of 217 billion cubic meters of gas.
And then another find. It turns out that Israel has the second-biggest oil shale deposits in the world, outside the US:
"We estimate that there is the equivalent of 250 billion barrels of oil here. To put that in context, there are proven reserves of 260 billion barrels of oil in Saudi Arabia, says Dr. Harold Vinegar, the former chief scientist of Royal Dutch Shell."
Let¯s do the math. That¯s 250 billion in shale oil, 3.2 billion in conventional oil in estimated reserves, or enough oil to match that of Saudi-Arabia. Plus, that¯s 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, giving it about 10% of the entire world¯s gas reserves -- all while Israel¯s exploration activities are just beginning.
I¯d say most rational people would say this is nothing short of a miracle. But one man¯s miracle is not a miracle to another. Economic miracles tend to upset a lot of sovereigns eager to get their share ¯ whether they can legitimately claim it or not. The backlash has begun and the geopolitical crisis now playing out will be worthy of the most serious prophetic predictions.
Israel, whose exploration is the most advanced, is making plenty of new discoveries. Cyprus, too, is on the cusp of energy riches and (Iranian backed) Lebanon is anxious to launch exploration of its waters.
As would have it, all this excitement is exacerbating old rivalries between Israel and Lebanon and between Turkey and Greece, with Russia, Syria, Egypt and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip likely to get drawn into some serious drama.
Worse yet, Russia is determined to rival Turkish ambitions for regional influence and cannot help being dragged into the conflict.
Unfortunately, Israel is seemingly giving Russia the cold shoulder. As late as last week, the Russian government-backed oil producer Rosneft held consultations on possible participation in the development of Israel's offshore natural gas fields, but emerged from the negotiations with no "effective offers." This geopolitical snub won¯t go unnoticed by Russia.
Last month, Turkey, a former strategic ally of Israel and now one of its most strongest critics, warned other major international companies seeking exploration licenses from the Greek Cypriot government, (Israel's new ally), to stay away. Predictably, Israel responded by dispatching military protection to the seas over its oil interests.
Turkey has now warned it will stop Israel from unilaterally exploiting gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean and suggests it is prepared to respond with force to make its point.
And that, according to geopolitical experts poses a direct challenge to U.S. policy. The U.S. has a strong interest in eastern Mediterranean with countries finding and exploiting offshore reserves. But the U.S. has its hands-full politically, and is ill-prepared financially to support any new conflict. It currently borrows every dollar it needs to run its military and the American people aren¯t going to favor any new conflict they have to pay for ¯ even if it were necessary to protect Israel.
It is the long-running issue of war-divided Cyprus between Turkey and Greece that is the real key to understanding Turkey's squabbles with Israel.
Cyprus was split into Greek and Turkish zones when the Turks invaded in 1974 and seized the northern one-third of the Cyprus island.
Recent discoveries of natural gas are thus encouraging Turkey to renew its diplomatic campaign on behalf of ¯Turkish Cypriots" in the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Why? For the gas and oil it claims to own. Thus, Turkey is launching its own exploration in and around Cyprus and any major strikes it may make (and it will) will only fuel the crisis. So Turkey and Israel aren¯t seeing eye-to-eye and are willing to fight over it.
So, the next big boom (sorry for the pun) is firmly centered on Cyprus.
Tensions recently escalated when the Greek Cypriot government (the legitimate Cypress government recognized by the U.N.) started pushing to open up its Aphrodite field off the southern coast. It¯s a whopper that's likely to match the Israelis' biggest field, the Leviathan. Worse yet, it¯s probably a geologic extension of the Israeli-owned Leviathan.
Aphrodite contains an estimated 22 trillion cubic feet of gas and sizeable oil deposits as well.
On May 19th, Turkey drew a line in the sand. "Turkey will not allow any activity in these fields," the Turkish Foreign Ministry declared.
But 15 companies and consortiums, including Russia's Novatec, Eni of Italy, France's Total and Petronas of Malaysia are all seeking licenses to drill in Aphrodite and 11 other exploration blocks off (Israel friendly) southern Cyprus.
So get this picture into your mind. There¯s a crowd forming that could turn into an angry mob with everyone wanting to plunder Israel¯s newly found riches.
The Israeli¯s and Cyprus plan is to funnel their gas through a joint pipeline through Greece to Western Europe to reduce Europe¯s dependence on Russia for most of its gas. Mr. Putin, the Russian President, isn¯t happy about the possibilities of losing a big customer for its natural gas production.
On the other hand, Turkey is determined to restore it's historical influence across the Middle East and Central Asia by applying pressure to transform its resource-poor country into the key energy hub between east and the west ¯ a direct challenge to an Israel/Cypress plan to pipe oil and gas through Greece on to Italy to fuel the rest of Europe.
That increases the stakes in the eastern Mediterranean, with Russia, one of the world's top oil and gas powers, trying to find a way to cash in on the boom.
Moscow is nervous about Turkey's ambitious regional plans. Russian President Putin also intends to restore Moscow's Cold War influence in the region.
That places Russia and Turkey on opposite sides, including in the Syrian civil war. Moscow backs the Damascus regime, a longtime client; Turkey supports the rebels. And, neither appreciates Israel¯s newly found oil power, which threatens the entire eastern Mediterranean¯s balance of power.
Moscow is not without some links to the riches. It has strong links with the Greek Cypriots but its offers to help Cyprus is motivated in part by the prospect of losing Russia's naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, it's only toehold in the Mediterranean. If the Syrian regime falls, Russia loses its military base in the region. So it's seeking an alternative base for its Black Sea Fleet in Cyprus ¯ the epicenter of the oil discoveries.
Syria too, has great riches off its coast; a fact not lost on Russia. If the Syrian regime falls it is certain that Russia¯s desire to pick up the pieces (for its own) will be irresistible.
