Prophecy News Watch - November 01, 2011

Keeping You Informed of World Events From A Biblical Perspective 

Prophetic Trends & Headline News

1. Barak vs US: We can't wait until Iran declares it has a nuclear bomb

Major US-Israel differences surfaced suddenly Thursday, Dec. 1, over the timing and circumstances of an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, when Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, said: "I don't know whether Israel would alert the United States ahead of time if it decided to take military action against Iran." Three hours later, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak maintained US policy would enable Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon without the possibility of attacking it.

In an interview, General Dempsey went on to admit a range of differences between the US and Israel on two key issues: The first related to their expectations from the sanctions and the diplomatic moves being taken by the Obama administration, “with the stated intent not to take any options off the table” – language that leaves open the possibility of future military action.

“I am not sure that the Israelis share our outlook” on this matter, said the American general.

The second issue on which the Americans and Israelis are divided is their perspective on the future course of events relating to the Iranian nuclear program and the Middle East: “And … because to them this (a nuclear-armed Iran) is an existential threat I think probably that it’s fair to say that our expectations are different right now,” said Gen. Dempsey.

In an early morning radio interview, Ehud Barak laid Israel's cards on the table with unusual frankness: He said he would be happy if diplomatic moves and sanctions were to stop Iran’s nuclear program and make it possible to give up the military option, but he does not believe that is the case.

“They (the Americans) tell us - What’s the hurry with an attack on Iran? Wait until (Ayatollah) Khamenei announces that Iran is abandoning the NPT (nuclear non-proliferation treaty). The Iranians will break the locks (IAEA inspection seals at Iranian uranium enrichment plants) and then it will be clear to all that they have a nuclear weapon.”

Barak added: “The difference between us and the Americans is this: We say that because the Iranians are busy moving their nuclear program to underground facilities, they can announce this (that they have a nuclear weapon) after it is no longer possible to attack it." He went on to warn that If Israel is pushed into a corner, “it will have to act.”

In other words, Israel is not willing to wait, as the Obama administration proposes, until diplomatic moves and sanctions against Iran have achieved their aim, mostly because Israel is not ready to let Iran complete the transfer of its nuclear facilities to underground facilities and so make them safe from attack.

According to debkafile’s military and intelligence sources, Israel gives Iran no more than six to eight months to complete this transfer, i.e., by June to August, 2012.

Another point made by the Israeli defense minister was that some of Iran's nuclear facilities have already been hidden underground and are therefore impossible to monitor, even by military satellites. He was referring especially, our sources say, to the Fordo bunker site near Qom where, according to intelligence data, Iran is about to start enriching 20-percent grade uranium to 60 percent. This would bring the program to a few weeks away from weapons grade uranium for a bomb or a warhead.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, former IDF military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin estimated that Iran had already accumulated sufficient enriched uranium to build 4 to 5 nuclear bombs.

In his interview Thursday, Defense Minister Barak also answered former Mossad chief Meir Dagan's persistent arguments against an Israeli military strike against Iran on the grounds that it would immediately trigger a regional war: Syria, Hizballah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad would launch attacks on Israel, seriously battering the country and inflicting heavy casualties, in Dagan's view.

Israel, Barak replied, is nowhere near being paralyzed by messages of doom. The degree of damage and number of civilian casualties would not, in his view, be alarmingly high. He repeated his estimate of early November that the casualty figure from a combined Arab missile assault resulting from an attack on Iran would be “a lot less than 500” – especially if people took cover.

The defense minister concluded this comment by saying: I have no idea what may happen tomorrow morning in Syria, or in Egypt.” debkafile’s military sources interpret this as meaning that the danger of a new Middle East regional war is already present - unrelated to a possible Israeli attack on Iran, but rather as a result of the volatility set up by the uprising in Syria and the predicted rise to power in Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi Islamists.

'Iran planning attacks on US forces in Germany'

'Bild' reports German authorities investigating man suspected of spying for Iranians with intent to sabotage US targets. 

Iran is planning to attack US armed forces stationed in Germany in the event of a US attack on the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities, German daily Bild reported on Thursday.

According to the report, German authorities are investigating a German businessman suspected of espionage with intent to sabotage who they believe is in contact with the Iranian Embassy in Berlin.

Bild quoted German Attorney General Harald Range as saying "We have launched an investigation and taken operational measures."

The report came amid diplomatic tensions between Germany and Iran in the aftermath of the storming of the British Embassy compound in Tehran earlier this week.

Germany’s Foreign Ministry summoned Iran’s Ambassador Ali Reza Seikh Attar for a warning because of the violation of diplomatic protocol and international law. According to a statement on the website of the German Foreign Ministry: “Guido Westerwelle condemned sharply the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran on November 29.

