Friday, March 31, 2017

Famine

Famine Crisis May Worsen This Year in Four Countries - NBC News
NBC News reports: "Global food crises worsened significantly in 2016 and conditions look set to deteriorate further this year in some areas with an increasing risk of famine, a report said on Friday. 'There is a high risk of famine in some areas of north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen because of armed conflict, drought and macro-economic collapse,' the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) said. FSIN, which is co-sponsored by the United Nations food agency, the World Food Programme and the International Food Policy Research Institute, said the demand for humanitarian assistance was escalating."

Comment: I wonder if there is a general reluctance to help when it's known that the cause of the famine is man-made (war) and not due to natural disasters? 

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Gog Alliance

After energy agreement, Iran sees growing trade with Russia - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Boasting that it's a result of a multilateral nuclear deal, OPEC-member Iran said its trade volume with oil-rich Russia could pass the $10 billion mark. [...] Iran secured relief from sanctions under the multilateral deal in exchange for agreements to scale back its nuclear research program. Iran and Russia are close nuclear partners, with the latter providing fuel for the former's Bushehr nuclear plant."

Russia, Iran urge dialogue between Afghanistan, Taliban - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Russian President Vladimir Putin, after meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Kremlin, urged a direct negotiation between the Afghan government and the Taliban. [...] Last week, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the top U.S. general in Europe, told the Senate Committee on Armed Services that Russia may be giving material support to the Taliban in Afghanistan."

Comment: Like most alliances in history, the future Gog Alliance is based on multiple interests. When economic, diplomatic, military and political interests combine, Russia, Iran, Turkey and a few minions will become the Gog Alliance. 

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

Chinese coast guard vessels sail near Senkaku Islands - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Chinese coast guard vessels sailed through Japan-claimed waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands on Tuesday, Kyodo news agency reported. According to the report, four boats belonging to the Chinese coast guard entered Japanese territorial waters, off the coast of Uotsuri-Shima, at 2:30 p.m. Uotsuri-Shima is the largest of the Senkaku Islands, also known as the Diaoyu Islands in China. [...] The United States has said it would defend uninhabited islands from foreign attacks."

Japan's ruling party wants capability to attack enemy bases - UPI.com:
UPI reports: "Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party does not want Tokyo to shy away from dealing with North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations. [...] Japan's self-defense forces have so far been unable to attack incoming North Korea missiles. Projectiles that landed in Japanese territorial waters were not intercepted in 2016 and 2017."

Comment: It looks like the arms race in Asia is coming along nicely.

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Roaring Waves

Half of Southern California's beaches could be eroded by 2100 - UPI.com
UPI reports: "More than half of Southern California's beaches could be gone by the end of the century. According to new research, sea level rise could lead to the complete erosion of between 31 and 67 percent of Southern California beaches by 2100.[...]  The findings, published this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research, suggest severe erosion could leave coastal infrastructure and sea-cliffs exposed to rising seas."

Comment: I'm sure we can count on the good people of California to spend millions (billions?) of dollars trying to Save the Beaches.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Rumors of War - Persia

Israel’s airstrike on Syria spooks Middle East - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Israeli warplanes carrying out airstrikes on a shipment of Iranian arms to Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas in Syria managed to evade Syrian air-defense missiles [...] There are likely to be further Israeli airstrikes against Hezbollah in Syria, reflecting deepening Israeli concerns that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and their Lebanese ally are establishing a new front on the divided Golan Heights from which to fight the Jewish state. These developments are increasing the chances of a miscalculation that could trigger a war that both sides insist they do not want."

Comment: People keep talking about the end of the Syria conflict as if that is some kind of answer to the instability of the region. Are we to believe that the Iranian ground forces operating one international border away from Israel are simply going to pick up and go home once the Islamic State is defeated? 

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Final World Kingdom

EU leaders renew fraying Union's vows on 60th anniversary | Reuters
Reuters reports: "Europeans must contain their squabbling and carping about the EU if the Union is to survive, leaders warned on Saturday as they marked the 60th anniversary of its founding in Rome by signing a formal declaration of unity. Four days before Prime Minister Theresa May, absent from the ceremony in the Italian capital, delivers an unprecedented blow to the bloc's growth by filing Britain's formal exit papers, her fellow leaders hailed 60 years of peace and prosperity and pledged to deepen a unity frayed by regional and global crises. But days of wrangling about the wording of a 1,000-word Rome Declaration, May's impending Brexit confirmation and tens of thousands of protesters gathering beyond the tight police cordon around the Campidoglio Palace offered a more sober reminder of the challenges of holding the 27 nations to a common course."