In summary, we have a newly enriched Israel powerful enough to completely change the geopolitics of the Middle East on one side. On the other, we have Turkey, determined to cash in ¯ with force if necessary ¯ to establish its own claim to riches while Russia, with its impoverished Muslim regional allies seeking attention. Then there¯s Persian-backed Lebanon, in need of development funding for its significant rich fields just offshore of it¯s own border.
As the old saying goes, ¯the best way to get attention is to start a fight.¯
And, that¯s exactly what will happen.
10 Countries For A United States Of Europe
Ten EU foreign ministers participating in a ¯study group for the future of Europe¯ aim to exert pressure to transform the EU into a federation along the lines of the US.
Together they have prepared what the front-page headline in Die Presse describes as a ¯Plan for transformation into a European state.¯ On 19 June, the ten ministers presented an initial report to the EU officials who will likely benefit the most from the initiative: Commission President Jos¯ Manuel Barroso, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker.
The ¯study group for the future¯ initiated by Germany's Guido Westerwelle, which does not currently include an official French representative, proposes to put an end to the dominance of national government leaders and give greater authority to the European Commission ¯ in particular the European Commission president, who will be elected by universal suffrage and granted the right to form a ¯governmental team¯, making him or her the most powerful politician in Europe.
The group also recommends replacing European councils of ministers and heads of state with a chamber ¯of states¯ in the European parliament. National competencies, most notably the management of borders, defence and public spending will be transferred to the federation, ¯making membership of the euro irreversible.¯
Die Presse argues that it is not surprising to see diplomats from countries which have lost all of their influence since the Treaty of Nice, signed in 2001, and even more so since the outbreak of the crisis, make a bid to play a more important role. However, the daily concludes ¯
A clearly defined democratic system resembling a state would probably not be in accord with the mood of several sections of the population.
But everyone who wants to safeguard the euro, the single market and political stability, while preventing a widening wealth gap between the North and the South and a reinforcement of nationalist trends will ultimately accept that it is the best way forward.
4. The Gog/Magog War
After An Israeli Strike On Iran
How would Iranians respond to an Israeli strike against their nuclear infrastructure? The answers given to this question matter greatly, as predictions about Iran¯s response will affect not only Jerusalem¯s decision, but also how much other states will work to impede an Israeli strike.
Analysts generally offer best-case predictions for policies of deterrence and containment (some commentators even go so far as to welcome an Iranian nuclear capability) while forecasting worst-case results from a strike.
They foresee Tehran doing everything possible to retaliate, such as kidnapping, terrorism, missile attacks, naval combat, and closing the Strait of Hormuz.
These predictions ignore two facts: Neither of Israel¯s prior strikes against enemy states building nuclear weapons ¯ Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007 ¯ prompted retaliation; and a review of the Islamic Republic of Iran¯s history since 1979 points to, in the words of Michael Eisenstadt and Michael Knights, ¯a more measured and less apocalyptic ¯ if still sobering ¯ assessment of the likely aftermath of a preventive strike.¯
Eisenstadt and Knights of the Washington Institute for Near Eastern Policy provide an excellent guide to possible scenarios in ¯Beyond Worst-Case Analysis: Iran¯s Likely Responses to an Israeli Preventive Strike.¯
Their survey of Iranian behavior over the past three decades leads them to anticipate that three main principles would likely shape and limit Tehran¯s response to an Israeli strike: an insistence on reciprocity, a caution not to gratuitously make enemies, and a wish to deter further Israeli (or American) strikes.
The mullahs, in other words, face serious limits on their ability to retaliate, including military weakness and a pressing need not to make yet more external enemies. With these guidelines in place, Eisenstadt and Knights consider eight possible Iranian responses, which must be assessed while keeping in mind the alternative to preemptive action ¯ namely, apocalyptic Islamists controlling nuclear weapons:
1. Terrorist attacks on Israeli, Jewish, and U.S. targets. Likely, but causing limited destruction.
2. Kidnapping of U.S. citizens, especially in Iraq. Likely, but limited in impact, as in the 1980s in Lebanon.
3. Attacks on Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. Very likely, especially via proxies, but causing limited destruction.
4. Missile strikes on Israel. Likely: a few missiles from Iran getting through Israeli defenses, leading to casualties likely in the low hundreds; missiles from Hezbollah limited in number due to domestic Lebanese considerations.
Unlikely: Hamas getting involved, having distanced itself from Tehran; the Syrian government interfering, since it is battling for its life against an ever-stronger opposition army and possibly the Turkish armed forces. Overall, missile attacks are unlikely to do devastating damage.
5. Attacks on neighboring states. Likely: especially using terrorist proxies, for the sake of deniability. Unlikely: missile strikes, for Tehran does not want to make more enemies.
6. Clashes with the U.S. Navy. Likely, but, given the balance of power, doing limited damage.
7. Covertly mining the Strait of Hormuz. Likely, causing a run-up in energy prices.
8. Attempted closing of the Strait of Hormuz. Unlikely: difficult to achieve and potentially too damaging to Iranian interests, because the country needs the strait for commerce.
The authors also consider three potential side effects of an Israeli strike. Yes, Iranians might rally to their government in the immediate aftermath of a strike, but in the longer term Tehran ¯could be criticized for handling the nuclear dossier in a way that led to military confrontation.¯
The so-called Arab street is perpetually predicted to rise up in response to outside military attack, but it never does; it¯s likely that unrest among the Shiite Muslims of the Persian Gulf would be counterbalanced by the many Arabs quietly cheering the Israelis.
As for Iran leaving the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and starting an overt, crash nuclear-weapons program, while ¯a very real possibility,¯ the more the Iranians retaliated against a strike, the harder they would find it to obtain the parts for such a program.
