Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Rumors of War

Middle East, Asia biggest arms importers: SIPRI - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, said Monday the arms import figures for the Middle East accounted for 29 percent of global imports during the 2012 to 2016 period, while Asia and Oceania accounted for 43 percent of global imports during that period. [...] According to the SIPRI report, India was the world's largest importer of major arms during the 2012 to 2016 period, accounting for 13 percent of the global total. During that period it increased its arms imports by 43 percent. [...] The world's top arms exporter was the United States, accounting for one-third of total arms exports during the 2012 to 2016 period. Russia accounted for a 23 percent share."

Comment: It's always been one of the ironies of world affairs that diplomats work for peace as their defense industries sell weapons to all sides.  Fortunately, the arms marketers have stumbled upon a brilliant sales strategy, as long as they maintain a constant low-level of conflict in peripheral countries, no one will care. Now if we could just get the insurance industry to sell refugee policies for those poor civilians living in top markets we might score a perfect PR coup.

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Pestilence

Study finds new genetic mutations behind antibiotic resistance - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Scientists from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Massachusetts, have identified new genetic mutations that cause high-level antibiotic resistance. According to a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotic-resistant infections kill at least 23,000 people in the United States annually."

Comment: If you are taking antibiotics, follow your doctor's advice and take all of them until the treatment is complete. If you stop taking your medicine when you start to feel better but before your treatment is over you are giving the strongest bacteria a chance to grow.  Don't be part of the problem.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Famine

Famine declared in South Sudan; U.N. says more than 5M at risk - UPI.com
UPI reports: "South Sudan on Monday declared a famine is affecting 100,000 people while U.N. agencies report another 1 million people are on the threshold of starvation. [...] South Sudan has seen a three-year war between the government and rebel factions, leading to the displacement of 3 million people and the disruption of farming."

Comment: That's a sad situation. Hopefully the government and rebel factions can set aside their differences long enough for aid workers to get in there and provide some humanitarian assistance. 

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Covenant With Many

Ex-officials: Israeli leader spurned secret peace offer - AP
The AP reports: "Two former top aides to Kerry confirmed that the meeting took place secretly on Feb. 21, 2016. According to the officials, Kerry tried to sweeten the 15-year-old 'Arab Peace Initiative,' a Saudi-led plan that offered Israel peace with dozens of Arab and Muslim nations in return for a pullout from territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war to make way for an independent Palestine. Among the proposed changes were Arab recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, recognition of Jerusalem as a shared capital for Israelis and Palestinians, and softened language on the 'right of return' of Palestinian refugees to lost properties in what is now Israel, the former officials said. [...] the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders reacted positively to the proposal, while Netanyahu refused to commit to anything beyond meetings with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. One of the officials said the main purpose of the meeting was to start a regional peace process that Netanyahu said he wanted. [...] other Gulf Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, along with the Palestinians, the Europeans and the Russians, were also consulted as part of the process."

Comment: This is a noteworthy report because it reminds us of two very important things. First, the basic outline of a Mideast peace agreement is well established. From the Clinton plan, to the Bush plan, the Saudi plan and this latest Obama-era plan, the contours of a final status agreement have already been hammered out over the years.  There is very little doubt about what a Mideast peace deal would look like. The plan is not the problem, the issue is political will. For many years it was the Palestinians who said no to every plan put on the table. Each successive plan gave them more and more of what they wanted and under the duplicitous leadership of Yasser Arafat, they always said no. Still, the U.S. and the West persevered. Arafat though was not in a position to say yes. His people and his patrons did not want peace. This became clear after his death and the ensuing leadership struggle between rival Palestinians factions. The Palestinians tried to continue with the "peace process" as they fought each other, deceiving the West and/or each other with a long game of good-cop/bad-cop in which the Fatah faction played good-cop and became the public face of the Palestinians. They were there "political wing" and they negotiated with Israel even as the "militant wing" of Hamas continued the fight, armed and supported by Iran. How could Israel negotiate with one Palestinian faction for peace while the other faction was dedicated to Israel's destruction? The U.S. was willing to ignore this contradiction, Israel was not. So it came to be that under Netanyahu's leadership, Israel finally shattered the illusion and admitted to all that they did not have a peace partner in the Palestinians and it became Israel's turn to say no to a Mideast peace deal. That seems to be where we are now.

The second important thing to note about this report is that this insight into Mideast peace negotiating was leaked by a former Obama Administration official. Why leak this now? There seems to be a concerted attempt both inside Israel and out to undermine Netanhayu. The knives are out. Why? Netanyahu is seen as an impediment to peace and they believe that if they could only get rid of him there would be a real chance to achieve the goal of Mideast peace.

