Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wars & Rumors of War

13 killed in Barcelona terror attack as van plows into crowd - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Police said a van struck and killed at least 13 people and injured about 80 others, 12 seriously, Thursday in Barcelona's Las Ramblas tourist district in an act of terror. The vehicle, a white van, hit a crowd of pedestrians in the city's Catalunya Square, which is a tourist draw. Witnesses said it jumped the curb and crashed into numerous people. The driver fled on foot, police said. [...] A social media account affiliated with the Islamic State said the attackers were their 'soldiers,' though they offered no proof of the attackers' affiliations or their identities."

Comment: Barcelona has joined the growing list of European cities hit by Islamic State terrorists. I'm sure the security forces will be able to establish conclusively in the coming days if this was indeed the work of IS terrorists. There are other possibilities to consider, it could be Basque separatists, for example, although I'd been under the impression that particular conflict had settled down.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

War

Iraqi jets bomb Islamic State stronghold ahead of ground assault - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Iraqi warplanes bombed Tal Afar -- the Islamic State's last stronghold in northern Iraq -- in preparation for a ground assault, defense officials said. The bombardment has intensified in the past several days, targeting IS headquarters, tunnels and armories. Last month, a senior Iraqi commander and former Tal Afar mayor said that between 1,500 and 2,000 militants and their families remain in the city."

Comment: Meanwhile, in Iraq, the battle against the Islamic Statue continues. Way to go Iran...I mean Iraq (oblique reference to how Iran is secretly taking over Iraq).

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Persecution

Report: North Korea continues to punish religious practice - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The North Korean government continued to punish those engaging in religious practices last year, with executions, torture and other abuse, the U.S. State Department said in an annual report Tuesday."

Comment: Please join me in praying for persecuted Christians in North Korea. 

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Pestilence

Fleas test positive for plague in two Arizona counties - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Health officials are reporting that fleas in Navajo and Coconino counties in Arizona have tested positive for the plague, and are urging residents to take precaution. The plague is known for killing millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages, but outbreaks of the plague occasionally happen in the southwestern United States during cooler summers following wet winters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts now say fleas in the counties have tested positive for the disease and are advising residents to take extra care of their pets and be careful around animals because the disease can easily be transmitted to humans."

Comment: That certainly adds extra urgency to getting the right flea collar for your pets. I was thinking this might be a case of old diseases coming back but a little research shows that it never really went away and for the most part is treatable.  Caution is in order if you live in this part of the country, but no need to panic.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

Trump speaks with China's Xi Jinping, other leaders on North Korea threats - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The leaders of the United States and China once again called on North Korea on Saturday to stop its provocative actions, which recently have sparked high tensions on the Korean Peninsula, while vowing to cooperate on a peaceful resolution to the North's nuclear issue. After the phone conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, the White House said in a statement that the leaders agreed that 'North Korea must stop its provocative and escalatory behavior.'[...] Xi called for a peaceful resolution of North Korea's nuclear ambitions and stressed that peace on the Korean Peninsula is the common interest of China and the U.S."

Comment: Lately I've been considering a possible alternative strategy but it's a rather long game. What would happen if we let Kim have everything he wants? Accept North Korea as a formal nuclear power, have a big ceremony with other international leaders, establish full diplomatic and trade relations and sign a peace treaty ending the Korean War.  Let a new day dawn in North Korea and let them bask in their great victory. Life goes on. The idea is simply that societies that have been cut off from the world and held under extreme oppression tend to lose their bearings when material conditions change for the better. When generations change, expectations change and demands for participation grow. If we let Kim have everything he wants his family will most likely fall from power within one generation. There would probably be an internal power struggle but an all out nuclear war between the U.S. and North Korea would be avoided. I think this strategy has merit and carries the lowest risk of all the near-term strategies that are currently under consideration.

Critics will call this appeasement but it's really hard-headed realism, an understanding that sometimes you can shower your enemy with carrots rather than sticks...if the carrots are poisoned. Prosperity will have the counter-intuitive effect of undermining the legitimacy of the Kim family dynasty when a new generation comes of age and wants more freedom that they are allowed. A peaceful transition is possible in the North but only if we are willing to give this strategy the time it needs to come to fruition.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Rumors of War - Fear for the Future

Bomb shelter sales boosted by North Korea threat - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Businesses across the United States -- and Japan -- are reporting an increase in sales of bomb shelters and other survival items as rhetoric over nuclear weapons ramps up. [...] The bump in U.S. sales this week, though, appears to be coinciding with increased threats between North Korea's military and U.S. President Donald Trump. [...] While some bomb shelters are small -- little larger than panic rooms that can fit in a garage and sell for $10,000 -- others can cost millions and offer luxurious living for years."