In all, these dangers are unpleasant but not cataclysmic, manageable not devastating. Eisenstadt and Knights expect a short phase of high-intensity Iranian response, to be followed by a ¯protracted low-intensity conflict that could last for months or even years¯ ¯ much as already exists between Iran and Israel.
An Israeli preventive strike, they conclude, while a ¯high-risk endeavor carrying a potential for escalation in the Levant or the Gulf . . . would not be the apocalyptic event some foresee.¯
This analysis makes a convincing case that the danger of nuclear weapons falling into Iranian hands far exceeds the danger of a military strike to prevent this from happening.
5. Apostate Christianity
New Film: Jesus Wasn¯t Divine & He Was Born After His Mother Was Raped by a Roman Soldier
Last year, a Hollywood documentary wondered if Jesus Christ was a communist. This year, a totally separate film is slated to claim that the Son of Man was born after a Roman soldier raped his mother. The movie, which will be based on Paul Verhoeven¯s controversial book, ¯Jesus of Nazareth,¯ is set to begin filming in the near future.
According to the blog Wizbang, Verhoeven¯s 2008 book was filled with some controversial claims. Aside from dismissing Christ¯s many Biblical miracles, it charged that Mary¯s pregnancy was anything but immaculate and that it resulted from non-consensual sex with a Roman centurion.
This, of course, would mean that Jesus wasn¯t (and isn¯t) the son of God, as stated in Christian tradition. The author also claims that Christ was never betrayed by Judas Iscariot.
¯As for Verhoeven¯s book, the adaptation will depict Jesus in a more human light, hence the reason the miracles and the resurrection are being stripped from the story,¯ IndieWire reported.
¯Instead, Jesus will be portrayed as an ethicist and a radical prophet, whose message became too politically strong for the Romans to idly accept and endure. While that version may not seem blasphemous to Verhoeven, it more than likely is for many.¯
Here¯s an official description of Verhoeven¯s ¯Jesus of Nazareth¯ that has caused so much controversy:
Building on the work of the great Biblical scholars of the twentieth century¯Rudolf Bultman, Raymond Brown, Jane Schabert and Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminars, among others¯filmmaker Paul Verhoeven disrobes the mythical Jesus to reveal a man who is, after all, startlingly familiar to us, a man who has much in common with other great political leaders throughout history, human beings who believed that change was coming in their lifetimes.
Gone is the Jesus of the miracles, gone the son of God, gone the weaver of arcane parables whose meanings are obscure. In their place Verhoeven gives us his vision of Jesus as a complete man, someone who was changed by events, the leader of a political movement, and, perhaps most importantly, someone who, in his speeches and sayings, introduced a new ethics in which enlightened behavior and the embrace of human contradictions transcend the mechanics of value and worth that had defined the material world before Jesus.
Coming to a deeper understanding of the historical Jesus has been a lifelong passion for Verhoeven, who for the last quarter-century has been among the very few nonacademics participating in the Jesus Seminars. Verhoeven assumed that one day he would make a film of the life of Jesus.
Then he realized that it must be a book. Steeped in Biblical scholarship but free of the institutional biases, whether academic or religious, that so often dictate the terms of discussion of the historical Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth is a book that builds a bridge reaching all the way back to Jesus¯s lifetime, all the way forward to the present, and from biblical scholars to lay readers whose interest might be personal or political.
Obviously, the film will offer no shortage of controversy once it gets underway. While Verhoeven¯s ideas run contrary to most Christians¯ views, he has publicly proclaimed his ¯passion for Jesus¯ in past interviews and he has demonstrated a deep interest in trying to better understand the religious figure.
¯It¯s not about miracles, it¯s about a new set of ethics, an openness towards the world, which was anathema in a Roman-dominated world,¯ the author and director told Deadline¯s Mike Fleming last year. ¯I believe he was crucified because they felt that politically, he was a dangerous person whose following was getting bigger and bigger.¯
Verhoeven¯s past films include ¯Showgirls¯ and ¯RoboCop.¯
6. The Rise of Islam
Muslim Brotherhood Looks To Restore Islamic Caliphate After Egyptian Victory
The Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt held a secret meeting last week in anticipation of Mohammed Morsi¯s expected presidential victory. According to the Arabic report, discovered by the Investigative Project on Terrorism, the leaders drew up the ¯Jazira Plan¯ to Islamize Egypt and pave the way for the resurrection of the Caliphate.
The ¯Jazira Plan¯ was personally approved by Mohammed Badi, the Supreme Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the report states. Among the first steps is to ¯replace the nation anthem with the so-called anthem of the Islamic Caliphate.¯
Police uniforms will be swapped out for ¯Islamic garb.¯ The Ministry of Information will be disbanded and replaced by a new office that will ¯publish Islamic heritage only¯ and regulate the culture. The memorization of Quranic verses will be required for students to advance academically.
The name of the plan is telling. Jazira is Arabic for ¯island¯ or ¯peninsula.¯ The report states that it is referring to the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula. This is not a plan for Egypt; it¯s a regional plan. If the report is accurate, the Muslim Brotherhood is already thinking ahead towards a Caliphate.
This isn¯t news to close observers of the Brotherhood. One of the group¯s spokesmen said in February, ¯Concerning the Islamic caliphate, this is our dream, and we hope to achieve it¯our first goal is the renaissance of Egypt, then the Arab world and then the Islamic world. This will come gradually.¯
A hardline cleric named Safwat Hegazy spoke at a campaign rally for Morsi. He declared, ¯We are seeing the dream of the Islamic Caliphate coming true at the hands of Mohammed Morsi¯ and ¯The capital of the Caliphate and the United Arab States is Jerusalem, God willing.¯
This hope sounds fantastical to most Westerners, including FOX News Channel¯s Shepard Smith, but the Arab Spring makes this seem achievable to Islamists.