Comment: Will the EU survive this year? Perhaps it will break up into smaller blocs or maybe remain united but with a small inner core forging ever greater unity as part of the "two speed" Europe so many have talked about. Stay tuned!

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Persecution

Indonesia police fire tear gas on Muslims protesting church - AP
The AP reports: "Indonesian police fired tear gas on Friday to disperse hard-line Muslims protesting against the construction of a Catholic church in a satellite city of the capital, Jakarta. [...] Witnesses said police fired tear gas as the protesters tried to force their way into the church, which has been under construction since November. Some also threw rocks and bottles into the site. [...] In April last year a Muslim group sealed off the church, tore down its sign and demanded that the mayor cancel the permit. [...] About 12,000 Catholics in the Bekasi region currently meet in store fronts or business premises that serve as informal places of worship."

Comment: Please join me in praying for the persecuted church in Indonesia. 

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Wars and Rumors of War

Khalid Masood named as suspect in British Parliament attack - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Police on Thursday named the man they say carried out Britain's bloodiest attack in over a decade -- and in the process, killed four people and wounded nearly 30 others outside Westminster Palace in central London. Metropolitan Police identified the suspect as Khalid Masood, a British-born citizen who officials said lived in the West Midlands region of central Britain. [...] Wednesday's was the deadliest attack in Britain since the July 7, 2005, terrorist bombings in central London that killed 52 people and injured nearly 800."

Police in Antwerp, Belgium arrest attacker who drove into crowd - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Police in Antwerp arrested a French national from northern Africa for allegedly trying to run down shoppers on a busy thoroughfare Thursday morning. Police identified the suspect only as 'Mohamed R,' a 39-year-old living in France. Witnesses said he drove a small red car into a crowd on De Meir, the northern city's largest shopping street. Pedestrians were able to avoid being hit and police responding to the scene were able to stop the vehicle and arrest the driver, officials said. [...] The incident in Belgium came a day after the one-year anniversary of the bombings in Brussels that killed 32 people."

Comment: These are challenging times for the security services. Let's hope they develop some good strategies for dealing with lone-wolf attacks.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wars and Rumors of War

London police treating Parliament attack as 'terrorist incident' - UPI.com
UPI reports: "What's being labeled a 'terrorist attack' rattled central London Wednesday, left four victims dead and preceded a hasty evacuation of Prime Minister Theresa May nearby at the central nerve center of Britain's legislative government."

Comment:  Praying for London and the people of the UK as they face this challenge.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mark of the Beast

IBM, Visa Want Smart Devices, IoT Gadgets to Replace Themselves | Digital Trends
Digital Trends reports: "As technology grows, so do the options for making purchases. Already millions of people are able to buy things using PayPal or Apple Pay, but IBM and Visa want to expand that even further. Together, they want all connected devices to act as mobile payment systems. By collaborating with Visa, IBM will use its own Watson Internet of Things (IoT) platform to allow businesses to quickly add secure payment options to any device connected to the internet. These days, that means anything from a car, to a ring, or even a shoe."

Comment: That sounds great, but I would be concerned about privacy and security. They will really need to reassure consumers that these payment systems are safe before mass adoption.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Rumors of War - King of the North

Russia enlarges military footprint in Libya - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Russia, 19 months after becoming a key player in the Syrian war, is increasing its military presence in Libya and is likely to back Libyan Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in the tumultuous civil conflict. Haftar, a fiery commander in eastern Libya, has declared war against radical Islamists, including the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but is controversial for perceived iron-fist tactics."

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Global Government

G20 leaders fail to reach agreements on free trade - UPI.com
UPI reports: "G20 financial leaders failed to reach an agreements on free trade during its annual meeting on Saturday. The meeting of 20 finance ministers from the world's largest economies ended after two days with no agreement supporting the group's decade-old tradition of promoting free trade and rejecting protectionism. [...] In their final statement the G20 leaders did agree to include pledges to fight tax avoidance, clamp down on terrorist financing and strengthen private investment in Africa."

