Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pestilence

WHO Strengthens Guidelines to Prevent Sexual Transmission of Zika Virus - ABC News ABC News reports: "The World Health Organization has strengthened its guidelines for Zika due to fears that the virus may persist in bodily fluids for longer than previously thought. The WHO advised couples to use barrier contraception or abstain from sexual contact for at least eight weeks after returning from an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission. This is double its previous guideline of four weeks. For men who have symptoms of the Zika virus, the WHO advises them to abstain from sex or use barrier contraception for six months over concerns that the virus could persist in semen. For women who have symptoms of the Zika virus, that recommended period is eight weeks. Additionally, couples who want to conceive are advised to wait six months if they had any symptoms of the Zika virus."

Comment: It's a bit scary that they keep revising these guidelines but at least they appear to be taking the threat seriously. 

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Signs in the Stars

Study suggests Planet 9 is stolen exoplanet - UPI.com
UPI reports: "New research suggests the mysterious and controversial 'Planet 9' isn't an original member of our solar system. According to a new computer simulation developed by astronomers at Lund University in Sweden, the ninth planet is an exoplanet -- stolen by the sun from its original host star. [...] The new simulation suggests that as our sun and another star passed by each other, the gravitational pull of our sun pulled in an exoplanet -- a theft that's gone unnoticed until recently."

Is a ninth planet to blame for Earth's mass extinctions? - UPI.com
UPI reports: "In a new study published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Daniel Whitmire argues that an undiscovered ninth planet triggers disruptive comet showers every 27 million years. [...] Those that miss Earth disintegrate in the inner solar system and dim the sun's solar energy, cooling Earth."

Comment: So, the real question is: When was the last Planet 9 mass extinction event and it another due to happen anytime soon? 

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Pestilence

Postpone or move Olympics, doctors urge - CNN.com
CNN reports: "The summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro should be postponed or moved "in the name of public health" due to the widening Zika outbreak in Brazil, more than 100 prominent doctors and professors said Friday in an open letter to the World Health Organization. [...] The CDC's current recommendation is that pregnant women should not travel to areas where the virus is spreading and that men with the virus who have pregnant partners should use condoms when having sex for the duration of the pregnancy. [...] There have been calls in recent months for a delay or postponement of the Olympics, but what makes Friday's letter different is the scope and number of physicians, professors and bioethicists who signed it -- from Japan to South Africa, Norway to the United States."

Comment: Will the Olympics in Rio be postponed or moved? Stay tuned!

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Persecution

AP - Egypt: Muslim mob attacks Christians, parade naked woman
The AP reports: "An armed Muslim mob stripped an elderly Christian woman and paraded her naked on the streets in an attack last week in which seven Christian homes were also looted and torched in a province south of the Egyptian capital. According to the local Orthodox Coptic church and security officials, the assault in the Minya province village of Karma on Friday began after rumors spread that the elderly woman's son had an affair with a Muslim woman — a taboo in conservative Egypt. [...] Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of more than 90 million people, have long complained of discrimination in the mostly Muslim nation."

Comment: Please join me in praying for the persecuted church in Egypt. May the Holy Spirit guide them in their perseverance, instructing them in mercy, compassion, forgiveness and love.  Let us pray specifically for the healing of that poor traumatized woman who was assaulted.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rumors of War

Retired U.S. commander: North Korea collapse not far off - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A former U.S. Forces Korea commander says a North Korea collapse could take place sooner than expected. [...]  North Korea is under multiple pressures, most recently heavier U.N. Security Council sanctions that could choke off funding for Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program. China's support of the sanctions could mark a turning point, as well, and there are increasing signs Beijing's North Korea policy is changing. In addition to agreeing to enforce sanctions, China could be taking a different approach to North Korean defectors, as evidenced by the flight of 13 North Korean state restaurant workers who were permitted to leave China for Southeast Asia on valid passports."

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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Covenant With Many

Palestinians reject Netanyahu's call for direct peace talks in Paris - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The Palestinian Authority on Monday rejected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call to hold direct peace talks in Paris. [...] The Palestinian Authority has preferred an international peace process, largely because many countries seek Israel's return to pre-1967 borders and a halt to Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank."

Comment: I wonder if the June 3rd conference will even take place? Will the nations (at least 20 according to this report) pass up an opportunity to meet and condemn Israel? Stay tuned!

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Monday, May 23, 2016

War

Iraqi forces, allies begin offensive to retake Fallujah - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Iraqi security forces, supported by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, on Monday began an offensive on Fallujah aiming to recapture the city from Islamic State control. [...] Mosul is considered one of the most important battles in the fight against the Islamic State -- also known as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL -- in Iraq. U.S. President Barack Obama said he expects Mosul to be retaken by the Iraqi government by the end of the year."