Tunisian President Ben Ali was overthrown in 2011 and the Islamist Ennahda Party won. Its secretary-general and current Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali, said in November, ¯My brothers, you are at a historic moment in a new cycle of civilisation, God willing. We are in sixth caliphate, God willing.¯
A Hamas official spoke at the same event. The Ennahda Party reacted to the subsequent outcry by saying that his words were misrepresented and he was talking about ¯good governance and a break with corruption¯not the establishment of an Islamic regime.¯
It¯s easy to see why the Brotherhood is talking about a Caliphate. The Islamists won the elections in Tunisia and Egypt and are expected to win Libya¯s next month. The Brotherhood affiliate, Islah, is the most powerful party in Yemen.
The Sudanese regime says it is instituting Sharia law but still may fall to an Islamist revolution. The Syrian dictatorship might be overthrown by Brotherhood-supported rebels. Turkey is now under Islamist leadership. Qatar is subsidizing the Brotherhood¯s rise and Saudi Arabia remains a theocracy influenced by the Wahhabists.
The Brotherhood¯s first order of business is to implement Sharia law in Egypt. The Brotherhood operates under a doctrine that it calls ¯gradualism.¯ In December, Supreme Guide Badi said that there are six phases to the Brotherhood methodology: Sharia law on the individual level; Sharia law on the family unit; Sharia law on the society; Sharia law on the government; the resurrection of the Caliphate and lastly, ¯mastership of the world.¯
The Brotherhood will declare that it is democratic throughout this process, but, as top Brotherhood cleric Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi explains, ¯Our democracy is different.¯ The Brotherhood is for a ¯genuine type of democracy, for a society driven by the laws of Sharia that is compatible with the values of freedom, human rights, justice and equity.¯ The use of these terms comforts the West and non-Islamists, but mean something different to Islamists.
One question moving forward will be how the Brotherhood¯s Caliphate agenda clashes with Iran¯s Shiite Crescent agenda. The sides are already in conflict in Syria. The relationship between the Arab Islamists led by the Brotherhood and the Turkish Islamists further needs to be understood.
The Turkish and Arab Islamists are on the same side in Syria but the Muslim Brotherhood condemned Prime Minister Erdogan when he told Egypt to adopt a secular constitution when he visited the country. ¯[W]e do not think that he or his country alone should be leading the region or drawing up its future,¯ a Brotherhood deputy leader retorted.
The Brotherhood shouldn¯t plan too far ahead, though. The truth is that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces still holds the most power in Egypt. The Islamists will need more than the presidency to make their dream come true. The next step in Egypt¯s future is the writing of a constitution. The fate of Egypt, and perhaps the region, hangs in the balance.
¯Allahu Akbar¯: Shock Video Shows Muslims Allegedly ¯Stoning¯ Christian Protesters In¯Michigan
The conservative preoccupation with presenting Sharia law as a threat to the United States¯ culture as well as its national security has long been an unwarranted source of liberal derision. They may want to rethink their attitude after this story.
Recently, the city of Dearborn, Michigan, hosted the 2012 Arab International Festival. Naturally enough, the event drew demonstrators, specifically a group of Christian protesters who wanted to voice their discontent with what they saw as the predominately Muslim character of the event.
Whatever you may think of this motive, the results of the crowds behavior were unquestionably shocking.
In a video posted by Gateway Pundit early this morning, protesters were depicted as being battered by a constant hail of thrown debris, including water bottles and possibly even stones. Skip to nine minutes into the following video to see the ¯stoning¯ portion where large, grey projectiles that look very much like rocks are tossed into the air at the demonstrators as the crowd screams ¯Allahu Akbar¯ and closes in:
Let me repeat: Christians were allegedly stoned and forced into retreat by an angry mob of Arabs in Dearborn, Michigan. Whether you find the protesters methods themselves distasteful, it would be alarming indeed to think this reaction was warranted.
We can only hope that no one was hurt, and that the people allegedly throwing the items will be brought to justice. However, given the inability of the cameramen to capture the faces of their assailants, we have our doubts.
Readers might recognize one of the police officers identified in the video. At about the 11-minute mark, it appears Deputy Chief Mike Jaafer steps in to talk to the Christian protesters:
If Jaafer looks familiar, that¯s because he was one of the stars of the now-cancelled TLC show ¯All American Muslim.¯
The video can be viewed here: http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/2012/June27/276.html
New Egyptian President Wants To Rethink Peace Treaty With Israel, Build Iranian Ties
Egypt's Islamist president-elect, Mohamed Morsi, wants to "reconsider" the peace deal with Israel and build ties with Iran to "create a strategic balance" in the Middle East, according to an interview published by Iran's Fars news agency on Monday.
But an Egyptian presidential spokesman rejected the Fars report, saying that Morsi never spoke to the Iranian news agency.
"Mr Morsi did not give any interview to Fars and everything that this agency has published is without foundation," a spokesman for the Egyptian presidency told the official news agency MENA.
Fars had said that Morsi spoke to one of its reporters in Cairo on Sunday just before his election triumph was announced.
It provided an audio link to what it said was a recording of Morsi speaking Arabic in the interview.
"We will reconsider the Camp David Accord" that, in 1979, forged a peace between Egypt and Israel that has held for more than three decades, the audio file Fars attributed to Morsi says.
According to Fars, Morsi also said the issue of Palestinian refugees returning to homes their families abandoned in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the 1967 Six-Day War "is very important".
Morsi added though that "all these issues will be carried out through cabinet and governmental bodies because I will not take any decision on my own."
Morsi also reportedly said he was ready to improve ties with Iran. The Islamic republic broke off diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1980, a year after Cairo signed the peace deal with the Jewish state.
"Part of my agenda is the development of ties between Iran and Egypt that will create a strategic balance in the region," Morsi was quoted as saying.
If Morsi's remarks as reported by Fars are verified, they would be certain to alarm Israel and its ally the United States as they adapt to the new direction Egypt will chart with Morsi at the helm.
