Saturday, January 30, 2016

Covenant With Many

NYT - France Plans Mideast Peace Effort, and Recognition of Palestine if It Fails
The New York Times reports: "France said Friday that it would organize an international conference aimed at resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that France would recognize Palestine as an independent state if that effort failed. [...] 'France will engage in the coming weeks in the preparation of an international conference bringing together the parties and their main partners — American, European, Arab — notably to preserve and make happen the two-state solution,' Mr. Fabius said. Should that effort fail, he said, 'We need to face our responsibilities by recognizing the Palestinian state.'"

Comment: I can't help wonder which Palestine the French would like to recognize? The Palestine represented by Fatah in the West Bank or the more radical (and armed by Iran) Palestine of Hamas in Gaza? Perhaps France sees no distinction between the two competing Palestinian factions? If so, they really have no business in meddling in things they don't understand.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

Rumors of War - Persia - Peace and Security of Jerusalem

AP - Hamas says it continues to build tunnels to attack Israel
AP reports: "A senior leader of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, says its gunmen continue to build attack tunnels into Israel.  [...]  Hamas has built a sophisticated network of tunnels that it has used to penetrate Israel to carry out attacks on civilians and soldiers. Israel destroyed dozens of the tunnels during the 2014 Gaza war."

Comment: It goes unstated, so perhaps we should state it, that Iran funds and arms Hamas to advance a proxy war against Israel even as the West hails the "new" Iran. 

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pestilence

AP - UN health chief: Zika virus is 'spreading explosively'
The AP reports: "The Zika virus is 'spreading explosively' in the Americas, which could see up to 4 million cases over the next year, international health officials said Thursday, announcing a special meeting next week to decide if they should declare an international health emergency. The warning from the World Health Organization came amid a call to arms by officials on both sides of the Atlantic over the mosquito-borne virus, which has been linked to a spike in a rare birth defect in Brazil. Brazil's president — noting there is no medical defense against the infection — called for a crusade against the mosquitoes spreading it."

Comment: It's very worrisome that the virus is spread by mosquitoes, which seem abundant despite efforts to eradicate them. 

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Rumors of War - Persia

AP - Iran warns US warship to leave naval drill area
The AP reports: "Iran's navy warned a U.S. warship to leave an area where Iran has been conducting a naval drill near the narrow Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the semi-official Fars news agency reported Wednesday. The U.S. Navy denied that its operations in the region were affected. [...] It is the first Iranian naval exercise since 10 U.S. sailors were briefly captured by Iran earlier this month after drifting into Iranian territorial waters."

Comment: Critics of the Iran nuclear deal say it has emboldened Iran. I wonder if we can say this incident is proof of that?

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Rumors of War - Kings of the East

AP - US, China spar over North Korea, South China Sea
AP reports: "China claims sovereignty of much of the territory in the South China Sea. It rejects claims from countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam and has bristled at U.S. warnings that its activities threaten the freedom of navigation in some of the world's busiest commercial shipping lanes. Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims in the strategically vital sea, through which around $5 trillion in world trade passes each year. The U.S. says it takes no position on the claims but says developments in the South China Sea are a national security interest. It has urged that the disputes be settled peacefully and that a binding code of conduct be established for the area. Tensions have been especially high since Beijing transformed seven disputed reefs into islands, where it is now constructing runways and facilities that rival claimants say can be used militarily."

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Future Fear

AP - Scientists to announce "Doomsday Clock" time
AP reports: "Rising tension between Russia and the U.S., North Korea's recent nuclear test and a lack of aggressive steps to address climate change are putting the world under grave threat, scientists behind a 'Doomsday Clock' that measures the likelihood of a global cataclysm said Tuesday. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced that the minute hand on the metaphorical clock remained at three minutes-to-midnight. The clock reflects how vulnerable the world is to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change and new technologies, with midnight symbolizing apocalypse."

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Pestilence

AP - Health minister: Brazil is 'losing battle' against mosquito
The AP reports: "Brazil's health minister says the country is sending some 220,000 troops to battle the mosquito blamed for spreading a virus suspected of causing birth defects — but he also says the war is already being lost. Marcelo Castro said that nearly 220,000 members of Brazil's Armed Forces would go door-to-door to help in mosquito eradication efforts ahead of the country's Carnival celebrations. [...] But the minister also said the country has failed in efforts against the Aedes aegypti mosquito that transmits Zika, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever."

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Wars & Rumors of War

AP - EU police warn that more attacks by IS militants are likely
The AP reports: "Europe's top police agency issued a stark warning Monday: Islamic State extremists will keep attempting lethal attacks on soft targets in Europe as the militant group increasingly goes global. [...] Hours before the report was issued, a new video was released by the Islamic State group celebrating the killers who carried out the Nov. 13 attacks in the French capital — while also threatening fresh bloodshed."

