Monday, July 24, 2017

Mark of the Beast

Wisconsin company hopes to offer microchip implants to employees - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A Wisconsin company wants to offer surgically implanted microchips for employees to make it easier to buy snacks in the break room. [...] the implanted microchip makes it easier for people to pay for items at work. Instead of looking for coins, cash or a credit card, they would only need to place their hand in front of a scanner and electronically pay for their item. The microchip would have other uses, as well, like serving as an electronic key to open doors and identify the user to login at a computer. [...] Approximately 50 Three Square Market employees have volunteered to have the microchip inserted. Westby said it is not mandatory."

Comment: This seems like a clever way to entice people with the novelty of it while desensitizing them to the extreme privacy threat posed by implanted chip tech. I love that line where the CEO says it's not mandatory and he left off the "yet" part, lol. I would like to think that Americans still retain enough of the independent spirit to ever go along with this kind of monitoring and control.

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Temple Mount

AP - The Latest: Israel to remove metal detectors from holy site
The AP reports: "Israel’s security cabinet has decided to remove metal detectors set up at the entrance to a Jerusalem holy site which had angered Muslims. It announced early Tuesday that “sophisticated technology” will be used instead of the devices. It did not elaborate on when the metal detectors would be removed or what would replace them. Israeli media earlier reported high resolution cameras capable of detecting hidden objects would be the alternative. It said Israel would boost forces in the area until the plan is implemented. Earlier Associated Press footage showed heavy machinery and workers heading to the entrance of the site. Israel erected the metal detectors after Arab gunmen killed two policemen from inside the shrine, holy to Muslims and Jews, earlier this month. The move incensed the Muslim world and triggered violence."

Israel to remove metal detectors at Al-Aqsa Mosque - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Israeli will remove metal detectors from a holy site in Jerusalem after days of protest from Muslims who were angered by the Israeli military-protected barriers, the government announced. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet said it agreed to accept the 'the recommendation of all the security bodies to change the inspection with metal detectors to a security inspection based on advanced technologies and other means' at the Al-Aqsa compound, which has been a hot-point of controversy and violence for several days. [...] The metal detectors were installed after three men shot two Jewish Israeli policemen on July 14 near the Lion's Gate."

Comment: It remains to be seen if this is a cave / compromise on Netanyahu's part or if the cameras are a valid replacement that will provide the security they need to prevent future attacks staged from within the compound. It also remains to be seen if this move will de-escalate the tensions that have risen all over the Arab world including in Jordan and Turkey. Stay tuned!

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Temple Mount

Yahoo News - Deadly stabbing, clashes as tensions rise over Jerusalem holy site
Yahoo News reports: "Three Israelis were stabbed to death and clashes left three Palestinians killed Friday as tensions rose over new security measures at a highly sensitive Jerusalem holy site where police restricted access for Muslim prayers. As Israeli and Palestinian leaders faced pressure to respond, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas announced late Friday he was freezing contacts with Israel over the holy site dispute. The unrest came after Israeli ministers decided not to order the removal of metal detectors erected at entrances to the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, following an attack nearby a week ago that killed two policemen."

Comment: So, after the attack last week Israel installed metal detectors. This makes sense right, most sensitive sites in the developed world now have security. Do you think that the local Arab population will take this in stride? No, they are rioting. Even though it was Palestinians who caused this problem and a security setup is sensible, they are reacting as if it is Israel that is causing the problem. Typical. But here is the bottom line for us, the Temple Mount is once again becoming a flashpoint and possible source of conflict that can draw in many countries into war with Israel (not because the leaders want to, but because their people want it) and it once again firmly links the Temple Mount (and possible future Temple) as an item that must be addressed in the Mideast peace talks (Covenant with Many).

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Wickedness Increases

Florida teens laugh and record man as he drowns, police say - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A group of Florida teens saw a man drowning in a pond and laughed at him as they recorded his death instead of trying to help, police said. The video shows the drowning death of Jamel Dunn, 31, of Cocoa, Fla. [...] According to Florida Today, the teens did not report the drowning to authorities. Instead, Dunn's fiancee filed a missing person's report when Dunn didn't come home and then found the video of him drowning on social media. Authorities went to the pond depicted in the video and found Dunn's badly decomposed body three days after his death."

Comment: How cold and heartless do people have to be to do that kind of thing, to show such disregard for another human being? Love grows cold indeed.