In a speech to the Egyptian nation after his victory was confirmed, Morsi pledged to respect international treaties signed by Cairo, which by implication includes the Israel peace accord.
Later, the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying he hoped Morsi's election would help bolster ties between the Shiite Islamic republic and majority Sunni Muslim Egypt.
"I congratulate you for your victory as head of Egypt, a friendly and brotherly country," Ahmadinejad said in a statement addressed to Morsi, and "insisted on the reinforcement of ties between the two countries," IRNA reported.
Although Morsi resigned from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood to take the top job, Israel is wary of his election, fearing his Islamist record could jeopardise the chilly peace it has long enjoyed with its huge neighbour.
Iran's clerical leadership contends that the Arab Spring that toppled veteran Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and other longtime US allies in the Arab world last year was inspired by its own 1979 Islamic revolution.
Although Iran's predominant faith is Shiite Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood adheres to the Sunni branch of Islam, Tehran has been reaching out to the organisation in Egypt in recent months.
Iran's armed forces chief of staff, General Hassan Firouzabadi, on Monday was quoted by IRNA as echoing the Muslim Brotherhood's rejection of moves by Egypt's military to dissolve the Islamist-led parliament and give itself a greater say over government policy and the constitution.
"The actions of the military council in Egypt, which considers itself to be selected by Mubarak, lack legal validity and political legitimacy," Firouzabadi said.
7. Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies
¯Science Fiction Fans, You¯re Welcome¯: Army Controls Lightning Bolts With Lasers
Using technology that even Thor ¯ the hammer-wielding, lightning-controlling Norse god ¯ would be jealous of, the U.S. Army has begun to test directing lightning with laser technology.
As directly stated on the Army website announcing successful progress and testing of this innovation ¯soldiers and science fiction fans, you¯re welcome.¯
The scientists and engineers at Picatinny Arsenal created the Laser-Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) to ¯take out targets that conduct electricity¯ by harnessing the power of lightning as directed by a laser. How does a laser help? Here¯s how the Army explains it:
¯Light travels more slowly in gases and solids than it does in a vacuum,¯ explained [lead scientist George] Fischer. ¯We typically think of the speed of light in each material as constant. There is, however, a very small additional intensity-dependent factor to its speed. In air, this factor is positive, so light slows down by a tiny fraction when the light is more intense.¯
¯If a laser puts out a pulse with modest energy, but the time is incredibly tiny, the power can be huge,¯ Fischer continued. ¯During the duration of the laser pulse, it can be putting out more power than a large city needs, but the pulse only lasts for two-trillionths of a second.¯
¯For very powerful and high intensity laser pulses, the air can act like a lens, keeping the light in a small-diameter filament,¯ said Fischer. ¯We use an ultra-short-pulse laser of modest energy to make a laser beam so intense that it focuses on itself in air and stays focused in a filament.¯
To put the energy output in perspective, a big filament light bulb uses 100 watts. The optical amplifier output is 50 billion watts of optical power, Fischer said.
¯If a laser beam is intense enough, its electro-magnetic field is strong enough to rip electrons off of air molecules, creating plasma,¯ said Fischer. ¯This plasma is located along the path of the laser beam, so we can direct it wherever we want by moving a mirror.¯
¯Air is composed of neutral molecules and is an insulator,¯ Fischer said. When lightning from a thunderstorm leaps from cloud to ground, it behaves just as any other sources of electrical energy and follows the path of least resistance.
¯The plasma channel conducts electricity way better than un-ionized air, so if we set up the laser so that the filament comes near a high voltage source, the electrical energy will travel down the filament,¯ Fischer elaborated.
A little more simply put, Popular Science explains it this way:
In other words, just as lightning arcs from cloud to ground via the path of least resistance, a high-voltage current will find its way down this filament rather than arcing unpredictably through the air. In other words, the laser just creates the path of least resistance between the power source and the target. Laser, lightning, destruction of target¯in that order.
Although the scientists were able to figure out technically how this would work, the Army stated that it wasn¯t without its challenges, such as the danger of the light focusing in on and destroying parts of the laser itself.
Still with some success in testing ¯ although refinement is still needed ¯ Fischer said the team ¯never got tired of the lightning bolts zapping our simulated [targets.]¯
World's First Genetically Modified Babies Born
The world's first genetically modified humans have been created, it was revealed last night.
The disclosure that 30 healthy babies were born after a series of experiments in the United States provoked another furious debate about ethics.
So far, two of the babies have been tested and have been found to contain genes from three 'parents'.
Fifteen of the children were born in the past three years as a result of one experimental programme at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science of St Barnabas in New Jersey.
The babies were born to women who had problems conceiving. Extra genes from a female donor were inserted into their eggs before they were fertilised in an attempt to enable them to conceive.
Genetic fingerprint tests on two one-year- old children confirm that they have inherited DNA from three adults --two women and one man.
The fact that the children have inherited the extra genes and incorporated them into their 'germline' means that they will, in turn, be able to pass them on to their own offspring.
Altering the human germline - in effect tinkering with the very make-up of our species - is a technique shunned by the vast majority of the world's scientists.
Geneticists fear that one day this method could be used to create new races of humans with extra, desired characteristics such as strength or high intelligence.
Writing in the journal Human Reproduction, the researchers, led by fertility pioneer Professor Jacques Cohen, say that this 'is the first case of human germline genetic modification resulting in normal healthy children'.
Some experts severely criticised the experiments. Lord Winston, of the Hammersmith Hospital in West London, told the BBC yesterday: 'Regarding the treat-ment of the infertile, there is no evidence that this technique is worth doing . . . I am very surprised that it was even carried out at this stage. It would certainly not be allowed in Britain.'
John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said: 'One has tremendous sympathy for couples who suffer infertility problems. But this seems to be a further illustration of the fact that the whole process of in vitro fertilisation as a means of conceiving babies leads to babies being regarded as objects on a production line.