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Pestilence

AP - Spreading Zika virus a new economic strain for Latin America
The AP reports: "Brazilian health officials said Wednesday that the number of cases of microcephaly, a rare brain defect in babies, has risen to 3,893, since authorities began investigating the surge in cases, in October. Fewer than 150 such cases were seen in all of 2014 — before Zika began to spread across the country. The outbreak comes as about 1 million people, a third of them foreigners, are expected to flood Rio de Janeiro in the coming month to celebrate Carnival. And hoteliers and others have invested billions of dollars in anticipation of a flood of visitors to the Summer Olympics in Rio in August."

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Pestilence

Yahoo News - Health officials probe tie between Zika, paralyzing syndrome
AP reports: "Two Latin American countries are investigating whether outbreaks of the mosquito-borne Zika virus are behind a rise in a rare and sometimes life-threatening nerve condition that can cause paralysis and leave victims on life-support."

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Kings of the East - Persia

Reuters - Chinese leader in Iran to discuss economy, regional crisis: state TV
Reuters reports: "Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Tehran on Friday to discuss improvement of economic and political ties after lifting of international sanctions because of Iran's disputed nuclear program, state TV said. Xi will meet top Iranian officials, including the country's most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Hassan Rouhani. He has also visited Saudi Arabia and Egypt during his Middle East tour, which started on January 19."

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Mark of the Beast

AFP reports: "Syrian refugees in Jordan will get faster access to United Nations cash aid through an iris-scanning ATM network, removing the need for bank accounts and cards.  [...]  Under the project dubbed 'EyeCloud, the refugees receive cash in less than 30 seconds from machines equipped with biometric technology. Around 50 specially-adapted ATMs have been set up across Jordan, in cooperation with a local bank, to provide refugees quicker access to money."

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Pestilence

AP - CDC: Ask pregnant women about trips to Zika outbreak areas
The AP reports: "U.S. health officials issued new guidance Tuesday for doctors whose pregnant patients may have traveled to regions with a tropical illness linked to birth defects. Doctors should ask pregnant women about their travel and certain symptoms, and - if warranted - test them for an infection with the Zika (ZEE'-ka) virus [...] The virus is spread through mosquito bites, and there have been outbreaks in parts of the Caribbean and Latin America. There is no medicine or vaccine for it. [...] CDC officials said pregnant women should consider postponing trips to 14 destinations - Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela."

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Signs in the Stars

BBC News - Case made for 'ninth planet'
BBC News reports: "American astronomers say they have strong evidence that there is a ninth planet in our Solar System orbiting far beyond even the dwarf world Pluto. The team, from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has no direct observations to confirm its presence just yet. Rather, the scientists make the claim based on the way other far-flung objects are seen to move. But if proven, the putative planet would have 10 times the mass of Earth. The Caltech astronomers have a vague idea where it ought to be on the sky, and their work is sure to fire a campaign to try to track it down."

Comment: I was once asked the difference between "signs in the stars" (Luke 21:25) and "signs and wonders in the heavens" (Joel 2:30; Luke 21:11; Acts 2:19).  I tend to think the difference is simply where you are looking. If you can see if in the sky (like a shooting star or eclipse) then it's a "sign in the heavens" and if we are talking about stellar phenomena that can be observed by telescopes (or inferred by observations of planets using telescopes, as in this news report), then it's a "sign in the stars." Remember, Paul accepted that there are three heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2–4) , the first is the sky and atmosphere, the second is space, and the third is heaven, the abode of God.

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Final Kingdom

Reuters - End of Europe? Berlin, Brussels' shock tactic on migrants
Reuters reports: "Merkel, facing trouble among her conservative supporters as much as from opponents, called Europe 'vulnerable' and the fate of the euro 'directly linked' to resolving the migration crisis -- highlighting the risk of at the very least serious economic turbulence if not a formal dismantling of EU institutions. [...] with efforts to engage Turkey's help showing little sign yet of preventing migrants reaching Greek beaches, German and EU officials are warning that without a sharp drop in arrivals or a change of heart in other EU states to relieve Berlin of the lonely task of housing refugees, Germany could shut its doors, sparking wider crisis this spring."

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Kings of the East

Reuters - China offers support for Yemen government as Xi visits Saudi Arabia
Reuters reports: "China has signaled its support for Yemen's government, which is fighting an Iran-allied militia, on the first day of a visit to Saudi Arabia by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will also be heading to Tehran later in the week. [...] China relies on the region for oil but has tended to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - the United States, Britain, France and Russia. However, China has been trying to get more involved, especially in Syria, and recently hosted its foreign minister and opposition officials."