Comment: It's worth remembering that this gathering is little more than a conference, a forum for issuing joint statements and pledges of action. It's not a governing body and announcements are not laws or treaties.  It's mostly designed to forge consensus on major issues so that problems can be avoided or minimized. Those looking for global government here will no doubt be disappointed. 

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Rumors of War

China: THAAD deployment violates national security - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China is remaining firmly opposed to the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea, a day after Seoul confirmed THAAD's powerful X-Band radar arrived on the peninsula. [...] China has repeatedly voiced opposition to the THAAD radar, claiming the system could monitor military movements within Chinese borders, even as the United States tried to reassure Beijing THAAD would be used to deter North Korea missiles."

Rex Tillerson: U.S. not ruling out military action on North Korea - UPI.com
UPI reports: "U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday he is not ruling out military action against North Korea if a threat warrants it. Tillerson, who had described past U.S. North Korea policy as a 'failure,' told reporters in Seoul on Friday the Trump administration would not pursue President Barack Obama's principle of  'strategic patience' in the face of nuclear threats, South Korean news service Newsis reported."

Japan conducts evacuation drill for North Korea missiles - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Japan conducted an unprecedented evacuation drill to prepare for North Korea provocations. Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported the drill was carried out Friday in Oga City, Akita Prefecture, and involved the mobilization of local residents to safe shelters. [...] Tokyo is seriously concerned about North Korea's provocations, which have included dozens of ballistic missile tests and two nuclear tests in 2016. Japan has not been able to intercept projectiles that have fallen in its maritime exclusive economic zone."

Comment: Please join me in praying for the U.S. diplomatic mission to Asia that could do much to secure the peace or set the region on the path toward war.

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Kings of the East

China, Saudi Arabia stress ties, sign $65 billion in deals - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China and Saudi Arabia signed more than a dozen agreements on economic cooperation worth $65 billion, according to Beijing's foreign ministry. [...] The meeting between the king and Xi comes at a time when China has reportedly been asked to play a bigger role in the Middle East, according to the South China Morning Post. While the two sides do not necessarily agree on a strategy to resolve the Syria conflict, Chinese diplomats who spoke to the Hong Kong-based newspaper said China is growing confident about its influential role in a multipolar world. Energy cooperation, which has been the foundation of China-Saudi Arabia relations, is at the center of Saudi Arabia's concerns, according to the report. Saudi Arabia is the top exporter of crude oil while China is the world's biggest importer."

Comment: It's been a BP puzzle for generations. Why would John's Kings of the East (Rev 16:12) march into the Middle East?  It's only in the modern era that the practical and material motive has been revealed and it's about energy. It's all about the oil. Now if we could only get that Silk Road development project going and upgrade those old roads!

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Persecution

China arrests Christian missionaries for North Korea activities - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Chinese authorities have detained two South Korean Christian pastors who were assisting North Korean refugees. [...] The two pastors have been transferred to the Chinese city of Benxi in Liaoning Province, where they are to await a final decision while in custody. In February, Chinese authorities arrested four Christian missionaries near the North Korea border."

Comment: I'm not sure we can really call this religious persecution. The pastors were not arrested for preaching, they were arrested for their involvement with North Koreans.  Even so, it will bring unwanted attention to their local congregations and place many Christians in danger. Please join me in praying for the safety of the church in China.

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Rumors of War - Kings of the East

China building large port in disputed South China Sea islands - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China may be building a large port in the disputed Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency. The new construction could be taking place as China continues to militarize other areas of the South China Sea, including the disputed Spratly Islands, where Beijing has built military runways and possibly missile shelters. China confirmed in 2016 it stationed troops on the Paracels, a group of islands also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam."

Comment: So, according to this report, the Paracel Islands are claimed by Taiwan? I think the writer does us a disservice by not reminding us that China considers Taiwan a province of China, so the idea that they belong to Taiwan is a bit absurd, from the Chinese perspective.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

China warns United States after Gray Eagle drone deployment - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China issued a message of warning to the United States after the U.S. military recently deployed its new Gray Eagle attack drone in South Korea. [...] The MQ-1C Gray Eagle is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aircraft system that can fly at a maximum speed of 170 mph for 30 hours without stopping. The aircraft is capable of continuous 24-hour flight and surveillance of the entire Korean peninsula."