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Covenant With Many

Netanyahu seeks face-to-face with Mahmoud Abbas, rejects Paris peace talks - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a French proposal for a Middle East peace conference Monday, suggesting instead direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. [...] Netanyahu added he is prepared to discuss all matters pertinent to the peace process, as long as it occurs at a face-to-face meeting with Abbas."

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

War - Global Government - Ten Kings

G7 leaders agree on plan to combat terrorism financing - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Finance ministers from the Group of Seven pledged to work more closely to stop the global funding of terrorism following a meeting in Japan. The G7 nations agreed to an 'action plan' that includes sharing financial and intelligence data in order to halt the international flow of money to terrorist elements like the Islamic State and al Qaida. [...] The G7 consists of the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Great Britain and Italy. Russia was expelled from what was the G8 after it annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine."

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Pestilence

The Yellow Fever Outbreak: What You Should Know - TIME
Time reports: "An outbreak of yellow fever in Africa has global health experts worried. On Thursday the World Health Organization (WHO) convened an emergency meeting over a yellow fever outbreak that started in Angola and has now infected well over 2,000 people, including imported cases to other countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Kenya and China. The group concluded that while the yellow fever outbreak is 'a serious public health event which warrants intensified national action and enhanced international support,' it will not be declared a public health emergency of international concern at this time."

Zika Cases In U.S. Pregnant Women Near 300 - TIME
Time reports: "There are 279 pregnant women in the United States and in U.S. territories who have Zika, health officials announced on Friday. There are 157 women pregnant women with the virus in the continental United States and 122 infected pregnant women in U.S. territories. The new numbers are from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Zika pregnancy registry systems in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. The new numbers include all pregnant women who have had laboratory confirmation of a Zika infection regardless of whether they had symptoms or not."

Zika Strain Linked to Birth Defects on ‘Doorstep of Africa,’ WHO Warns - TIME
Time reports: "The strain of the Zika Virus raging in South America that has been linked to birth defects has been confirmed in Africa for the first time, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday.  [...] This strain of Zika has been linked to neurological problems and babies being born with microcephaly, but the virus as it originated in Africa has not been known to cause the defects."

Comment: I don't normally cite Time Magazine, but they are doing a great job reporting on the Zika virus and the Yellow Fever outbreak. 

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Doomed Damascus

Assad forces take significant territory from rebels near Damascus - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Syrian forces under President Bashar al-Assad took the key town of Deir al-Asafir near Damascus back from rebels on Thursday. Assad's efforts were supported by Lebanese Hezbollah militants, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. The government capture of the town has diminished the rebel's access to Damascus' Eastern Ghouta suburb. [...] The capture of territory by government forces is one of the most significant advances by Assad's regime in 2016, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said."

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kings of the East

China-Pakistan railroad will help curb extremism: Ex-Pakistan PM
CNBC reports: "The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a railroad which will traverse western China through Pakistan, will help job creation as well as help to curb terrorism as people grow more prosperous, Pakistan's former prime minister told CNBC on Wednesday. The $46B deal agreed upon between China and Pakistan will allow China to avoid its current maritime sea routes to bring products into the Middle East and Europe."

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Covenant With Many

France delays Mideast peace conference for U.S. - CNNPolitics.com
CNN reports: "France has postponed an international conference on Israeli-Palestinian peace in order to ensure U.S. officials are able to attend -- but American political currents may stymie their efforts to fully engage the Obama administration even with its participation."

Comment: The Islamic State threat is the central issue motivating the Arab states right now, not the Mideast peace process, so France may find it difficult to put this high on the international agenda without U.S. support. Still, as I argued last year, the Iran arms deal provides a framework for the a Mideast peace deal that could be the prophetic "Covenant with Many" of Daniel 9:27. Once this idea was endorsed by a major power I don't think it will ever really go away, even if this latest effort fizzles, it will remain something that could be adopted (or 'confirmed') if and when the timing is right.

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Famine

Is the Era of Great Famines Over? - The New York Times
The New York Times reports: "How did Ethiopia go from being the world’s symbol of mass famines to fending off starvation? Thanks partly to some good fortune, but mostly to peace, greater transparency and prudent planning. Ethiopia’s success in averting another disaster is confirmation that famine is elective because, at its core, it is an artifact and a tool of political repression."

Comment: I like this op-ed because it highlights an essential truth about famine. In the modern world, people most often go hungry for political reasons (like the famine in North Korea) rather than natural or climate-related reasons.  Peace and good-governance can be as effective as modern farming techniques in defeating famine.

