Saturday, April 30, 2005

RFID Passport Security Increased
Wired News (Feds Rethinking RFID Passport) reports that in the wake of privacy concerns about the government's new RFID passports, the State Department is reconsidering a plan it previously rejected. The plan would offer privacy protection, including encryption. No, this is not the Mark of the Beast (Rev 13:16-18), but new ID technology is always of interest.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Climate Change
According to this report in Sci-Tech Today, "An in-depth study using aerial photographs spanning the past half century of all 244 marine glaciers on the west side of the Antarctic finger-like peninsula pointing up to South America found that 87 percent of them were in retreat -- and the speed was rising. " Now, we don't know if this kind of climate change represents a normal cyclical pattern or a major change, we do know that a lot of people are very worried about global climate change, and recommend the subject for your study of Luke 21:26.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

FOXNews.com - U.S. & World - Cardinals Select New Pope

White smoke billows from the stove in the Sistine Chapel, and every bell in Vatican City must be peeling right now. This means only one thing: the College of Cardinals have, in near-record time, selected a pope. Incredibly, they seem to have done this on their third ballot!

We don't yet know who this is. The favorite candidate is Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who holds the post of chief of doctrine at the Vatican.

I see many German flags waving as Fox News Channel breaks to St. Peter's Square. One of the views on display is of the famous balcony where a new Pope appears.

UPDATE: The announcement is now taking place (16:41 UTC; 12:41 p.m. EDT). The Dean of the College of Cardinals has stepped forward to announce the Pope's name, according to a long and involved Latin ritual.

The victor: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger!

The official name he will now take will be Benedict XVI.

Obviously the College has struck a blow for the continuance of church doctrine. As if that weren't enough, for the new Pope to take the name of Benedict, a name associated with one of the most stern and rigorous orders of monks, should stand as further evidence. However, commentators already tell us that Benedict XV, the last Pope to carry that name, served just prior to the First World War...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Flu Fiasco, Cont.
Just a quick update on a news story we have been following (CTV - Deadly influenza virus shipments missing: WHO).Two-thirds of deadly viruses misplaced in analysis kits have now been destroyed, but kits to be shipped to Mexico and Lebanon are missing, and there's been no confirmation of destruction from Saudi Arabia, Bermuda, Brazil, Israel, and Japan. For your pestilence (Luke 21:11) files.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Revelations--and the people who talk about it

Revelations (exec. prod. Gavin Polone; with Bill Pullman, Natascha McElhone, John Rhys-Davis, et al.; Pariah Productions, 2005) is the latest attempt by secular entertainers--in this case, NBC Television--to skim some cash from the current popular fascination with matters apocalyptic. And, as is true of most such efforts, this project manages to get so many things wrong that the blunders overshadow the good that the series might have done. Unfortunately, deciding which is sillier--this project or the opinions of some secular reviewers--is even more difficult than watching the show itself.

If you can imagine spreading peanut butter on a hamburger, or pouring ketchup on a stack of pancakes, you will know why I am disappointed in this project. The producers have many ingredients, any one of which would be ideal for any number of projects. But these particular ingredients make a wretchedly unpalatable recipe.

What works:

  • The actors, especially Bill Pullman as a scientist who, though skeptical to the point of bitterness, never forgets that the best thing a scientist can be is curious.
  • Little things: An evolutionist holds forth on how a tornado in a junkyard would be more likely to build Buckingham Palace (actually the original metaphor read "to assemble a Boeing 747") than would random factors produce life, yet life exists. And as he insists that random factors were the only things responsible for that, he has no idea that half of what he has just said contradicts the other half. You couldn't ask for a better portrait of modern evolutionists and their clueless pontifications.
  • Another little thing: doctors wait for a teen-age girl to die so that they can harvest her organs--looking for all the world like a flock of buzzards circling over a thirsty desert hiker. Imagine their disappointment when Mister Skeptic himself holds the girl's hand--and her EKG goes from asystole to normal sinus rhythm in five seconds! The producers couldn't have known this, but the sad case of Terri Schindler Schiavo cannot fail to make people take note of such a scene--again, a perfect metaphor for our mixed-up medical profession that has slipped its moral moorings completely.
  • More little things--like the academic groupie who babbles on and on about how honored he is to meet The Great Professor. I've been in academia, and I've seen those hangers-on. They behave just that way, and that the professors don't tell those rubes to get lives of their own speaks volumes about academic ego.
Unfortunately, that's about all that works. Because the basic premise is not end-times prophecy at all. This is horror masquerading as end-times prophecy. Worse yet, it has every other contemporary myth thrown in--things that aren't in the Bible at all. Put this in your not adding to or taking away from the Bible [Revelation 22:18-19] files: The clinically dead do not "trance-channel" the souls of the departed. Even if they did, as a teen-aged girl struck by lightning does (after walking across a golf course in an electrical storm--how stupid can you get?), they wouldn't quote the Latin Vulgate! They'd far more likely quote John the Revelator, Paul the Apostle, and so on in the language that those men originally spoke, which was Koine Greek, not Latin! Nor will Jesus come back as a baby, which the show hints at with a brief set of sequences involving the rescue of an infant from a shipwreck. (Actually, the show doesn't say what it's hinting at with that one, but I can forgive that because it's the first installment of a series with a continuing mystery story arc.)