“Germany stands on the side of Great Britain and is not prepared to accept these types of attacks. Iran has the obligation to protect international institutions. The Iranian Ambassador in Berlin was summoned because of the attack to the Foreign Ministry.”

Germany has also reduced its diplomatic staff in Tehran after the assault on the embassy.

Americans Dread Seeing Relatives, Being Nice, Shopping During Christmas

Some 35 million Americans dread having to be nice during the holidays. Other things people hate about this seemingly lovable time of the year are crowds, long lines and even seeing friends and relatives, according to a recent poll by Consumer Reports National Research Center.

When asked what they dread about the holiday season, 15 percent of the surveyed said it is indeed the necessity to be nice, putting it within the top 10 of apparently least fun elements of the Christmas season. Given that the survey was conducted on a “nationally representative sample of Americans,” the researchers calculated that some 35 million citizens feel this way.

Twenty-four percent said they dreaded seeing relatives and 16 percent that they did not look forward to attending holiday parties and events.

But the top of the list is occupied by the common holiday nuisance – crowds and long lines. Sixty-eight percent of surveyed Americans said they dread that.

Other pet peeves that made the top 10 were: gaining weight and getting in debt, both at 37 percent; traveling at 25 percent and seasonal music at 23 percent. Nineteen percent of those surveyed dread receiving disappointing gifts.

Holiday shopping also made the list, and at fourth place at that, with 28 percent of participants dreading hitting the stores in order to buy gifts.

"For all the chatter about nostalgia, family fun and gift giving this time of year, many people don't like too much of a good thing," Tod Marks, senior editor at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. "For many folks, the holidays are a lot like the Super Bowl. Even if you're not a football fan you watch the game because it's a big event. With the holidays, you may not like the game, but it's part and parcel of the season. It's just what we all do."

According to another recent poll from Consumer Reports, shoppers will spend 19 hours hunting for the right gifts this holiday season. That is four hours more than last year. However, a third of consumers will be spending less than they did last year, while just 15 percent will be spending more.

A minor fact that was not included in the study but might cause some pain as well is the fact that the bought gifts need to be wrapped. In case some shoppers thought they could skip that time-consuming step, there are scientifically-proven reasons to not do that. A recent study coming from Australia says that how we wrap presents tells a lot about us and there is a big chance we are being judged based on how we package gifts.

In her study, “Unwrapping the relevance of gift wrapping,” author Elizabeth Porublev from Victoria University in Melbourne identified three types of gift-wrappers: passionate wrappers, conventional wrappers and detached wrappers.

“Poor awareness of gift-wrapping norms meant detached wrappers were often judged for falling outside acceptable standards by the other groups - but not as much as non-wrappers, who were socially unacceptable by choice, ” Porublev wrote.

To add to the malaise for Christians who happen to not love Christmas, the holiday falls on a Sunday this year, which caused some to ask how many people would decide to skip the church service on that day, in order to enjoy the secular part of the holiday.

A report done by LifeWay Research last year showed that nearly 70 percent of Americans agree with the statement that “many of the things I enjoy during the Christmas season have nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Christ,” as CP reported.

Another possible annoyance among Americans this Christmas may be going to church. Since Christmas Day falls on a Sunday this year, it appears that in the pews may be the last place some Americans will want to be. However, most pastors are planning for Christmas Day services anyway.

LifeWay's study of 1,000 Protestant pastors shows that 91 percent of those church leaders plan to have services on Christmas Day while 69 percent said they plan to host Christmas Eve services.

2. Israel - God's Timepiece

Friends of Israel, Unite!

Across the U.S. and indeed the world, there are millions who support Israel, a bastion of democracy and freedom in the Middle East, surrounded by nations that are increasingly bent on the Jewish state's destruction. 

Now those supporters, even from thousands of miles away, have a place they can go to not only learn more about Israel, but also take an active role in supporting its people – and maybe even earn free tickets to the Holy Land. 

Embrace Israel, according to its website, is a "fast-growing grassroots community connecting supporters of Israel from all around the globe. In an increasingly hostile and violent world, Embrace Israel provides the platform to enable Israel's supporters to take action to defend and strengthen this island of democracy in the Middle East and all that it stands for." 

The online community includes news and opinion pieces, videos, lists of opportunities to get involved, polls, places for feedback and even a shopping center for made-in-Israel products, the proceeds of which not only bless the local artisans and businesses that create them, but also help support charities doing work on the ground in Israel. 