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pestilence

Zika Virus Means Brazil’s 2016 Olympics Must Not Proceed - TIME
Time magazine reports: "The outbreak that began in the country’s northeast has reached Rio de Janeiro, where it is flourishing. Clinical studies are also mounting that Zika infection is associated not just with pediatric microcephaly and brain damage, but also adult conditions such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis, which are debilitating and sometimes fatal. Simply put, Zika infection is more dangerous, and Brazil’s outbreak more extensive, than scientists reckoned a short time ago. Which leads to a bitter truth: the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games must be postponed, moved, or both, as a precautionary concession."

Comment: Ok, let's see if I'm getting this clearly. The country that is ground-zero for a communicable disease outbreak that is getting worse and for which there is no cure is set to host  an international event that will draw thousands of people there and then send them back home to their native lands. Some experts are suggesting that this big international event be moved or at least postponed as a precaution. That seems prudent. Unfortunately, the big international event in question is the Olympic Games, which means millions of dollars in corporate sponsorship, advertising, and state sponsored preparations have already been spent on this event even before the opening ceremony begins. The money that has already been spent and will be spent before the games are over suggest to me that the desire for a return on the investments made will override any health concerns the experts may have. Does anyone really doubt that corporate sponsors are willing to risk the health of the athletes, spectators and world press for the sake of profits? Never underestimate human greed. I think there is only one conclusion we can reach: the Olympics will not be canceled, postponed or moved.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

Earthquakes

Study predicts chance of mega-earthquake in the Aleutians - UPI.com
UPI reports: "There's a nine percent chance a magnitude 9 or larger earthquake will strike the Aleutian Islands in the next 50 years. That is the prediction offered by scientists from the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa -- made with the help of a newly designed computer model. Researchers say an earthquake of that size could send a mega-tsunami in the direction of the Hawaiian Islands."

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Rumors of War - King of the North

Russia calls new U.S. missile shield in Romania a security threat - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Russian officials sounded off against a newly activated U.S. missile defense site in Romania, calling it a threat to Russia and European stability in general. As the Aegis Ashore missile defense site was formally activated during a ceremony featuring U.S., NATO and Romanian officials at a Cold War-era base, Admiral Vladimir Komyedov, head of the State Duma's defense committee, told the Interfax news agency 'they are moving to the firing line.' 'This is not just 100,' he said. 'It's 200, 300, 1,000 percent aimed against us.' The former commander of the Russian Black Sea fleet brushed aside U.S. claims that the missile defense site was intended to deter Iranian threats."

Comment: In a better world, both sides would acknowledge their past actions that have created this crisis in relations and would mutually agree on measures to restore confidence. The West, for example, could acknowledge that Russia has a point about the "color revolutions" sometimes not being entirely indigenous. Russia, for it's part, could acknowledge that the stealth invasion of Ukraine in 2014 following the Ukrainian revolution and Euromaidan movement and the annexation of Crimea the same year may have contributed to the perception in the West that Russia was returning to Cold War patterns. This is not that world.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

U.S., South Korea, Japan say no to North Korea nukes - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The United States, South Korea and Japan reaffirmed their commitment to the denuclearization of North Korea after Kim Jong Un defended his weapons program at the Seventh Party Congress. [...] The three envoys had agreed to step up international pressure based on the principle of denuclearization. Additional sanctions would not be ruled out if it means it could lead to North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons, the foreign ministry said."

North Korea defends hydrogen bomb, blames U.S. for tensions - UPI.com
UPI reports: "North Korea pointed the finger at the United States on Wednesday for Pyongyang's decision to develop a hydrogen bomb. [...]  Pyongyang's state-controlled news agency KCNA published a commentary claiming the United States, 'the world's largest nuclear power, has acted hostile toward us, escalating the nuclear threat.' 'Inevitably, we had to develop a nuclear weapon,' the North Korea statement read. [...] The message issued Wednesday and last week, however, could be for domestic propaganda purposes. The United States has repeatedly called for negotiations and for the easing of tensions but has insisted denuclearization is key to the talks."

No substantial reform in North Korea, Seoul ministry official says - UPI.com:
UPI reports: "No meaningful outcome has emerged in North Korea after the Seventh Party Congress, South Korea's unification minister said Tuesday. Speaking before a parliamentary committee, Hong Yong-pyo said the Kim Jong Un regime has no new strategy that departs from the 'teachings of the departed,' or the earlier generation, Yonhap reported. "

Comment: While young Un survived his first party congress without a coup or assassination, it's clear that the mood in the country has changed. Unless he can deliver some improvement in living standards the chances of his elimination by a rival remain high. I'm betting the purges will continue, if for no other reason than to keep his rivals off balance. The real worry is that he may seek to use an international crisis to unify party and military leaders and cement his leadership.  