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Rumors of War - Kings of the East

U.S. Navy deploys USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to South China Sea - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The U.S. Navy said it has deployed its USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier to conduct training operations in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. The guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer is joining the 97,000-ton USS Carl Vinson along with aircraft from Carrier Air Wing for the 'routine operations' that began Saturday, the U.S. Navy said. [...] Carrier Strike Group 1 is expected to sail near China's artificial
islands in the disputed Spratlys, and possibly the Paracel Islands, where China has been building a military presence."

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Global Community

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg opposes isolationism in statement - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg issued a 5,700-word statement lamenting the rise of isolationism and saying fake news creates polarization in beliefs. In the Building Global Community statement, Zuckerberg said Facebook was launched in 2014 to support a more connected global community. [...]  Zuckerberg urged for the world to become more accepting and connected to the idea of globalization. 'Progress now requires humanity coming together not just as cities or nations, but also as a global community,' Zuckerberg wrote."

Comment: Social media is an amazing fulfillment of Bible prophecy, allowing people to instantly see and respond to global news events.  For the first time in history, ordinary people can be alerted to breaking news on the other side of the world or across the street and instantly send their personal reaction to their friends, followers and the public. The concept of "going viral" is something prophecy commentators in the past could scarcely have imagined. It's clear now that major prophetic events will be witnessed by the whole world (Rev 11:9-12), not as passive spectators (as TV viewers in the past related to events), but as active participants, sharing in the events, commenting on them and joining in as a global community of people experiencing a personal connection to what they see.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Pestilence

"Superspreaders" caused more than 60% of infections during the Ebola epidemic - ScienceAlert
Science Alert reports: "The catastrophic Ebola epidemic in West Africa that began in 2013 resulted in almost 29,000 cases of the disease and claimed more than 11,000 lives. Now, scientists say the majority of those cases were caused by a very slim minority of those infected – people called 'superspreaders'. According to a new study, these superspreaders amounted to just 3 percent of those infected during the epidemic – but they were ultimately responsible for infecting 61 percent of all cases of the disease."

Comment: Note to self, try to avoid contact with superspreaders. 

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rumors of War - Doomed Damascus

Pentagon considers sending ground troops to Syria - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The U.S. military has worked with anti-Islamic State groups in Syria by providing training and assistance as they battle the militant group, but the United States may soon start taking a more active role in the country. The Pentagon is reportedly working on plans to potentially send traditional ground troops into Syria to help clear Islamic State militants from the country."

Comment: Well, this is unfortunate.  Trump has said he wants to rebuild the U.S. military and after years of war and constant deployments, that's a worthy goal. I would hope he would go into that rebuilding phase for at least two years before sending troops to yet another country. From a purely practical perspective, why not stay out of the way and let the Russians continue to support Assad? He seems to be winning his war against those he calls "terrorists," and with any luck, the situation should go back to what it was before the Islamic State was active in Syria. The U.S. never really had any problems with the Assad family dynasty in Syria before the young dictator took over and ran it into the ground, and as there are no alternatives at the ready, a strategy that imposes costs on Russia, undermines IS and seeks a return to the status quo ante seems as good a plan as any. I would only support more American ground forces in Syria if it was part of a Grand Bargain with Russia to ease tensions and increase cooperation between the two former Cold War rivals. I don't really see that happening though. Time will tell.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Covenant with Many

Trump: 'I can live with either' 1-state or 2-state solution with Israel, Palestinians - UPI.com
UPI reports: "During a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump said he 'can live with either' a one-state or two-state solution as long as Israel and the Palestinians are 'happy.' 'The United States will encourage ... a great peace deal. We'll be working on it very, very diligently,' Trump said, adding that both sides 'will have to make compromises.' Trump was not expected to push for a two-state solution during Netanyahu's visit, something the Obama administration prioritized. Trump said his administration will work to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians but said such negotiations must be held directly between the two parties, something Israel has supported in the past."