Founder Danny Turetsky, who grew up in the U.K. and moved to Israel in 2005, summarized Embrace Israel by saying, "This new online community is designed to embrace supporters of the Jewish state and allow them to do a plethora of activities. … Embrace Israel helps people support and connect with Israel in ways never before brought together, targeting the wonderfully diverse background of Israel's supporters from around the globe." 

Joseph Sherman, a Jerusalem resident raised in California, is the editor and content manager for the site. He explains that while the TV news typically portrays Israel as a land of never-ending conflict and strife, Embrace Israel will strive to also reveal reasons to rejoice. 

"The news and opinions we cover are multifaceted," said Sherman. "Yes, the conflict is foremost in nearly every news outlet, but we want to show the holy, human and business environments in Israel so often neglected by the CNNs and Washington Posts. Simply, there is a great deal of good news coming out of Israel that is never reported." 

Embrace Israel launched with a very hot topic, asking the question, "Should corporal punishment be instituted for terrorists?" The site features articles and op-eds on the subject, and those visiting are asked to weigh in themselves through polls, petitions and comment sections on the website and Facebook page. 

And in the shopping section, Israeli-made clothing, jewelry, gifts and even military garb are sold to support charities like these: 

•Efrat, Israel's leading organization saving babies from abortion

•Kav Lachayim, which serves children suffering from cancer, muscular dystrophy, cerebral paralysis and other challenging diseases

•Leket Israel, which feeds Jews, Christians and Muslims in Israel by rescuing food from restaurants and caterers who invite Leket to take excess food. In addition, farmers invite Leket to harvest 13 million pounds of crops left for the poor to fulfill the commandment of Leket in the Bible

•OneFamily, Israel's central organization providing personalized care and support to all victims of terrorism in Israel. OneFamily provides direct financial, material, legal, and emotional assistance to the victims. 
Marketing Director Jacob Wolf, a former Israeli Defense Forces combat medic and father of 6, explains, "You get two good deeds for the price of one purchase. … All products are made in Israel and support industries and towns locally, yet unlike other shopping sites of Israeli products, all proceeds go to a number of phenomenal charitable organizations doing such important things in and for Israeli society." 

"We have picked some of the most meaningful non-profits in Israel doing tremendous things. It will be my responsibility to ensure they meet the strictest of standards so that those supporting them feel they are contributing to the very best organizations serving the citizens of Israel," added Operations Manager Yoel Weil, who moved at the age of 6 with his family from Switzerland to Jerusalem. "Those lovers of Zion who purchase from us can expect the very best service straight to their door in time for Christmas and Chanuka." 

One other innovative part of Embrace Israel will be an Ambassadors' program that will be the community's eyes and ears to congregations and organizations around the globe. 

"We want feedback from local community leaders to give credibility and urgency to our community, whether to generate excitement for the latest campaign in support of Israel or to showcase the latest offerings from quality Israeli manufacturers," declares Wolf. "Those who assist in Embrace Israel's growth of sales will get commissions as in any affiliate program." 

To engage people to take an active role as ambassadors, Embrace Israel will be sending two couples to Israel for free. Of those who sign up to be ambassadors, the first set of tickets will be awarded to those who can drive the most sales and donations to the site, and the second set will be awarded to a couple in a random drawing to take place Feb. 15. 

Turetsky added, "This is the key to creating a network of caring communities globally, not just individuals. Our ambassadors serve a truly important function. Getting these masses of supporters globally taking on active roles is the whole power of Embrace Israel. This is what makes movements and creates goodwill using the tools we have assembled. Now we only need you!"

Israelis Fear Range of Rocket Attacks Advancing

Israel has seen an increase in rocket attacks from Gaza in recent weeks.

Terror groups are using the strip to target southern Israeli cities like Ashkelon and Ashdod.

But a top Israeli military spokesperson told CBN News the range of those rockets now reaches even further.

"In 2000, the range of the average rocket was 4 to 6 kilometers and only 30,000 Israelis ... were under the risk of the rockets. Today, 11 years later, we're talking about a range of 40 kilometers," said IDF spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich.

"This is half an hour drive from Tel Aviv and 1 million Israelis are under this danger," she added. "Which means that they have between 50 to 55 seconds to go to shelters when the alarm is heard. And this is an unbearable situation for us."

The terrorist group Hamas controls Gaza. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group has also been behind some of the recent rocket attacks emanating from the region. 

Both organizations are funded and supplied by Iran.

Palestinians Trying to 'Wipe Out Jewish History'

An Israeli official says that the admission of Palestinians as a member state of UNESCO has emboldened them to claim Judeo-Christian biblical sites as their own.

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization admitted the Palestinians as a member state Nov. 1. 