Donald Trump: Military 'locked and loaded' for North Korea - UPI.com:
UPI  reports: "President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that U.S. armed forces are 'locked and loaded' in case the North Korean government takes aggressive action -- escalating hostile rhetoric with the regime of Kim Jong Un. 'Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,' Trump stated. 'Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!' Later Friday afternoon, Trump retweeted a post by U.S. Pacific Command that said B-1 bombers on Guam 'stand ready' if called upon."

Comment: Maybe it's time for the government to dust off those old civil defense plans and maybe acquaint the public with what to do in case of an emergency. We all need to be prepared, right, not just Ventura County. Duck and cover!

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Persecution

AFP - Rosary in hand, Christians flee Syria's IS-held Raqa
AFP reports: "Thousands of Armenians and Syriac Christians once lived in Raqa, making up around one percent of the city's population, which is predominantly Sunni Arab. Armenians in Syria are the descendants of those who fled mass killings in Anatolia at the peak of World War I, massacres the Armenians see as a genocide, though Turkey rejects the term. When IS seized Raqa in 2014, most of the city's Christians, as well as its Kurdish population, fled.   Under IS rule, Christians face the choice of converting to Islam, paying a sectarian tax called jizya, or fleeing under threat of death."

Comment: Please join me in praying for these Christians as they flee the fighting in Syria.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Rumors of War - War

North Korea expects to have Guam action plan by mid-August - UPI.com
UPI reports: "U.S. President Donald Trump's promise to unleash 'fire and fury' in response to North Korea threats is a 'load of nonsense,' Pyongyang's military said early Thursday, adding that it expects to have a military plan of action against Guam within days. [...] The statement, published by state-run Korean Central News Agency says North Korea is 'about to take' military action near the U.S. territory of Guam and a plan to do so would be finalized by mid-August."

Comment: This is getting a bit surreal. I suppose would get say that bluster begets bluster. The danger of miscalculation is very high.

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Earthquakes

Powerful earthquake rocks central China, kills at least 19 - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The U.S. Geological Survey said a strong 6.5-magnitude earthquake rocked central China's mountainous Jiuzhaigou area in the Sichuan Province late Tuesday, killing more than a dozen people. At least 19 people were killed and many others were injured during and after the quake, officials said. The epicenter was located 110 miles north-northwest of the city of Jiangyou at a depth of about 5.5 miles, the USGS said in its reviewed analysis."

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Rumors of War - War

AP - Trump warns NKorea of 'fire and fury' as nuke threat worsen
AP reports: "President Donald Trump threatened North Korea 'with fire and fury like the world has never seen' on Tuesday after suggestions the communist country has mastered one of the final hurdles to being able to strike the United States with a nuclear missile. North Korea said it was examining its operational plans for attacking Guam — a U.S. territory about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers) away — in order to contain U.S. military activity there. [...] The Trump administration considers North Korea to be America’s greatest national security threat and tensions have steadily escalated this year. [...] For North Korea, having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike America would be the ultimate guarantee against invasion by its superpower adversary."

Comment: I hope that Trump's threats and bravado combined with the new sanctions and moves by allies will be enough to get North Korea back to the "six-party talks" and on the road to some kind of nuclear agreement.  The idea that the Korean War could resume seems farfetched but that possibility seems more and more likely with each passing day.

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Monday, August 07, 2017

Covenant With Many

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Jordanian King Abdullah II meet in Ramallah - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II, after a meeting Monday in Ramallah, called for U.S. President Donald Trump to endorse a two-state solution. [...] After a February meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said he 'can live with either' a one-state or two-state solution as long as both parties are happy. The U.S. president also asked Israel to 'hold back on settlements' until a peace deal with the Palestinians could be struck."

Comment: Do you remember in history when the great Palestinian King Whatsit united the warring tribes and founded the Palestinian country? His bravery in battle has been celebrated for thousands of years in Palestinian art and culture. Actually, you may  not remember that because it never happened.  It's so strange, all of these decades of conflict over a people and a country that never existed. All because Israel's Arab neighbors decided that they would not repatriate their fellow Arabs after they forcefully rejected the UN mandated creation of TWO states and decided to leave them as pawns to use against Israel. If they rejected the UN plan by force of arms, why do they think it's still on the table? Yet the international community continues to believe that if only Israel would give up more land (and not Jordan, Egypt or Lebanon) to these nice peace-loving Palestinians then all will be well. The Palestinians rule in Gaza right now, is all well in Gaza? Yet more land is the solution. On the other hand, if they do give the Palestinians a state and they continue to fire missiles at Israel (as they do from Gaza) then having defined borders will make it all the easier for Israel to retaliate. Either way, I think the Psalm 83 War is near.