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Earthquake

6.7-magnitude earthquake kills 2, injures more than 100 in Greece and Turkey - UPI.com UPI reports: "A 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit popular tourist areas near several Greek islands and Turkey's Aegean coast, killing at least two people and injuring more than 100 others, according to reports. The U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake had a depth of at least 10 km."

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

War

U.S. report: Islamic State the biggest terror threat in 2016 - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Terrorism attacks are on the decline globally for the second year in a row, the State Department said in a report issued Wednesday. Terror attacks were down 9 percent in 2016 compared to the year before and deaths caused by terror attacks were down 13 percent, the report said. [...] Attacks happened in 104 countries in 2016, 55 percent of which happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and the Philippines. Seventy-five percent of terror attack deaths happened in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria and Pakistan. The Islamic State was the top terror threat in 2016, the State Department said, while al-Qaida also remained a threat."

Comment: Some interesting stats on the global war on terrorism in 2016. I think the Islamic State death-spiral will probably continue to  motivate lone wolf attacks in Europe and elsewhere and will likely mean that 2017 will surpass 2016 in the number of terror attacks.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Covenant With Many

China's Xi pledges support to Palestine, two-state solution - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China supports a two-state solution in the Middle East and full sovereignty for Palestine, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced Tuesday. His remarks came as he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Beijing. Abbas is on a four-day trip to China. China recognizes Palestine as a sovereign state, calling for Palestinian independence, with recognition of borders mandated in 1967 and a capital in East Jerusalem. The two leaders signed economic, technical, cultural and capacity-building cooperation agreements."

Comment: What is the leader of China doing getting mixed up in Middle East affairs, you ask? Over the last few years China has a emerged as a major trade partner for several Mideast countries, including Israel, with important trade relationships focused primarily on energy. China has also been building a modern version of the ancient "Silk Road" that will promote trade and development across the region. China, as unlikely as it seems, is on the way to becoming one of the important players in Mideast affairs. 

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Monday, July 17, 2017

War

U.N.: Civilian deaths hit record high in Afghanistan - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Civilian deaths in Afghanistan reached a record high during the first six months this year, the United Nations said Monday. Between Jan. 1 and June 30, there 1,662 civilians killed -- a 2 percent increase above the previous record over the same time last year, according to the U.N. mid-year report. Also, 3,581 people were injured this year, a 1 percent decline from 2016."

Comment: If you have been wondering how the war in Afghanistan has been going, this report has some stats for you.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Temple Mount

Two police officers, three suspects killed in shooting at Jerusalem holy site - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Two police officers were shot and killed Friday as they patrolled the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities said. Three suspects, who allegedly opened fire at the officers, were themselves shot dead by police. [...] The entire 37-acre complex, visited by religious adherents and tourists, was closed Friday after the shootings."

Comment: After comments from Palestinian leaders denying a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount (the site of two past Jewish temples), is it any wonder that followers of a notorious religion would kill Jewish police officers on the sacred site? The amazing thing for us to note is how the Temple Mount remains a flash point, frozen in time between a dramatic past and an appointed future.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Persecution

AP - Fearing attacks, Egypt's churches suspend pilgrimages, trips
AP reports: "Egyptian churches on Thursday suspended pilgrimages, holidays and conferences for the remainder of July and August after authorities warned them about possible attacks by Islamic militants. [...] The militants have forced scores of Christian families to flee their homes in northern Sinai after killing several of them and have since December killed more than 100 people in four separate attacks targeting members of the ancient community. El-Sissi declared a nationwide state of emergency in April after suicide bombers targeted two churches north of Cairo. In May, militants killed about 30 Christians traveling on a back road as they approached a remote desert monastery south of Cairo."

Comment: These are dangerous times for Christians in Egypt. Please join me in praying for their safety and perseverance in faith.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mark of the Beast

AP - Face scans for US citizens flying abroad stir privacy issues
The AP reports: "If the Trump administration gets its way, U.S. citizens boarding international flights will have to submit to a face scan, a plan privacy advocates call a step toward a surveillance state. The Department of Homeland Security says it’s the only way to successfully expand a program that tracks nonimmigrant foreigners. They have been required by law since 2004 to submit to biometric identity scans — but to date have only had their fingerprints and photos collected prior to entry. Now, DHS says it’s finally ready to implement face scans on departure — aimed mainly at better tracking visa overstays but also at tightening security. But, the agency says, U.S. citizens must also be scanned for the program to work. Privacy advocates say that oversteps Congress’ mandate."