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

False Prophets

International 'psychic' mail operation that netted $180 million shut down - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A  'psychic'  mail fraud operation that bilked more than 1 million Americans out of more than $180 million over 10 years has been shut down by a federal court. U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein, of the Eastern District of New York, approved the consent decree Friday that bans Montreal's Infogest Marketing, Hong Kong's Destiny Research Center Ltd. and six individuals from accessing the U.S. mail system to send items from alleged psychics, astrologers and clairvoyants."

Comment: It's sad that these people got taken advantage of, but they put their faith in the wrong place.  Bible prophecy demonstrates that the future is known only to God who declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).

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Friday, May 06, 2016

Persecution

North Korea denies connection to pastor's murder - UPI.com
UPI reports: "North Korea slammed the South after activists said North Korean agents murdered a Christian pastor in China. Pyongyang's propaganda outlet Uriminzokkiri released a statement Thursday calling the claims 'absurd anti-North Korean sophistry,' South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. North Korea called the move a plot to overthrow the regime. [...] South Korean news service News 1 reported the pastor founded Jangbaek Church in Jilin in 1993."

Comment: North Korea's reckless behavior continues to endanger the peace of the region and is threatened by any behavior or belief it can't control. It is wrong about Christians being a threat to the state. Christians are told to be submissive to authorities and treat others with respect (Romans 13). Christianity is not a rebel religion, it is not a jihad religion. 

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Rumors of War - Persia

Iran to close key oil shipping lanes If U.S. proceeds with military drills - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Iranian high officials have threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz to the United States and its allies if they threaten the regime in Tehran in the wake of American military drills launched in the Persian Gulf in April. [...] While the stated purpose of the drills is to protect international trade routes, Iran views the drills as a potential threat to its regime. [...] The Strait of Hormuz accounts for almost one-third of the world's oil trade sea passages."

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Pestilence

CDC: Hepatitis C kills more Americans than any other infectious disease - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Despite hepatitis C being preventable and curable, the number of people who died after contracting it hit an all-time high in 2014, baffling researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC researchers found nearly half of the 3.5 million people with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection, and the numbers are rising among people at high risk because of a lack of awareness. Hepatitis C is caused by a virus that attacks the liver, and while some people have symptoms most do not, the CDC reports."

Comment: I really don't know much about this disease and find it scary that people can have it and not know it.  At least it's not a contagious disease that you can get from other people.

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Rumors of War - King of the North

Russia strengthening military in challenge to NATO - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Russia is set to establish three new military divisions -- around 30,000 troops -- along its borders in a direct challenge to Western allies' troop buildup in the region. NATO revealed last month that it would be sending around 4,000 troops to Poland and the former Soviet countries in the Baltic. Now Moscow has hit back by announcing its own plans to expand its military presence."

Comment: I think what's happening here is a sad example of dueling narratives. Russia and NATO look at the history of the last thirty years and they each see something different.  NATO sees a Russia under Putin that appears to be desperate to recapture the glory days of the Soviet Empire. In an almost classic example of a revanchist power, Russia is expanding and recapturing territory (Crimea) and expanding a sphere of influence among neighbors (Ukraine). Russia's neighbors are unsettled and turning to NATO for reassurance and protection. Russia, on the other hand, sees a NATO alliance that never disbanded, even after winning the Cold War, and instead added new members among former Eastern bloc countries, pushing NATO right up to Russia's borders. Russia, in this view, is responding to the NATO threat by increasing defense spending and carving out a frontier or buffer in Eastern Europe between it and NATO. Usually diplomats are able to negotiate when leaders talk past one another, after all, there are many common interests, but in this case, Putin has established his national narrative so strongly in the minds of his people that his ability to maneuver is hampered by is own rhetoric (assuming he doesn't actually believe the "Russia is a victim of NATO" narrative) and this makes compromise (so necessary in avoiding conflict) unlikely.   It's more likely that Russia will continue to act out as an expression of frustration and aggrievement with NATO, nationalism, or Putin's personal agenda to stay in power.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2016

War

U.S. Navy SEAL killed by Islamic State in Iraq combat - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed by enemy fire on Tuesday after the Islamic State breached a Kurdish Peshmerga position near Mosul amid increased American presence, U.S. defense officials said. [...] The service member's death comes as the United States last week announced increased efforts to support Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh and ISIS."

Comment: I wonder when the politicians will admit the U.S. has "boots in the ground" or will Obama continue to insist that he ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? 

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Monday, May 02, 2016

Persecution

North Korea sent agents to kill Christian pastor, activists say - UPI.com
UPI reports: "North Korean agents are responsible for the 'murder' of a Christian pastor who assisted North Korean defectors in China, activists in Seoul said Monday. Choe Sungyong, a Korean-Chinese minister, had been the target of past North Korean threats, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported. [...] South Korea's unification ministry warned its citizens of the heightened risk of kidnapping and 'acts of terror' on Monday after the North announced its plan to kidnap 120 South Koreans in the coming weeks."

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