One of those sites is the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Four thousand years ago, the Bible says Abraham bought the cave in Hebron to bury his wife Sarah. Isaac, Jacob and their wives are also buried there.

But Palestinians want UNESCO to recognize the Cave of the Patriarchs and other sites as Muslim holy places in "Palestine." 

Israeli government minister Yuli Edelstein said the Palestinian request is not about peace.

"Their demand is not about cooperation. Their demand is a political demand to wipe off all the traces of the Jewish history and Jewish connection to the region," Edelstein said.

The cave is currently divided between a mosque and a synagogue so each faith has a place to pray. 

Israel was highly criticized when it announced plans to improve the site last year and include it as an Israeli heritage site.

The head of the Islamic authorities in Hebron said at the time that the site is holy only to Muslims.

"It is a pure Muslim holy place and there is no right for non-Muslims to be here or to pray here, and I'm against the presence of the Jews, even in the old city," Haj Zeid al Ja'bari, general director of Islamic Religious Authorities in Hebron, told reporters then.

Even before UNESCO admitted what it calls Palestine as a full member this month, it had already called the Cave and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem "Palestinian sites."

The Palestinian Authority now also wants the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem to be deemed a Palestinian site. The church is built over the site many believe to be the birthplace of Jesus.

Palestinians are also threatening to sue Israel for what they say is stealing Palestinian antiquities and attempting to change what they call the Islamic and Arabic character of Jerusalem's Old City.

Israelis say Jews and Christians alike should be concerned. Based on past experience, they won't likely be able to visit the site in Hebron if it comes under Muslim Palestinian control.

"We know for a fact that when the authorities were not Israeli authorities, Jews were not allowed even to be here," Edelstein said.

"The concept of an Islamic holy place is that no one else is allowed to be here," said David Bedein, bureau chief, Israel Resource News Agency. 

"The concept of a Jewish holy place is exactly the opposite," he said. "When there's a Jewish holy place, everyone can visit."

Bedein said that in 1975, Israel's then-ambassador to the U.N. Chaim Herzog answered an Arab challenge to Israel's rights to the Cave by using the Bible to make his case.

"He opened up the Bible to Genesis 23 and said, 'This is our right. We purchased it.'" 

"It's ours and we're going to live here," he continued. "We're going to pray here and we're going to invite all the nations of the world to pray with us here.'"

Cairo Rally: One Day We'll Kill All Jews

A Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo's most prominent mosque Friday turned into a venomous anti-Israel protest, with attendants vowing to "one day kill all Jews." 

Some 5,000 people joined the rally, called to promote the "battle against Jerusalem's Judaization." The event coincided with the anniversary of the United Nations' partition plan in 1947, which called for the establishment of a Jewish state. 

However, most worshippers who prayed at the mosque Friday quickly left it before the Muslim Brotherhood's rally got underway. A group spokesman urged attendants to remain for the protest, asking them not to create a bad impression for the media by leaving. 

'Treacherous Jews'

Speakers at the event delivered impassioned, hateful speeches against Israel, slamming the "Zionist occupiers" and the "treacherous Jews." Upon leaving the rally, worshippers were given small flags, with Egypt's flag on one side and the Palestinian flag on the other, as well as maps of Jerusalem's Old City detailing where "Zionists are aiming to change Jerusalem's Muslim character." 

Propaganda material ahead of Egypt's parliamentary elections was also handed out at the site. 

Spiritual leader Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb charged in his speech that to this day Jews everywhere in the world are seeking to prevent Islamic and Egyptian unity. 

"In order to build Egypt, we must be one. Politics is insufficient. Faith in Allah is the basis for everything," he said. "The al-Aqsa Mosque is currently under an offensive by the Jews…we shall not allow the Zionists to Judaize al-Quds (Jerusalem.) We are telling Israel and Europe that we shall not allow even one stone to be moved there." 

'We have different mentality' 

Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen, as well as Palestinian guest speakers, made explicit calls for Jihad and for liberating the whole of Palestine. Time and again, a Koran quote vowing that "one day we shall kill all the Jews" was uttered at the site. Meanwhile, businessmen in the crowd were urged to invest funds in Jerusalem in order to prevent the acquisition of land and homes by Jews. 

Throughout the event, Muslim Brotherhood activists chanted: "Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, judgment day has come." 

Speaking to Ynet outside the mosque following the prayer, elementary school teacher Ala al-Din said that "all Egyptian Muslims are willing to embark on Jihad for the sake of Palestine." 

"Why is the US losing in Afghanistan? Because the other side is willing and wants to die. We have a different mentality than that of the Americans and Jews," he said.