Comment: It's been a while since we had a MOTB update. I'm not sure this really rises to the level of a good update. As you can see from the report, it's very tentative, part of me thinks "ok, let me know if they actually do require face scans" but the reality is that they probably will. Consumers have already demonstrated a willingness to surrender their privacy and their dignity in the name of travel safety, this is simply one more step. I suppose we should not be too alarmed, no doubt the biometric ID database will be well secured from hackers, right?  Finally, the usual caveat, I'm not saying that this or any other biometric tech is the MOTB, this is simply a tech trend worth keeping an eye on. 

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

China sends military personnel to base in Djibouti - UPI.com
UPI reports: "China is expanding its presence in East Africa with the addition of military personnel at its base in Djibouti. Beijing's state-owned news agency Xinhua reported Tuesday ships carrying Chinese troops left from a port in southern China. [...] The report also said the troops are to assist with 'escorting, peacekeeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and West Asia,' and the base would serve as a site of future joint exercises. The Chinese base in Djibouti is a significant investment, but Beijing has also built a large $590 million port near Djibouti City in the Gulf of Aden."

Comment: Impressive, I had no idea the new Silk Road would reach that far.  This means troops of the PLA may soon get some real-world experience to bolster their training. 

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Wars & Rumors of War

Iraq officially declares Mosul's liberation from Islamic State - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Mosul has been totally liberated from control by the Islamic State, Iraq's prime minister declared Monday. [...] The battle for Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, has taken almost nine months as thousands of civilians died and more than 920,000 others were displaced. U.S.-led airstrikes helped the coalition take over Mosul."

Comment: This is no doubt an historic victory for Iraq and it's good that the U.S.-led coalition is letting the Iraqi forces take a victory lap as they did the bulk of the fighting and dying. I'm hoping those remaining pockets of resistance can be quickly mopped up and then the battle can be taken to Raqqa in Syria. The Islamic State as a idea and ideology may never completely go away, but it can certainly be denied territory and the liberation of Mosul has demonstrated that to all.

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Pestilence

Yemen cholera outbreak passes 300,000 cases - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The cholera outbreak in Yemen is spiraling out of control with more than 300,000 cases of the disease in the past 10 weeks, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC is reporting roughly 7,000 new cases every day and more than 1,700 deaths linked to the cholera outbreak, according to the United Nations. Cholera is an infection of the small intestine by the Vibrio cholerae bacteria, which is found in seawater and other non-fresh water sources. The disease causes severe diarrhea, which can be deadly because it quickly dehydrates patients and leads to substantial electrolyte imbalance."

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Saturday, July 08, 2017

Rumors of War

United States to conduct test of THAAD missile defense system - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The U.S. Department Department Missile Defense Agency announced plans to conduct a new test of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. Missile Defense Agency spokesman Chris Johnson said an exact date for the THAAD test will not be disclosed, but is expected some time in the coming days. The weapon system, housed at the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska in Kodiak, Alaska, is part of the United States' missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy ballistic missiles during flight."

Comment: I wish them the best of luck with the upcoming test. This is a great time to demonstrate to friends and enemies that the U.S. has the capability to knock out incoming missiles. 

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Friday, July 07, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

Trump, Moon, Abe express support for added pressure on North Korea - UPI.com
UPI reports: "U.S. President Donald Trump and the leaders of Japan and South Korea took a united stand against the Kim Jong Un regime before the G20 summit in Hamburg. Trump, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on Thursday to increase pressure on North Korea, South Korean news service News 1 reported. There may have also been suggestions from Trump that new economic sanctions should target firms doing business with North Korea, according to The Korea Times."

China must take stronger role in solving North Korean problem, scholars say - UPI.com UPI reports: "U.S. scholars Thursday urged China to take decisive action on the growing threat from North Korea after Pyongyang's successful launch this week of an intercontinental ballistic missile. While China is tightening up economic relations with North Korea, Chinese leaders would have to go much further to satisfy U.S. concerns, said Bonnie Glaser, senior advisor for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. [...] A report issued by CSIS at the meeting said that Beijing clearly prefers regime stability to denuclearization of North Korea, and is therefore purposefully opting not to apply maximum pressure by implementing the fullest possible sanctions."