Worse than all the extrabiblical elements that the show contains is what is missing. Aside from a few pictures that look as though they were adapted from CNN and BBC footage from the Middle East and elsewhere, where do we hear of the political situation that will obtain, and come to fruition, during this period? Where is the movement crying out for "leadership for a world gone mad" that we saw to such good effect, say, in The Shoes of the Fisherman? And while I can understand not having a portrait of the Rapture, I cannot understand failing to mention the Tribulation.

The producers did borrow one technique from Vic Sarin's film adaptation of Left Behind, namely filming everything in dim light to give you a sense of impending doom. It didn't work then, and it doesn't work now. To illustrate, it made the hospital scenes play out like an episode of Kingdom Hospital, Stephen King's abysmally failed project about a haunted hospital with characters who were weird enough without the strange goings-on.

As bad as this project is, most of the secular reviews are worse. Tom Shales, for example, can't stop talking about how religion is bunk, anyway, and that the real issue about kingdom rising against kingdom involves greedy multinational corporations--private businesses doing things that Mr. Shales no doubt would rather see done in common by government. His characterization of Revelation as "the wackiest...book of the New Testament" speaks volumes about his whole attitude, and makes him no better than that professor boldly asserting that the tornado in the junkyard did build life after all. He was supposed to produce a review of a TV show. What he gave us instead was yet another anti-sermon against religion in general.

Hal Boedeker at The Orlando Sentinel, as quoted in The Houston Chronicle, manages to come closer to the central problem of the project. He actually interviewed Bill Pullman, who told him straight-out what NBC's problem is: "We don't want to offend anybody!" That won't cut it, of course. You can't tell a story about the Bible without offending someone. Jesus Himself could have told them that--and did, too, as they'd have found out if they would but read the Bible before they put together a dramatic project on it.

Mike Duffy at The Detroit Free Press is more typical of those who get some of the point, but not all of it. "Formula paranormal hokum" is his phrase for what the series might wind up being no better than. True as far as it goes--but when he quotes head writer David Seltzer as he talks of mankind playing a positive role in the last things, he shows his own weakness. The trouble is that I doubt that even the religion editor would have known to tell him that David Seltzer cannot be correct about that--because prophecy will work itself out according to a definite plan, and puny man cannot stand in the way.

The bottom line: Don't bother watching the rest of the show. But then again, don't bother relying on secular reviewers, either. Sometimes people come to the right conclusion on faulty premises. This is a prime example.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Flu Fiasco
By now you may have heard that a particularly lethal strain of the flu was sent to medical labs all over the world (Telegraph - Deadly old flu virus sent to labs). By all accounts this was a colossal misunderstanding, the virus was not labeled in a manner that would preclude it from being included in testing kits that are normally sent to labs. However the potential still exists (remote as it may be) that this strain could get out into the general public and cause an epidemic or even a pandemic. Of greater concern in this time of war is that two of the countries that received this virus, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, are known to have al-Qaeda sympathizers. If a technician in one of those labs is able to smuggle out a vial of this virus and turn it over to terrorists then we have a much greater problem than a medical mishap. Submitted for your files on pestilence (Luke 21:11).

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Tensions Rise on Temple Mount
Bible prophecy predicts (Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15 & 2 Thessalonians 2:4) that at the end of this age the Temple Mount in Jerusalem will become an international flashpoint. The Temple Mount is the location of the ancient Jewish temples, the last one was the temple built by King Solomon and destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. The Wailing Wall is the last standing remnant of that temple. Much later, followers of Islam, acting out of a desire for peace and harmony, and hoping against hope that the Jews wouldn't mind, built two mosques (the al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock) on top of the ancient ruins. It is Islam's third holiest site, while it is Judaism's most holy site. This explains why it is off-limits to Jews and Moslems control the site. Ok, not really, but explaining that would take more time than we have right now. The media does not like to call the site the Temple Mount, because that recognizes thousands of years of recorded history and the physical evidence affirming Jewish claims to the site and does not respect the claim of Moslems to control the area. Thus, the site is "disputed" in much the same way your home would be disputed if your neighbor built a sun-deck on the roof while you were away. The minor scuffle that took place today (Swissinfo - Israel seals off shrine, foils Jewish protest march) is nothing compared to events which are to transpire in the future, as the battle for religious, political and military control for the Temple Mount is waged. If you are a skeptic and doubt the veracity of Bible prophecy, then watch as the Temple Mount becomes an issue at the top of the international agenda and a site for events which will shock the entire world.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

New Scientist News - Sony patent takes first step towards real-life Matrix

Hat Tip: The Australian, which put me wise to this article.