Hizbullah Preparing Missile War on Israel as Iran Braces For Attack

The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs asserted that Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, in coordination with Teheran, has been meeting senior commanders to plan for war with the Jewish state. The center, in a report by Shimon Shapira, said Nasrallah has ordered his commanders to prepare for long-range missile attacks that would target Tel Aviv and other
major Israeli cities.

“Nasrallah’s recent escalation of public statements stems from heightened fear in Hizbullah that an Israeli and/or American attack on Iran is drawing nearer,” the report said. “As a strategic arm of Iran, Hizbullah sees itself as Iran’s first line of defense against Israel.”

“Hizbullah forces are being trained to fire at least 10,000 missiles, right at the war’s outset, at military and strategic targets such as airfields, military camps, and vital facilities including maritime ones, followed by the firing of rockets from launch sites whose location will come as a surprise to Israel,” the report, titled “Hizbullah Discusses Its Operational Plan for War with Israel,” said.

The report, released on Nov. 2 and based on open Arab sources, said Nasrallah has also ordered a ground force invasion of northern Israel. Hizbullah, with at least 20,000 fighters, was said to be planning to deploy 5,000 special forces troops trained in Iran to capture Israel’s Galilee region.

Shapira, a retired brigadier general from Israeli military intelligence, said the Hizbullah plan was formulated with Iran. He said the Iranian Army has already mined Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley where Israeli special forces were expected to land in any regional war.

The report said Hizbullah has also been equipped with so-called “smart” anti-tank guided missiles from Iran. These missiles were said to have been designed to knock out Israel’s fleet of Merkava-class main battle tanks, which played a marginal role in the last war with Hizbullah in 2006.

“Hizbullah’s conclusion from the lessons of the Second Lebanon War [in 2006] is that, next time, Israel will have no red lines in waging all-out war against Lebanon and Hizbullah,” the report said. “Hence, Hizbullah is planning ‘many surprises’ that will change the force equation with Israel both at the start of the conflict and during its operational phase.”

In February, Nasrallah announced Hizbullah plans to conquer northern Israel. Since then, Hizbullah has been training for such a mission, including deploying rocket and artillery in the Bekaa Valley as well as mining possible landing sites by Israeli helicopters in southern Lebanon.

The preparations were said to have been overseen by Hizbullah operational chief Mustafa Badr Eddin, who replaced Imad Mughniyeh, assassinated in 2008. Badr Eddin was also said to have arranged for a recently-completed special commando course by 727 fighters in Iran.

Hizbullah’s engineering units were also said to have reinforced positions in Maydon in the western Bekaa. The report said Hizbullah has formed five brigades, with each consisting of 1,000 troops, to invade Israel.

Brigade 1 has been assigned the capture of the northern Israeli city of Nahariya, located about five kilometers from the Lebanese border. The report said Hizbullah was believed to be preparing 150 special forces troops transported by speedboats to attack Nahariya from the Mediterranean Sea.

“This force’s mission is to take as many hostages as possible so as to prevent Israel from bombing the Hizbullah forces in this sector,” the report said.

Brigade 2 was said to have been assigned to capture the Israeli border town of Shlomi and cut military supply lines. Brigade 3 was ordered to conquer Carmiel and cut off the road to Safed, the headquarters of Israel’s military Northern Command.

“Brigade 4 will take over the communities of Malkiya, Ramot Naftali and Yiftach in order to prevent the IDF from firing from these areas into southern Lebanon,” the report said. “Brigade 5 will serve as a strategic reserve force for special missions.”

The report said Hizbullah was believed to have also discussed its war strategy with Syria. On Oct. 27, the Lebanese daily Al Akhbar published a detailed account of a visit by Nasrallah to President Bashar Assad in Damascus. The following day, Al Akhbar, regarded as close to Hizbullah, said the Assad-Nasrallah meeting never took place.

“It could be that, on second thought, Hizbullah decided the timing of the article was unwise,” the report said. “As Assad kills his people, Hizbullah faces bitter criticism for supporting him and is losing its standing in the Arab street.”

3. A Revived Roman Empire?

22 Reasons Why We Could See An Economic Collapse In Europe In 2012

Will 2012 be the year that we see an economic collapse in Europe? Before you dismiss the title of this article as "alarmist", read the facts listed in the rest of this article first. Over the past several months, there has been an astonishing loss of confidence in the European financial system. Right now, virtually nobody wants to loan money to financially troubled nations in the EU and virtually nobody wants to lend money to major European banks. 

Remember, one of the primary reasons for the financial crisis of 2008 was a major credit crunch that happened here in the United States. This burgeoning credit crunch in Europe is just one element of a "perfect storm" that is rapidly coming together as we get ready to go into 2012. The signs of trouble are everywhere. 