'It is a further and very worrying step down the wrong road for humanity.' Professor Cohen and his colleagues diagnosed that the women were infertile because they had defects in tiny structures in their egg cells, called mitochondria.
They took eggs from donors and, using a fine needle, sucked some of the internal material - containing 'healthy' mitochondria - and injected it into eggs from the women wanting to conceive.
Because mitochondria contain genes, the babies resulting from the treatment have inherited DNA from both women. These genes can now be passed down the germline along the maternal line.
A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which regulates 'assisted reproduction' technology in Britain, said that it would not license the technique here because it involved altering the germline.
Jacques Cohen is regarded as a brilliant but controversial scientist who has pushed the boundaries of assisted reproduction technologies.
He developed a technique which allows infertile men to have their own children, by injecting sperm DNA straight into the egg in the lab.
Prior to this, only infertile women were able to conceive using IVF. Last year, Professor Cohen said that his expertise would allow him to clone children --a prospect treated with horror by the mainstream scientific community.
'It would be an afternoon's work for one of my students,' he said, adding that he had been approached by 'at least three' individuals wishing to create a cloned child, but had turned down their requests.
Big Brother Is Watching Facebook And Twitter
Satirical newspaper The Onion recently described Facebook as a project of the Central Intelligence Agency. "After years of secretly monitoring the public, we were astounded," a fictional agency deputy director told Congress.
He was happy that Facebook users voluntarily post "alphabetized lists of all their friends" and "even status updates about what they were doing moment to moment". It is, he concluded, "truly a dream come true for the CIA".
The scenario is not that far from the truth. Facebook has close to a billion users, many of whom post daily updates on their thoughts and feelings. The same thing happens on Twitter. Foursquare users share information about their location. Commentators on news sites express opinions and outrage.
And, as a New Scientist review of procurement requests shows, the US government is keen to take advantage of what amounts to a society of self-surveillance.
In a way, they are behind the curve - marketing firms already monitor social networks to gauge public reaction to product launches. And online chatter can be analysed to forecast election results, for example.
US federal agencies want to harness these techniques in an attempt to gauge overseas opinion about America, or even get hints on how to head off terrorist activity.
With these aims in mind, officials at the Department of State issued a procurement notice on 1 June asking software developers to submit bids for a contract to supply tools that provide "deep analysis of topics, conversations, networks, and influencers of the global social web". These tools will analyse conversations taking place in at least seven foreign languages, including Chinese and Arabic.
Once the bids are in, the software systems will undergo a six-month trial in which they will examine online reaction to a specific event, such as a talk given by a US ambassador.
The military is even further along with such plans. In 2007, the US air force awarded defence giant Lockheed Martin a $27 million contract to develop the Web Information Spread Data Operations Module, or WISDOM, which analyses posts made to news forums, blogs and social media.
Military analysts are already using it to monitor Central and South America and the Pacific region. Lockheed Martin is now upgrading WISDOM with a $9 million contract from the navy, which wants to "understand the latest regional trends and sentiment and predict threats from groups and individuals".
Other departments have similar plans - the FBI is talking to software vendors, and the Department of Homeland Security already has a monitoring system up and running.
How might such monitoring affect our online behaviour?
Imagine reading an article about US government policies and then wanting to post an angry comment. Would you pause if you knew the government would collect and store your comment and username? "This prevents people from speaking their minds," says Ginger McCall of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington DC.
"It quells dissent." One would hope government officials had such concerns in mind. It is difficult to say, however, because repeated attempts by New Scientist to obtain comments from the Department of State were met with silence.
More Than 70 Percent Of Canadians Ready To Go "Cashless"
I have a friend who¯s an experienced pastor, teacher, and Christian apologist. He¯s very well educated, articulate, teaches in a way that hits the mark, and has a passion particularly for grounding young people in the faith during their high school and early college years
8. Christian Worldview/Issues
The Age Of The Dumb Church
I have a friend who¯s an experienced pastor, teacher, and Christian apologist. He¯s very well educated, articulate, teaches in a way that hits the mark, and has a passion particularly for grounding young people in the faith during their high school and early college years.
Currently, he¯s employed with Youth for Christ and a while back he felt a burden to try and help churches in our area do what he does best, which is equip youth to defend the Christian faith in the world and know what/why they believe.
Because he¯s developed a number of curriculums to use for such situations, he sent a letter to all the churches in our metropolitan area (which is quite a lot) explaining what he does, and offered to come to their church free of charge and conduct Christian apologetic training for their youth.
How many churches took him up on his offer?
Zero. None. Zilch.
Now, any Christian leader who doesn¯t have their head in the sand knows how depressing the statistics are for young people who walk away from the faith in the late high school/early college years. At times, I¯ve had atheists toss such data in my face in an attempt to argue that people ¯smarten up¯ when they get older, but that isn¯t it at all.
The fact is some in this particular demographic leave the Church because they get talked out of a faith that they were never sure of in the first place. The storyline is sadly familiar.
Maybe a young person was brought up in a church. Or, maybe they weren¯t and began to investigate Christianity on their own. Either way, sooner or later they begin to ask hard questions, good questions, questions that deserve solid answers. But they don¯t get them. So, because they rightly need what they believe in their heart to connect with their mind, they disconnect from Christianity.
Why does this keep happening?
In short, it happens because much of the Church today is dumb. Don¯t misunderstand me, I mean no disrespect when I use the term ¯dumb¯. What I mean is that the Church is dumb in that they aren¯t well educated in what they believe, fail miserably in fulfilling 1 Peter 3:15 that says all Christians should be prepared to give a reason for why they believe, and are woefully unable to handle any challenge to Christianity that comes from unbelievers or the cults.