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Persecution

AFP - At least 11 killed in 'barbaric' Nigeria church shooting
AFP reports: "At least 11 worshippers were shot dead at a church in southeast Nigeria on Sunday, with authorities suggesting the bloodshed was due to a local feud. [...] At around 6:00 am (0500 GMT) at least one gunman opened fire at Saint Philip's church in Ozubulu, near the city of Onitsha, unleashing terror on the congregation.[...] Attacks on churches are rare in southern Nigeria, where there is a predominantly Christian population. The country's mainly-Muslim north has been gripped by a violent campaign by Boko Haram jihadists, who specialise in targeting religious centres. [...] Hundreds of churches and mosques in Nigeria's north have been attacked since 2009 when Boko Haram began a violent campaign to impose strict Islamic law."

Comment: Please join me in praying for the families and friends of the victims, that they may be comforted in their grief and for the persecuted church in Nigeria.

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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Rumors of War - Kings of the East

U.N. Security Council passes tough new sanctions on North Korea - UPI.com
UPI reports: "The United Nations Security Council voted Saturday to enact tough new sanctions on North Korea over its continued pursuit of long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. The U.S. delegation succeeded in negotiating the package with China and Russia, the two permanent members of the Security Council most hesitant to impose tougher measures against the Kim regime. A no-vote by either country would have prevented the sanctions from being imposed. In the end, all 15 member-nations of the Security Council voted in favor of the U.S.-authored resolution."

Comment: Breaking news, the Security Council has imposed sanctions on North Korea! Is this the first time they've done this? No. The second time? No. The third? No. Not even close. So why do they think these sanctions will be any more "tough" than previous sanctions? It will be interesting to see how North Korea reacts. I'm guessing another missile test may happen soon.

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Thursday, August 03, 2017

Wickedness Increases

Michelle Carter woman gets 15 months prison for encouraging boyfriend's suicide - UPI.com
UPI reports: "A judge on Thursday handed down a 15-month prison sentence to a Massachusetts woman convicted of involuntary manslaughter for sending a barrage of text messages that led to her boyfriend's suicide. [...] Carter was 17 when she sent Roy a barrage of text messages and phone calls encouraging him to follow through on threats he had made to kill himself. [...] Investigators uncovered dozens of text messages and phone calls from Carter encouraging Roy to follow through on the action, including telling him to get back in the truck when he had second thoughts."

Comment: She demonstrated depraved indifference to the value of human life. Instead of  seeking help she used her words as weapons. Some are saying 15 months is too lenient but I think it reflects wisdom on the part of the judge. Her boyfriend ultimately killed himself, he is responsible for that act...but not solely responsible. Wickedness increases and love grows cold...so very cold. I think it's a safe bet she will have contact with the criminal justice system again in the future before facing the ultimate Judge.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Rumors of War - King of the North

Donald Trump signs bill toughening sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea - UPI.com UPI reports: "President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law a bill to strengthen sanctions against Russia, North Korea and Iran, a White House signing statement shows. The signing statement indicates Trump expressed reservations about the bill's impact, saying it encroaches on presidential authority and may harm the United States' ability to work with allies on how to deal with Russia."

Comment: While we are far from Cold War-era levels of tension with Russia, it's clear that U.S. - Russian relations are only going in one direction. This raises the prospect that we are only one unfortunate incident away from going back into full Cold War. 

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Pestilence

Yemen struggling under weight of cholera epidemic - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Two groups warned this week about the ongoing cholera epidemic in Yemen, reinvigorating calls for international humanitarian aid. The groups said Yemen is battling a slew of other problems that, coupled with the cholera crisis, are taking their toll on the country's vulnerable citizens. The United Nations, in a post Tuesday, said there have been at least 400,000 cholera cases in the country reported in the past few months. The cases have led to nearly 2,000 deaths. [...] The United Nations said the country's continued war, lack of proper sanitation systems, economic struggles and prevalent rates of poverty are worsening the cholera crisis' effects."

Comment: What a mess. I hope the Saudi coalition will quickly wrap up this civil war and restore order, that's really the only hope to contain the outbreak. On the other hand, are they helping to spread the epidemic?

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Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Pestilence

Zika probably not spread through saliva: study - UPI.com
UPI reports: "Scientists have some interesting news about Zika: You're unlikely to get the virus from kissing or sharing utensils with someone. A new study with monkeys suggests that Zika doesn't appear to be transmitted through saliva. [...] Mosquitoes are the main cause of Zika infection in people. After infection, the virus remains in blood and saliva for a few weeks. And it remains in bodily fluids like breast milk for weeks and semen for months, the researchers said. [...] Most people only suffer mild symptoms when infected with Zika, but the virus has been linked to catastrophic birth defects in babies whose mothers were infected during pregnancy."

Comment: This is indeed good news. Thanks and regards to the monkeys who helped in this study.

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