All over Europe, governments are implementing austerity measures and dramatically cutting back on spending. European banks are substantially cutting back on lending as they seek to meet new capital requirements that are being imposed upon them. 

Meanwhile, bond yields are going through the roof all over Europe as investors lose confidence and demand much higher returns for investing in European debt. It has become clear that without a miracle happening, quite a few European nations and a significant number of European banks are not going to be able to get the funding that they need from the market in 2012. 

The only thing that is going to avert a complete and total financial meltdown in Europe is dramatic action, but right now European leaders are so busy squabbling with each other that a bold plan seems out of the question.

The following are 22 reasons why we could see an economic collapse in Europe in 2012....

#1 Germany could rescue the rest of Europe, but that would take an unprecedented financial commitment, and the German people do not have the stomach for that. It has been estimated that it would cost Germany 7 percent of GDP over several years in order to sufficiently bail out the other financially troubled EU nations. Such an amount would far surpass the incredibly oppressive reparations that Germany was forced to pay out in the aftermath of World War I.

A host of recent surveys has shown that the German people are steadfastly against bailing out the rest of Europe. For example, according to one recent poll 57 percent of the German people are against the creation of eurobonds.

At this point, German politicians are firmly opposed to any measure that would place an inordinate burden on German taxpayers, so unless this changes that means that Europe is not going to be saved from within.

#2 The United States could rescue Europe, but the Obama administration knows that it would be really tough to sell that to the American people during an election season. The following is what White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today about the potential for a bailout of Europe by the United States....

"This is something they need to solve and they have the capacity to solve, both financial capacity and political will"
Carney also said that the Obama administration does not plan to commit any "additional resources" to rescuing Europe....

"We do not in any way believe that additional resources are required from the United States and from American taxpayers."
#3 Right now, banks all over Europe are in deleveraging mode as they attempt to meet new capital-adequacy requirements by next June.

According to renowned financial journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, European banks need to reduce the amount of lending on their books by about 7 trillion dollars in order to get down to safe levels....

Europe’s banks face a $7 trillion lending contraction to bring their balance sheets in line with the US and Japan, threatening to trap the region in a credit crunch and chronic depression for a decade.
So what does that mean?

It means that European banks are going to be getting really, really stingy with loans.

That means that it is going to become really hard to buy a home or expand a business in Europe, and that means that the economy of Europe is going to slow down substantially.

#4 European banks are overloaded with "toxic assets" that they are desperate to get rid of. Just like we saw with U.S. banks back in 2008, major European banks are busy trying to unload mountains of worthless assets that have a book value of trillions of euros, but virtually nobody wants to buy them.

#5 Government austerity programs are now being implemented all over Europe. But government austerity programs can have very negative economic effects. For example, we have already seen what government austerity has done to Greece. 100,000 businesses have closed and a third of the population is now living in poverty.

But now governments all over Europe have decided that austerity is the way to go. The following comes from a recent article in the Economist....

France’s budget plans are close to being agreed on; further cuts are likely but will be delayed until after the elections in spring. Italy has yet to vote through a much-revised package of cuts. Spain’s incoming government has promised further spending cuts, especially in regional outlays, in order to meet deficit targets agreed with Brussels.

#6 The amount of debt owed by some of these European nations is so large that it is difficult to comprehend. For example, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain owe the rest of the world about 3 trillion euros combined.

So what will massive government austerity do to troubled nations such as Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy? Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is very concerned about what even more joblessness will mean for many of those countries....

Even today, the jobless rate for youth is near 10pc in Japan. It is already 46pc in Spain, 43pc in Greece, 32pc in Ireland, and 27pc in Italy. We will discover over time what yet more debt deleveraging will do to these societies.

#7 Europe was able to bail out Greece and Ireland, but there is no way that Italy will be able to be rescued if they require a full-blown bailout.

Unfortunately, Italy is in the midst of a massive financial meltdown as you read this. The yield on two year Italian bonds is now about double what it was for most of the summer. There is no way that is sustainable.

It would be hard to overstate how much of a crisis Italy represents. The following is how former hedge fund manager Bruce Krasting recently described the current situation....

At this point there is zero possibility that Italy can refinance any portion of its $300b of 2012 maturing debt. If there is anyone at the table who still thinks that Italy can pull off a miracle, they are wrong. I’m certain that the finance guys at the ECB and Italian CB understand this. I repeat, there is a zero chance for a market solution for Italy.
Krasting believes that either Italy gets a gigantic mountain of cash from somewhere or they will default within six months and that will mean the start of a global depression....