The Age of the Dumb Church
Dr. R. C. Sproul has said many times that he believes we are living in the most un-intellectual period in the history of Western civilization. Over 30 years ago, former Lebanese ambassador to the United States, Charles Malik, said the following in his speech at the dedication of the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois: ¯I must be frank with you: the greatest danger confronting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind in its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough.¯
Such statements made by Sproul, Malik, and others were not always heard in the Church. The fact is, the Church dominated intellectual thought and discourse for hundreds of years, producing such thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Edwards, and others. Such men had their opponents (the Church always will), but their detractors never ridiculed their brainpower because the Churchman¯s intellectual prowess left no room for it.
But shortly after the era of Edwards, something changed. Gospel preachers like Charles Finney arose and replaced the intelligent presentation of the Gospel, which was backed by meaty Biblical exposition and solid philosophical rationale, with emotional appeals, questionable theology, personal anecdotes with humor, a celebrity-style leader, and engineered publicity.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, in many seeker friendly or liberal churches today, the characteristics of Finney and his followers are played out each Lord¯s Day with the end result being a church body unable to intellectually defend the faith they espouse.
Characteristics of the Dumb Church
How can you tell if your church exhibits traits that characterize a dumb church? Although not exhaustive, I offer these criteria that I believe help contribute to a church becoming ¯dumb¯:
Where the church leadership is concerned:
Preaching is always topical and never expository. Selective topical series allow tough and deep theological subjects, as well as ¯controversial¯ passages of Scripture, to be avoided with ease.
Although the church leaders offer strong external facing statements as to how they are a ¯Bible believing church¯, the Bible is actually used and referenced very little in the sermons.
Few quotations from Scripture are heard in a message, with the vast majority of all sermons consisting of personal rhetoric, humor, videos, and personal stories.
Biblical terms such as justification, reconciliation, sanctification, propitiation, etc., are avoided like the plague.
There is little to no instruction for new (or existing) believers on the core doctrines of the Christian faith, and no requirement for new believers to attend such instruction.
There is no continuous offering of apologetic training classes that are designed to train Christians in the evidences and defense of the faith, and little to no interest of the pastors in the subject area.
There is no easy way for the congregation to have tough questions answered by the lead pastors; such a thing is quietly ignored, discouraged or not practiced regularly.
Deep Bible study programs are either absent or deliberately pushed out in favor of more ¯relevant¯ classes that deal with softer subject matters (e.g. money management).
Adult and children¯s Bible studies before/after the main church service are either omitted or are second class citizens to ¯Community Groups¯ that seek to have members meet in each other¯s homes during the week, where no oversight is given as to what is done or taught. These groups, where teaching is concerned, are run ¯hands off¯ where the church leadership is concerned.
There is a huge emphasis on relationship building and serving in areas of the church, but no similar importance placed on growing more Biblically and theologically literate.
The youth department has an unmistakable concentration on entertainment, games, social interaction, etc., vs. actual teaching of Christian doctrines.
The church either has no library or one that is not kept up to date.
There is either no staff member assigned specifically to church education, or it is assigned to an already overburdened associate pastor.
Doctrinal statements of the church are missing or are not prominently made available. If they exist, they do not address any controversial theological topics or make very vague statements concerning them.
Where the congregation is concerned:
The term ¯Christian apologetics¯ is completely unfamiliar to the vast majority of the members.
Most of the congregation has no knowledge of church history with the names of Polycarp, Martyr, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Wesley, Whitefield, Tyndale, and others being completely foreign to them.
Attendance of offered classes are very low compared to overall church attendance.
A Warning to the Dumb Church
God warns us in His Word about cultivating a dumb church. For example, chastising his readers, the writer of Hebrews offers this admonition against fostering a dumb church environment: "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil¯ (Hebrews 5:12-14).
When you have a dumb church, the writer of Hebrews says the outcome is a body of believers that is incapable of properly discerning good and evil. Slowly but surely, error and heresy creep in with no one being the wiser. The end result are churches championing teachings such as universalism, applauding homosexual marriage, and calling evil good and good evil.
My friend Greg continues to train young believers in apologetics, but he does so at the co-op school used by Christian homeschool families and at his home. To date, no church has yet taken him up on his generous offer to ground their youth in the Christian faith, which is very sad.
My hope and prayer is that such situations stop happening, that dumb churches become the exception rather than the rule, and that smart people who are asking good questions about the Christian faith get the answers they¯re looking for from learned believers and pastors like the ones Jeremiah describes: ¯I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding¯ (Jer. 3:15).
Describing today¯s current climate and the type of Christianity that¯s needed to meet the challenge, apologist and author Ravi Zacharias said: ¯World leaders don¯t have answers anymore. And I think America¯s youth will rise up to the occasion . . . but it will have to be a passionate and thoughtful Christianity and not a mindless, emotive one that has no staying power.¯
Some say such a thing is not need, but I disagree. One of the most haunting questions I¯ve ever seen was on the back of my first church history textbook I got in seminary: ¯How can you live out your faith if you don¯t understand it?¯ Anyone have a good answer?
9. Other Events To Watch
Saudi Forces Mass On Jordanian, Iraqi Borders, While Turkey, Syria Reinforce Strength
The Syrian crisis was Friday, June 29, on a knife edge between a Western-Arab-Turkish military offensive in the next 48 hours and a big power accord to ward it off.
debkafile¯s military sources report heavy Saudi troop movements toward the Jordanian and Iraqi borders Thursday overnight and up until Friday morning, June 29, after King Abdullah put the Saudi military on high alert for joining an anti-Assad offensive in Syria.
The Saudi units are poised with tanks, missiles, special forces and anti-air batteries to enter Jordan in two heads:
One will safeguard Jordan's King Abdullah against potential Syrian or Iranian reprisals from Syria or Iraq.