Comment: I'm skeptical that the G20 Summit will lead to any breakthroughs on North Korea but it's nice to see a consensus emerge that China should do more but probably won't. What's next? I expect the U.S. and allies to push for more trade sanctions, which will either anger China or force them to change their approach.  My money is on anger and inaction.

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Roaring Waves

New data shows extreme coastal sea levels more likely - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Researchers at the University of Central Florida are using newly available data and advanced modeling techniques to improve predictions of extreme sea levels. The study, published July 7 in Nature Communications, suggests extreme sea levels will occur more frequently than previously predicted in the west coast regions of the United States and in large portions of Australia and Europe. Extreme sea levels are caused by a combination of high tides, storm surges and waves."

Comment: If you have coastal property, now is a good time to sell. 

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

AP - Pre-emptive US strike on North Korea could be 'catastrophic'
The AP reports: "A pre-emptive military strike may be among the 'pretty severe things' President Donald Trump says he is considering for North Korea, but it’s a step so fraught with risk that it ranks as among the unlikeliest options. Even a so-called surgical strike aimed at the North’s partially hidden nuclear and missile force is unlikely to destroy the arsenal or stop its leader, Kim Jong Un, from swiftly retaliating with long-range artillery that could kill stunning numbers in South Korea within minutes."

Comment: This report does a good job of explaining why the "military option" is not really a viable solution to the problem of North Korea's nuclear program.  This is why North Korea is such a conundrum. There really are no easy answers. A casual observer may believe that Clinton, Bush and Obama did nothing about it. The truth is, they did, they tried every lever of great power persuasion available, including diplomacy, economic sanctions and an unknown number of covert actions. There are very few substantive options remaining except for military power and every informed observer will tell you that the military option will lead to disaster. Please join me in praying for President Trump and his advisors and they consider the way forward, that they will have wisdom, insight and a keen sense of strategy.

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Earthquakes

6.5-magnitude quake kills 2, injures 100 in central Philippines - UPI.com
UPI reports: "At least two people died Thursday after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck the central Philippines, seismologists and authorities said. The quake struck Leyte Island on Thursday morning at a depth of just 4 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake was triggered by movement along the Philippine Fault. Two people were reported dead, along with more than 100 injured."

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

U.S., South Korea conduct ballistic missile drill following provocation - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The United States and South Korea conducted a ballistic missile drill, following the launch of what North Korea has claimed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile on the Fourth of July. The allies launched the South Korea-developed Hyunmoo-2 missile into the East Sea, known as the Sea of Japan, News 1 reported."

Comment: This situation is scary because there are no easy answers and because the U.S. government seems unable to read the terrain. For example, why does Trump keep insisting that China help solve the problem? Does he not understand the strategic role that North Korea plays for China? I sincerely hope that Trump rises to the occasion but my fear is that a man who understands "the art of the deal" in real estate is little prepared to make deals with people who are not buying, who are not even in the same market. I also draw comfort from the fact that Trump has surrounded himself with some very capable and experienced advisors who understand international and military affairs far more than he does and if he can listen to them then perhaps we can hope for good outcomes during his upcoming meetings with world leaders. 

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Wickedness Increases

New York City police officer Miosotis Familia shot, killed - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A New York City police officer died after she was shot in the face by an attacker who was then located and shot to death, police said Wednesday. Miosotis Familia, 48, a 12-year NYPD veteran, was shot as she sat with her partner in a patrol car in the Bronx early Wednesday. NYPD Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill said the suspect fired through the window of the patrol car and then fled. Familia was taken to a hospital, where she died."

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Saturday, July 01, 2017

Famine

Famine must receive more of the world’s attention - CSMonitor.com
The Christian Science Monitor reports: "That famine could ravage millions of people in the 21st century seems unthinkable. But somehow the same world that is agog at driverless cars and looming trips to Mars is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in seven decades. As many as 20 million people face the threat of starvation in South Sudan, northeast Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen, according to the United Nations. When the UN declares a famine, it isn’t saying that a crisis looms on the horizon: It means that very bad things are already happening, that many people have already died."

Comment: How unfortunate that this story is not receiving the press coverage that it should. If only famine victims had Twitter accounts, perhaps then their plight would be more newsworthy. 

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