I think the Italian story is make or break. Either this gets fixed or Italy defaults in less than six months. The default option is not really an option that policy makers would consider. If Italy can’t make it, then there will be a very big crashing sound. It would end up taking out most of the global lenders, a fair number of countries would follow into Italy’s vortex. In my opinion a default by Italy is certain to bring a global depression; one that would take many years to crawl out of.

#8 An Italian default may be closer than most people think. As the Telegraph recently reported, just to refinance existing debt, the Italian government must sell more than 30 billion euros worth of new bonds by the end of January....

Italy’s new government will have to sell more than EURO 30 billion of new bonds by the end of January to refinance its debts. Analysts say there is no guarantee that investors will buy all of those bonds, which could force Italy to default.

The Italian government yesterday said that in talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Prime Minister Mario Monti had agreed that an Italian collapse “would inevitably be the end of the euro.”

#9 European nations other than just the "PIIGS" are getting into an increasing amount of trouble. For example, S&P recently slashed the credit rating of Belgium to AA.

#10 Credit downgrades are coming fast and furious all over Europe now. At this point it seems like we see a new downgrade almost every single week. Some nations have been downgraded several times. For instance, Fitch has downgraded the credit rating of Portugal again. At this point it is being projected that Portuguese GDP will shrink by about 3 percent in 2012.

#11 The financial collapse of Hungary didn't make many headlines in the United States, but it should have. Moody's has cut the credit rating of Hungarian debt to junk status, and Hungary has now submitted a formal request to the EU and the IMF for a bailout.

#12 Even faith in German debt seems to be wavering. Last week, Germany had "one of its worst bond auctions ever".

#13 German banks are also starting to show signs of weakness. The other day, Moody's downgraded the ratings of 10 major German banks.

#14 As the Telegraph recently reported, the British government is now making plans based on the assumption that a collapse of the euro is only "just a matter of time"....

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible.

Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis.

The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.

A senior minister has now revealed the extent of the Government’s concern, saying that Britain is now planning on the basis that a euro collapse is now just a matter of time.

#15 The EFSF was supposed to help bring some stability to the situation, but the truth is that the EFSF is already a bad joke. It has been reported that the EFSF has already been forced to buy up huge numbers of its own bonds.

#16 Unfortunately, it looks like a run on the banks has already begun in Europe. The following comes from a recent article in The Economist....

"We are starting to witness signs that corporates are withdrawing deposits from banks in Spain, Italy, France and Belgium," an analyst at Citi Group wrote in a recent report. "This is a worrying development."

#17 Confidence in European banks has been absolutely shattered and virtually nobody wants to lend them money right now.

The following is a short excerpt from a recent CNBC article....

Money-market funds in the United States have quite dramatically slammed shut their lending windows to European banks. According to the Economist, Fitch estimates U.S. money market funds have withdrawn 42 percent of their money from European banks in general.

And for France that number is even higher — 69 percent. European money-market funds are also getting in on the act.

#18 There are dozens of major European banks that are in danger of failing. The reality is that most major European banks are leveraged to the hilt and are massively exposed to sovereign debt. Before it fell in 2008, Lehman Brothers was leveraged 31 to 1. Today, major German banks are leveraged 32 to 1, and those banks are currently holding a massive amount of European sovereign debt.

#19 According to the New York Times, the economy of the EU is already projected to shrink slightly next year, and this doesn't even take into account what is going to happen in the event of a total financial collapse.

#20 There are already signs that the European economy is seriously slowing down. Industrial orders in the eurozone declined by 6.4 percent during September. That was the largest decline that we have seen since the midst of the financial crisis in 2008.

#21 Panic and fear are everywhere in Europe right now. The European Commission’s index of consumer confidence has declined for five months in a row.

#22 European leaders are really busy fighting with each other and a true consensus on how to solve the current problems seems way off at the moment. The following is how the Express recently described rising tensions between German and British leaders....

The German Chancellor rejected outright Mr Cameron’s opposition to a new EU-wide financial tax that would have a devastating impact on the City of London.

And she refused to be persuaded by his call for the European Central Bank to support the euro. Money markets took a dip after their failure to agree.

Are you starting to get the picture?

The European financial system is in a massive amount of trouble, and when it melts down the entire globe is going to be shaken.

But it isn't just me that is saying this. As I mentioned in a previous article, there are huge numbers of respected economists all over the globe that are now saying that Europe is on the verge of collapse.

For example, just check out what Credit Suisse is saying about the situation in Europe....

"We seem to have entered the last days of the euro as we currently know it. That doesn’t make a break-up very likely, but it does mean some extraordinary things will almost certainly need to happen – probably by mid-January – to prevent the progressive closure of all the euro zone sovereign bond markets, potentially accompanied by escalating runs on even the strongest banks."