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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wars & Rumors of War

Reuters - North Korea nuclear test did not increase technical capability: U.S.
Reuters reports: "North Korea's Jan. 6 nuclear test did not expand its technical capability, but the U.S. government is keeping a close eye on Pyongyang's efforts to develop a thermonuclear warhead capable of reaching the United States, the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Tuesday. [...] North Korea has shown off two versions of a ballistic missile that appear to be of a type that could reach the U.S. West Coast, but there is no evidence the missiles have been tested."

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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Believers Persecuted

The Washington Post - Wife of pastor Saeed Abedini, jailed in Iran for his faith, explains the ‘shock’ of his release
The Washington Post reports: "American evangelical pastor Saeed Abedini is among the four Americans Iran who were released on Saturday, according to U.S. and Iranian officials. For more than three years, evangelical activists have pressed President Obama to push for his release, arguing that it should be part of a larger nuclear deal. Abedini, 35, of Boise, Idaho, is a convert from Islam to Christianity and pastor who had been imprisoned since 2012 for organizing home churches. [...] His case put a face on the issue of persecution, especially in the Middle East, for Christians across the globe, and his release comes on 'religious freedom day' in the U.S."

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Pestilence

AP - Pregnant women told to avoid countries with Zika outbreaks 
AP reports: "Pregnant women should avoid traveling to Latin America and Caribbean countries that have outbreaks of a tropical illness linked to birth defects, health officials said Friday. The illness is caused by the Zika virus which is spread through mosquito bites. [...] U.S. health officials said pregnant women should consider postponing trips to 14 destinations - Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Suriname and Venezuela."

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Wars & Rumors of War

AP - Forces try to retake Burkina Faso hotel attacked by al-Qaida
AP reports: "Al-Qaida militants struck an upscale hotel and nearby cafe late Friday that are popular with Westerners in Burkina Faso's capital, taking an unknown number of hostages and forcing others to hide for their lives as gunfire and explosions rang out. The country's troops backed by French forces were still trying to retake control of the building eight hours later."

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Fearsome Events

AP - Stock market slides again; worst two-week start to a year
AP reports: "Never before has Wall Street gotten off to a worse start to a year. The stock market capped the first two weeks of 2016 with a steep slide Friday that sent the Dow Jones industrial average down nearly 400 points. All three major stock indexes - the Dow, the Nasdaq composite and the Standard & Poor's 500 - are now in what's known as a correction, or a drop of 10 percent or more from their recent peaks."

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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Earthquakes

AP - Strong earthquake shakes northern Japan; no tsunami warning
The AP reports: "A strong earthquake struck just off the coast of Hokkaido in northern Japan. No tsunami warning was issued. The quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.7 hit about 12:30 p.m. (0330 GMT) Thursday, near the Urakawa town on the southern tip of Hokkaido, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. It said the quake's center was located at a depth of 50 kilometers (30 miles) below the sea surface. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage."

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Rumors of War - Nations in Distress

AP - Explosion in Jakarta leaves at least 1 dead; gunfire heard
The AP reports: "A massive explosion rocked downtown Jakarta in front of a popular shopping mall on Thursday and an Associated Press reporter saw at least one dead body. Gunshots were heard after the midmorning explosion in front of the Sarinah shopping mall and a police station. The area also has many luxury hotels, and offices and embassies, including the French. It was not clear who was shooting but police had cordoned off the area, preventing reporters from going near the scene. Witnesses said the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber, but there was no immediate confirmation of the claim. Indonesia has been a victim of several bombing attacks in the past, claimed by Islamic militant groups."

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Rumors of War - Persia

AP - Pentagon: 2 US Navy boats held by Iran but will be returned
The AP reports: "Iran was holding 10 U.S. Navy sailors and their two small boats that drifted into Iranian waters after experiencing mechanical problems. Iran accused the sailors of trespassing but American officials said Tehran has assured them that the crew and vessels would be returned safely and promptly. The sailors, nine men and one woman, were being held overnight at an Iranian base on Farsi Island in the Persian Gulf, and were expected to be transferred to a U.S. ship in the region on Wednesday morning local time."

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Monday, January 11, 2016

Wars & Rumors of War

AP - IS claims responsibility for Baghdad mall attack
The AP reports: "The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the Baghdad mall attack that killed 18 people on Monday. Gunmen stormed into the Jawhara Mall after setting off a car bomb and launching a suicide attack at its entrance. Iraqi officials say the attack which lasted over an hour, killed at least 18 people and wounded 50 in the city's mainly Shiite east."