The second will cut north through Jordan to enter southeastern Syriam, where a security zone will be established around the towns of Deraa, Deir al-Zour and Abu Kemal ¯ all centers of the anti-Assad rebellion. The region is also the home terrain of the Shammar tribe, brethren of the Shammars of the Saudi Nejd province.
The Saudi units deployed on the Iraqi border are there to defend the kingdom against potential incursions by Iraqi Shiite militias crossing into the kingdom for reprisals. The Iraqi militias are well trained and armed and serve under officers of the Iranian Al-Qods Brigades, the Revolutionary Guards¯ external arm.
Western Gulf sources report that Jordan too is on war alert.
Following the downing of a Turkish plane by Syria a week ago, Turkey continues to build up its Syrian border units with anti-aircraft guns, tanks and missiles towed by long convoys of trucks.
A Free Syria Army officer, Gen. Mustafa al-Sheikh, reported Friday that 170 Syrian army tanks of the 17th Mechanized Division were massed near the village of Musalmieh northeast of Aleppo, 30 km from the Turkish border. He said they stood ready to attack any Turkish forces crossing into Syria.
As these war preparations advanced, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in St. Petersburg Friday for crucial talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. They meet the day before the new UN-sponsored Action Group convenes in Geneva to discuss UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan¯s latest transition proposal for Syria. He hopes for a political settlement that will ward off military intervention.
Invited to the meeting are the five veto-wielding UN Security Council members plus Turkey and Arab League envoys from Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq.
Annan proposes forming a transitional national unity government in Damascus that includes the opposition and excludes unacceptable regime members.
It was widely reported Thursday that Russia had agreed to this formula, even though it entailed evicting Bashar Assad from power. However, Lavrov stepped in to correct the record, stressing in reference to the Annan proposal that Moscow would not lend its support to ¯any outside interference or imposition of recipes in Syria.¯
This position is doubly aimed at the intensive military movements afoot around Syria.
Clinton and Lavrov are therefore expected to go at the Syrian issue hammer and tongs. The outcome of their meeting will not only determine the course of the Action Group¯s discussions but, more importantly, whether the Western-Arab-Turkish alliance goes forward with its military operation against Syria.
US-Russian concurrence on a plan for Assad¯s removal could avert the operation. The failure of their talks would spell a worsening of the Syrian crisis and precipitate Western-Arab military intervention, which according to military sources in the Gulf is scheduled for launch Saturday, June 30.
Obama Rebuffs Erdogan¯s Appeal To Lead Turkey In Syria Attack
Another urgent bid for the US to lead an allied offensive against Syria¯s ruling regime fell on deaf ears in Washington. It came Tuesday, June 26, from Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who is spoiling for action after a Syrian anti-air ambush downed a Turkish reconnaissance jet flying over Latakia last Friday.
In several phone calls to President Barack Obama, Erdogan argued forcefully that the incident provided the perfect opening for a Western-Muslim-Arab offensive, according to debkafile¯s military and intelligence sources.
This offensive, said the Turkish leader, could drive into Syria, create no-fly zones, attack regime and military targets and establish safe zones for rebels and refugees. The Turkish army, air force and navy stood ready for immediate action, he said, but the US must take the military lead in this operation ¯ and not just ¯from behind,¯ as in Libya.
Obama replied the time had not yet come for direct US military intervention in Syria, and covert operations by American, British, Turkish and French special operations forces should continue inside the country.
Erdogan maintained that covert tactics would neither stop the bloody violence in Syria nor upend the Assad regime. Only the open exercise of American military might and logistic and military capabilities could work and without it Turkey was constrained from going forward on its own.
That disagreement was behind the mixed signals coming from Ankara over the Syrian shoot-down of the Turkish military plane ¯ insistence on punishing Damascus, on the one hand, and statements that Turkey does not seek war, on the other.
Tuesday, the prime minister stated to parliament: ¯After this attack, we have entered a new stage,¯ he said. ¯The rules of engagement of the Turkish Armed Forces have changed. Any risk posed by Syria on the Turkish border, any military element that could post a threat, will be considered a threat and treated as a military target.¯
Erdogan¯s statement was couched in the future tense, meaning Syria was off the hook this time.
However, in the interests of muscle-flexing, Turkey¯s media reported Wednesday that its military had moved forces including tanks up to the Syria border and placed them on ¯red alert¯ with license "to shoot to kill.¯
This train of events shows Prime Minister Erdogan, notwithstanding his close friendship with the US president, is in the same bind on Syria as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is on Iran.
Ankara is more than ready to hit back at Syria, just as Jerusalem has been standing prepared for military action against Iran¯s nuclear program. But both are held back by President Obama. He hopes that by keeping Iran¯s key ally Bashar Assad untouched and diplomacy rolling, an accommodation with Tehran on the nuclear issue is attainable.
This has left Erdogan falling back on the stratagem Netanyahu employs with regard to Iran and HIzballah: tough rhetoric accompanied by inaction.
This did not stop Syrian President Bashar Assad from declaring to parliament Tuesday, when he introduced a new cabinet headed by Riyad Hijab: ¯We are in a state of real war in every respect of the word and when we¯re in a state of war, all of our politics must be concentrated on winning this war.¯
As he spoke, British special forces (whose presence in Syria was exclusively revealed by debkafile Monday) carried out two tasks: They helped rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, extend their control of territory in the Idlib province on the northern Syrian border with Turkey and Lebanon, and gave them badly-needed hi-tech communications equipment.
They also made it possible for the first Syrian opposition leader, Burham Ghalioun of the Syrian National Council, to set foot in Syria. Under their heavy guard, Ghailioun toured rebel-controlled local villages in Idlib for a few hours before crossing back into Lebanon. Assad¯s heavies watched helplessly.
Our military sources note the resemblance of this method of operation to the tactic employed by British special forces in Libya in early 2011, when they set up shop at the rebel center of Benghazi and from there, organized resistance to the Qaddafi regime.