Taiwan says Chinese military threat grows, U.S. regional strategy unclear | Reuters
Reuters reports: "China's accelerated military development and recent activity by its military aircraft and ships around Taiwan pose an increased threat to the self-ruled island, according to a Taiwanese government defense report draft reviewed by Reuters. The 2017 Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR) also highlights the uncertainty over the future strategic direction of the United States in the region, the impact of Japan flexing its military capabilities and "conflict crisis" potential in the disputed South China Sea."

Exclusive: Japan plans to send largest warship to South China Sea, sources say | Reuters Reuters reports: "Japan plans to dispatch its largest warship on a three-month tour through the South China Sea beginning in May, three sources said, in its biggest show of naval force in the region since World War Two. China claims almost all the disputed waters and its growing military presence has fueled concern in Japan and the West, with the United States holding regular air and naval patrols to ensure freedom of navigation."

Comment: The potential for armed conflict in Asia is increasing on an almost daily basis. The great danger is that these discreet problems (North Korea missile tests, China's claims to the South China Sea, Taiwan independence) could all easily merge onto one conflagration involving all the major powers in Asia.  

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Monday, March 13, 2017

War - Doomed Damascus

Turkey threatens as U.S. deploys troops in Syria - UPI.com
UPI reports: "As the Syrian war edges toward its seventh year on Wednesday, several hundred elite U.S. Army Rangers and Marines with heavy artillery have deployed in northern Syria in a modest but significant military escalation by U.S. President Donald Trump in the campaign against the Islamic State [...] the U.S. action height­ened tensions with Turkey, a NATO partner and nominal ally, and sharply exposed the increasingly complex geopolitical rivalries that have emerged in northern Syria. They come amid final preparations for the battle for Raqqa, de facto capital of the caliphate proclaimed by the Islamic State and the group's last urban stronghold in Syria."

Comment: I'm not sure what to think of this besides noting that the U.S. public has not been prepared for American casualties in Syria. 

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Covenant With Many

Trump invites Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to White House - UPI.com
UPI reports: "For the first time since taking office, President Donald Trump spoke with the leader of the Palestinian Authority, inviting him to a White House meeting and reaffirming U.S. commitment to the peace process. [...] In his first meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump upended 20 years of U.S. diplomacy by saying he was willing to settle for a peace agreement that did not end in the creation of an internationally recognized Palestinian state, the so-called 'two-state solution.'"

Comment: It will be interesting to see how a self-described master deal-maker takes on the puzzle of Mideast peace.  Stay tuned.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Famine

MSN - UN says world faces largest humanitarian crisis since 1945
The AP reports: "The world faces the largest humanitarian crisis since the United Nations was founded in 1945 with more than 20 million people in four countries facing starvation and famine, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Friday. [...] U.N. and food organizations define famine as when more than 30 percent of children under age 5 suffer from acute malnutrition and mortality rates are two or more deaths per 10,000 people every day, among other criteria."

Comment: The real issue here is war, this is a man-made famine, hopefully they can find a way to address that root cause. 

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Thursday, March 09, 2017

Pestilence

Yellow fever outbreak in Brazil worries U.S. officials - The Washington Post
The Washington Post reports: "Top infectious disease experts are warning about a rapidly spreading outbreak of deadly yellow fever in Brazil that could hit parts of the United States. The danger would be most acute if the virus starts spreading by the same mosquito that transmits Zika. [...] It’s taking place primarily in jungle areas, where forest-dwelling mosquitoes are spreading the virus mainly to monkeys. But an increasing number of people also have been infected, making it Brazil's worst yellow fever outbreak among humans in decades. There have been at least 326 confirmed cases, including 220 deaths, with hundreds of additional cases under investigation, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)."

Comment: It's encouraging to know that the procedures and processes they put into place to help with the Zika outbreak can also be used to combat the spread of yellow fever. 

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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Wars & Rumors of War

At least 30 die in attack on Kabul military hospital - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Gunmen dressed as doctors and a suicide bomber attacked a military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, killing at least 30 people, military officials said. [...] Four attackers with guns and grenades entered the hospital after the explosion at the hospital gate and then opened fire on staff and patients. Troops arriving by helicopter on the hospital's roof killed the attackers after several hours of fighting [...] The Islamic State announced it was responsible for the attack and the Afghan Taliban immediately denied involvement."

Comment: A tragic reminder that much of Afghanistan is still very much a war zone.  