Comment: The big meeting at the White House between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu was today and it's clear that the embassy will not be moved for some time, if at all.
Some other things I noticed about the meeting: unlike Obama, Trump will not pressure Israel into a "two-state solution" to Mideast peace and will let Israel and the Palestinians decide how they want to resolve the issues; and the most important take-away, Trump said he is personally interested in a Mideast peace deal and he will work diligently for that.
So, although the campaign promise to move the embassy will not be acted on quickly, we can't discount a push for a new Mideast peace agreement (maybe Covenant with Many?) during Trump's term of office. This is not good news because there is no way a Mideast peace agreement under current conditions can favor Israel. Why? Because it would necessarily imply Israel giving up more land to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. This has not worked out in the past (look what the Palestinians did when Israel gave them Gaza) and there is little reason to hope it would work out in the future.
That said, I'm not too worried about this because I'm more and more convinced that the Psalm 83 war will happen before a peace agreement. The war will see Israel victorious over neighboring countries (while stoking hatred in Iran and Russia, who probably have a few losses in the war but decide not to directly intervene) and Israel's victory and expansion in territory will be recognized in the peace treaty that ends that war, and THAT will be the Covenant with Many of Daniel 9:27. Then, finally, Israel will live in peace and tear down the walls they built and be that land of unwalled villages, setting the scene for the Ezekiel 39 invasion by Gog's military alliance.
So, for the time being, I honestly don't expect much at all to happen with Mideast peace except for the Trump administration to go through the motions and for Israel to keep doing what they are doing. If I'm right, we are in a pre-war period that is both a holding pattern and a slow-moving escalation of anti-Israel sentiment in her proximate neighbors.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Rumors of War - King of the North

Russia sends spy ship near U.S., deploys banned missiles at home - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A Russian spy ship was spotted off the East Coast of the United States Tuesday, the same day the Trump administration confirmed the Kremlin had secretly deployed banned cruise missiles inside its borders. The New York Times first reported that the Obama administration learned in 2014 the missiles were a violation of a 1987 treaty between the United States and Russia that banned ground-launched intermediate-range missiles. A U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that Russia had deployed the cruise missiles to two sites in December."

Comment: I wonder how President Trump will deal with a Russian treaty violation? After all, Trump is a stickler for sticking to the terms of the deal. 

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

U.S. Navy to propose stronger South China Sea presence - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The U.S. Navy may be planning a freedom of navigation operations, or FONOPS, near disputed islands in the South China Sea. Several Navy officials told the Navy Times both the Navy and the U.S. Pacific Command are to propose sailing near China's artificial islands in the disputed Spratlys, and possibly the Paracel Islands, where China has been building a military presence. China's neighbor Vietnam is also a claimant to the Paracels. FONOPS is viewed by many in the Navy's leadership as a standard mission, according to the report."

Comment: Eventually what the China considers a standard naval mission and what the U.S. considers to be standard will be out of sync and the likelihood of conflict will be high.  

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

North Korea test fires missile, South says - UPI.com
UPI reports: "North Korea test-fired a missile into the Sea of Japan on Sunday, according to South Korean military officials. [...] North Korea also carried out two tests of a nuclear weapon last year, though they have not shown the capability of shrinking a nuclear weapon to a small enough size needed to deliver it using a missile system."

Comment: It would appear that the young dictator of North Korea is testing the new American president. I can't wait to see what happens. 

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Earthquakes

At least six dead, more than 100 injured in Philippines earthquake - UPI.com
UPI reports: "At least six people died and more than 100 people were injured when a powerful earthquake rocked the southern Philippines late Friday, knocking out power to thousands and damaging buildings. The earthquake, centered near the city of Surigao, measured as a magnitude 6.7. The quake was at a depth about 6.8 miles. Dozens of aftershocks followed. Surigao is about 430 miles southeast of Manila and has a population of about 140,000. Officials said the number of dead and injured could increase as the recovery efforts continue."

Comment: That was a big one, but it could have been much worse if it hit the capital or other highly populated area.

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Persecution

Report: China arrests four Christian missionaries near North Korea border - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Chinese authorities recently arrested four Christian missionaries near the North Korea border, but reasons for their arrest were not provided. A local resident in Yanji, a city in the Yanbian region of Jilin Province, said the arrests were made at a hotel in the town on Thursday, Radio Free Asia reported. All four missionaries appear to be of Korean descent, but carried different passports."

China expels dozens of South Korean missionaries - FT
The Financial Times reports: "Dozens of South Korean missionaries have been expelled from China following a raid on residences and farmhouses in the country’s impoverished north-east, as Beijing intensifies its crackdown on Christianity. [...] There are thought to be about 100m Christians in China — more than the 86.7m-strong membership of the ruling Communist party. If the religion continues to spread at its current pace, China is likely to be home to the world’s largest Christian population within the next 15 years."

Comment: While not discounting the danger faced by these missionaries, this Chinese action seems to be directed more at South Korea that at Christians in particular. Christians in China would do well to remember Romans 13 and respect national authorities.

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