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Saturday, January 09, 2016

Rumors of War - Persia

US Navy releases video of 'provocative' Iran rocket fire - Chicago Tribune
The Chicago Tribune reports: "The U.S. Navy on Saturday released footage it said showed Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels firing rockets near warships and commercial traffic in the strategic Strait of Hormuz late last month, a move raising tensions between the two nations despite the recent nuclear deal. [...]  The 45 seconds of black-and-white Dec. 26 footage, which the Navy said was shot from a Seahawk helicopter, shows what appears to be an oil tanker passing by. A flash appears on the left side of the video and after zooming in, it shows small boats the Navy said were Iranian firing rockets. The Navy has said the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, the USS Bulkeley destroyer and a French frigate were nearby at the time, as well as commercial vessels."

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Friday, January 08, 2016

Rumors of War

North Korea says South's propaganda broadcasts push situation to 'brink of war' - Reuters
Reuters reports: "South Korea's loudspeaker broadcasts aimed at North Korea push the rivals to the 'brink of war,' a top North Korean official has told a propaganda rally, in the isolated country's first official response to the sonic barrage across its border. North Korea's fourth nuclear test on Wednesday angered both the United States and China, which was not given prior notice, although the U.S. government and weapons experts doubt the North's claim that the device it set off was a hydrogen bomb. In retaliation for the test, South Korea on Friday unleashed a ear-splitting propaganda barrage over its border with the North. The last time South Korea deployed the loudspeakers, in August 2015, it triggered an exchange of artillery fire."

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Wickedness Increases

Demand for reprint of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' overwhelms publisher - Reuters
Reuters reports: "Heavy demand for the first edition of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' to be printed in Germany since his death is taking its publisher by surprise, with orders received for almost four times the print run. The two-volume political treatise, which was written between 1924 and 1926 and posits a global Jewish conspiracy, is regarded as one of the Nazis' main propaganda tools. It has been re-issued as a 2,000-page annotated version after its 70-year copyright expired."

Comment: This will not end well. I wonder if historians will look back on this as a perfect storm of unrelated events leading to a spike in xenophobic violence?  First Germany is flooded with thousands of refugees and migrants from the Middle East, many of whom are unfamiliar with European culture and mores.  Then, quite unexpectedly, the academic community publishes Hitler's manifesto for the first times in years, exposing a public filled with millennials unfamiliar with the raw power and Satanic appeal of racial hatred. The people who decided to publish Hitler's book are not the people who manage the migrant crisis, there is no coordination or subversive agenda at work. The timing, though, is unfortunate and will no doubt lead to a resurgence in antisemitism and xenophobia.  The only real silver lining is that the German economy is strong and there is no worry that economic hardship will lead to a new era of nationalist sentiment. Right?

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Thursday, January 07, 2016

Fearsome Events

Dow, S&P off to worst four-day Jan start ever as China fears grow - Reuters
Reuters reports: "The Dow has lost 5.2 percent since the end of 2015 in the worst first four trading days since the 30-stock index was created in 1928. The S&P 500 is down 4.9 percent since Dec. 31, its worst four-day opening in its history, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices, while the Nasdaq is down 6.4 percent."

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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Gospel Preached to All Nations

Orthodox Christians celebrate Epiphany - AP
AP reports: "Wednesday is Epiphany, a major holiday in much of Orthodox Christianity celebrating the birth and baptism of Jesus. Religious services are held as well as Blessing of Water ceremonies at lakes, rivers and seafronts. But in Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and other Orthodox countries that observe a different religious calendar, it is Christmas Eve. Roman Catholics and Protestants, meanwhile, celebrate the story of the Wise Men who followed a star to Jesus' cradle."

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Rumors of War - Kings of the East

US, S. Korea and Japan vow tough response to N. Korea - AP
AP reports: "The United States, South Korea and Japan agreed to launch a 'united and strong' international response to North Korea's apparent fourth nuclear test, as experts scrambled Thursday to find more details about the detonation that drew worldwide skepticism and condemnation. It may take weeks or longer to confirm or contradict the North's claim that it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, which would mark a major and unanticipated advance for its still-limited nuclear arsenal. Even a test of a less sophisticated atomic bomb would push its scientists and engineers closer to their goal of building a warhead small enough to place on a missile that can reach the U.S. mainland."

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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

North Korea says tested hydrogen nuclear device - Reuters
Reuters reports: "North Korea said it had successfully conducted a test of a miniaturized hydrogen nuclear device on Wednesday morning. The announcement on North Korean state TV followed detection of a 5.1 magnitude earthquake near its known nuclear test site earlier on Wednesday. The nuclear test is the fourth by the isolated country, which is under U.S. and UN sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs."

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