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Rumors of War - Persia

Iran test-fires missiles, harasses U.S., British ships in Strait of Hormuz - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The U.S. Navy surveillance ship Invincible was harassed by Iranian naval vessels in two incidents last week in the Strait of Hormuz, U.s. officials said Monday. The incidents came as Iran test-fired ballistic missiles nearby."

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Monday, March 06, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

North Korea likely preparing to strike U.S. military bases in Japan - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The four missiles North Korea launched on Monday were likely practice for targeting U.S. military bases in Japan. According to South Korea's joint chiefs of staff, three of the four missiles landed in Japanese territorial waters, making it likely North Korea is rehearsing attacks against U.S. military stations in Japan, from where reinforcements for the Korean peninsula would arrive in the event of war. Seoul said all four projectiles were most likely midrange ballistic missiles that are not capable of reaching the continental United States, South Korean newspaper Kukmin Ilbo reported Monday."

Comment: The North Korean problem is really difficult. There are almost no good answers. The number of casualties in a resumed Korean War would be far more than the public is used to. When one American is killed in Iraq or Afghanistan it's major news. With North Korea, it's likely that thousands of American troops would die in the first few hours of the conflict. It's also a conflict that can't be contained, it would immediately draw in other countries and could quickly escalate to a nuclear war.  This is why taking a "wait and see" approach along with sanctions and diplomacy, is the solution Bush and Obama favored. Will Trump take the same approach? 

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Saturday, March 04, 2017

Wars & Rumors of War

WHO says chemical weapons being used on Mosul civilians - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The World Health Organization said there is evidence of chemical weapons being used against civilians outside Mosul, with a dozen people injured, four severely, in the several days. [...] Since Wednesday, the WHO said 12 people, including women and children, have sought medical treatment for symptoms consistent with chemical weapons that caused burning and blisters. The victims lived in the Mosul suburb of Erbil, the WHO said."

Comment:  This is a good reminder that international prohibitions are only as strong as the will to enforce them.

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Rumors of War - Kings of the East

China to increase 2017 military spending by 7 percent - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China's parliament on Saturday announced the country will increase its military spending by 7 percent in 2017. Ahead of Sunday's annual National People's Congress, parliament announced China's smallest increase to its military spending in seven years and the second consecutive year below 10 percent. [...] Beijing has focused on the country's naval capabilities, building artificial islands on reefs in waters with disputed ownership by other countries in the South China Sea."

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Friday, March 03, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

U.S. carrier puts on show of 'commitment', not power, in South China Sea | Reuters
UPI reports: "The USS Carl Vinson led a carrier strike group on Friday in waters some 400 nautical miles east of China's Hainan Island and northeast of the Paracels, the island chain occupied by Beijing since it seized control from Vietnam in the 1970s. China claims most of the South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims. [...] Tension between the United States and China over trade and territory under U.S. President Donald Trump has been stepped up of late, with fear in the region that the South China Sea, vital to global trade, could become a battleground between the two rival powers."

Comment: I'm not sure anyone really knows what Trump's policies are. Perhaps that is a good thing. As long as China is guessing and confused about Trump's willingness to defend our Asian allies, they may think twice before taking any further actions to control the international waters of the South China Sea. 

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Thursday, March 02, 2017

War

U.S. bombs al-Qaida targets in Yemen - UPI.com:
UPI reports: "Citing multiple unnamed U.S. and Yemeni military sources, The New York Times reported the bombing raids targeted al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in three provinces: Abyan, Shabwa and Baydha. The raid in Shabwa destroyed a house known in the area as one where al-Qaida militants lived. It is believed three people affiliated with the terrorist group were killed. The bombings also targeted infrastructure used by suspected al-Qaida militants, officials said."

Comment: I hope the new Trump government will do a better job of letting the U.S. public know why expanding the war into Yemen is important. I think the public understands fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and maybe Syria, but I don't think Yemen is on the public radar at all. 

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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

False Prophets

Sect rules include no TV, movies or reading newspapers - AP
AP reports: "Newcomers to the Word of Faith Fellowship live by a list of strict rules for daily life, which sect leader Jane Whaley says God revealed to her, former members say."

Comment: This is almost a text-book example of a cult, combining many of the classic characteristics: a charismatic leader who controls followers; extreme regimentation; lack of personal freedom; and restricting outside influences. 

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