I have a problem with the granting of patents for what are known as "prophetic inventions"--which is to say, "vapor inventions" that do not have so much as a working plan. But that's beyond scope here.

The real prophetic significance of this patent (which I could not find, BTW, in the records of the US Patent and Trademark Office; Sony must have filed their patent application in Japan) is that it represents several things that multiple prophets have warned of. First of all, however, this does not represent the Mark of the Beast--though it jmight represent the required worship of the Beast and his image [Revelation 13:15]. The mark, or cattle-brand stamp (Greek charagma, is mostly a mark of loyalty. This invention, if you call it that, goes far beyond a mere mark. In fact, it goes far beyond the mere reading of a person's mind. We deal here with the ability to write onto a person's mind, by means that bypass the classic Five Senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Sony seeks to use ultrasonic impulses to impress on a user the impression of having smelled something, or tasted something, without his actually having smelled or tasted anything.

The Hollywood establishment has toyed with this kind of project before. First came the motion picture Firefox (produced and directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Clint Eastwood; Warner Bros. Pictures, 1982), which followed a US pilot assigned to infiltrate the old Soviet Union and steal a Soviet prototype of a Mach 5/6 fighter-interceptor having a thought-controlled weapons system. This system would read a pilot's thoughts, through undefined "sensors in his helmet" (probably a body-contact electroencephalogram), and translates these thoughts into commands to select, direct, and fire weapons. Then came another motion picture, titled Brainstorm (produced and directed by Douglas Trumbull, with Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood, Louise Fletcher, Cliff Robertson, et al., Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1983), describing (in a rather disjointed fashion) the corporate and ethical tribulations surrounding an invention that could first read and record all the sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile experiences of a designated recording artist and then write the whole experience directly into the brain of a subject wearing a specially designed helmet or headset!

Firefox was alarming enough, given the military implications. But Sony has now taken a step toward implementing the Brainstorm scenario, and that's worse. (Actually, MGM could probably sue Sony for infringing on their idea, if you accept the premise for a patent on a "prophetic invention", since after all it was MGM's idea for a movie plot device before Sony got the idea of using it for real. But I digress.)

Why is this worse? With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let me count the ways:

  1. When you project program content directly into the brain, you make the experience as close to "real" as is any actual experience. After enough exposures to the technique, whether to one repeated program or several, the user could forget the difference between fact and fiction. This might explain why some of the earliest men in the Calvinist camp condemned fiction, drama, or poetry (other than the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, etc.) as being as wrongheaded as deliberately adding to or subtracting from the BIble--the notion being that life flows according to Divine plan, and fiction is a way of suggesting that God might choose a different plan. If you find that extreme, then you must consider this real-life Brainstorm invention to be the opposite extreme, and one far less healthy--for if you cannot tell fact from fiction, then neither can you tell truth from lies. Put that in your father of lies files.
  2. This could turn into the ultimate in pornography. Imagine male (or female) sex actors recording the experience of copulation, or other even more perverse experiences. Now imagine playing back a recording that a person of the opposite sex initially made. Now stop imagining that; that's an obvious Matthew 5:28 violation--and also one for your II Timothy 3:1-5 files.
  3. The Sony Brainstorm apparatus could also be an instrument of torture. One of the things that the Brainstorm characters dealth with was the horrifying use of their technique to make torture recordings. They would recruit someone willing to submit to torture and then record his experiences. One character played back a torture tape by accident and went crazy. Just think of the use that the Beast would make of such a technique!
  4. Brainstorm would be an even better, and more chilling, military technique than Firefox. Brainstorm could substitute totally for the pilot's own eyes and ears--in which case the pilot would seal himself up in his aircraft, out of sight or contact with the outside, except such contact that Brainstorm would mediate. But Brainstorm could also make a pilot think he's shooting down a truly repulsive enemy when in fact he's vaporizing a city full of innocent people. Behold the ultimate in brainwashing--and without the mass hypnosis that Jerry B. Jenkins predicted. The Beast need only outfit all his soldiers with permanent receivers, through which he could make them believe anything, and break down all their compunctions.
Sony says that the technique is theoretical only, and not even experimental. But as New Scientist pointed out, experts in the field suggest that Sony might have something. If they do, then it's something deadly and chilling--and further evidence that the End of All Things is coming.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

BREAKING - My Way News - Pope John Paul II Dies at 84
AP reports this breaking news: "John Paul II, who led the Roman Catholic Church for 26 years and helped topple communism in Europe while becoming the most-traveled pope, died Saturday night in his Vatican apartment after a long public struggle against debilitating illness. He was 84."

Friday, April 01, 2005

AP - Group Protests Israelis' Plans for Rally
For those of you following events on the Temple Mount, here is an update from the AP via Yahoo News about recent threats by the terrorist group Hamas. According to the report the Hamas leader said, "We voice our protest and condemnation against the continuous Zionist attempt to attack Al Aqsa Mosque and the holy sites...If those criminals carry out the crime we leave this matter to our military wing and there will be no quiet, God willing."