Many European leaders are promoting much deeper integration and a "European superstate" as the answer to these problems, but it would take years to implement changes that drastic, and Europe does not have that kind of time.

If Europe experiences a massive economic collapse and a prolonged depression, it may seem like "the end of the world" to some people, but things will eventually stabilize.

A lot of people out there seem to think that the global economy is going to go from its present state to "Mad Max" in a matter of weeks. Well, that is just not going to happen. The coming troubles in Europe will just be another "wave" in the ongoing economic collapse of the western world. There will be other "waves" after that.

Of course this current sovereign debt crisis could be entirely averted if the countries of the western world would just shut down their central banks and start issuing debt-free money.

The truth is that there is no reason why any sovereign nation on earth ever has to go a penny into debt to anyone. If a nation is truly sovereign, then the government has the right to issue all of the debt-free money that it wants. Yes, inflation would always be a potential danger in such a system (just as it is under central banking), but debt-free money would mean that government debt problems would be a thing of the past.

Unfortunately, most of the countries of the world operate under a system where more government debt is created when more currency is created. The inevitable result of such a system is what we are witnessing now. At this point, nearly the entire western world is drowning in debt.

There are alternatives to our current system. But nobody in the mainstream media ever talks about them.

So instead of focusing on truly creative ways to deal with our current problems, we are all going to experience the bitter pain of the coming economic collapse instead.

Things did not have to turn out this way.

How to Make Sense of the European Union Disaster

Everything you need to know to understand the European Union can be discovered by simply glancing at the location of its headquarters. Brussels is in Belgium, which is not a real country, does not have a government, and does not have any money.

Belgium has not had a government for a year and half, yet the capital city (to the degree that a country without a government can have a capital) is host to one of the largest government organizations in the world. The ironies and paradoxes of the EU are clearly seen in the microcosm of Belgium.

Belgium was invented in 1839, when the powers of Europe decided to carve out sections of the Netherlands and Luxembourg and assigned what resulted the name "Belgium." This despite the fact that the bit of land was inhabited by Flemish, Walloons, Dutch, French, various Germans, and several other minority groups that had been hostile to each other for centuries. 

A group of unelected European leaders stepped in and said, "Let there be Belgium," and suddenly, there was Belgium -- but it was not a nation. Decrees do not make nations. Belgium is a haphazard collection of once-independent states with no interest in joining together and substantial reasons not to.

Over the years, Belgian governments have maintained majority rule by offering entitlements and subsidies to every niche group they can find. 

This is the only way to get a majority in a country with eleven major political parties divided on ethnic and linguistic lines. Naturally, it leads to dangerous deficits. It all came to a halt in the general election of June 2010. 

No coalition has been able to strike a deal to create a majority. Parties join together to form majorities only when there is a significant handout being offered, but with a crashing economy, nobody is willing to continue this charade. Last week the interest rate on Belgian debt jumped into crisis levels. Belgium's credit rating has been systematically cycling downward for the past two years. 

There is a strong secessionist movement to break into at least two independent nations, while others push for a stronger central authority to enforce unification. So Belgium hasn't had a government for seventeen months running.

Aside from debt, secession, and anarchy, there is also the matter of national defense. The powers that breathed Belgium into existence did so on the condition that it remain neutral in military affairs. Neutrality ensured that France, Germany, and Britain would have a low-lying, centrally located piece of land on which to fight wars, rather than having to deal with the unpleasantries on their own land. 

Belgium is whatever Europe needs it to be: a buffer zone when things are hostile, a highway for tanks when you want to go on offense, and a shooting range when the war starts. It was created for the purpose of hosting other countries' wars and is required to remain neutral so as not to spoil the fun. 

It has served this purpose quite well over the years. It doesn't matter that the various factions that happen to be stuck inside its borders have no desire to run a country of their own. They have to do it anyway because it is convenient for the rest of Europe. Belgium would be a joke if it weren't a tragedy.

So it goes for the EU. Germany would rather not bail out Greece and Italy, and Greece and Italy would rather not be swallowed up by the European leviathan. Doesn't matter -- they have to do it anyway because Europe is all roped together now.

The EU is not a real country. It is a collection of independent states that have no national interest in joining forces, and substantial reasons not to. It does not have a functional government, but it does have just enough of a government to make everyone's life worse, and to run up enormous deficits. Like Belgium, it has no national defense to speak of and numerous factions that are hostile to one another.

All historical evidence suggests that Europe is a fragmented and dangerous place, with constant wars covering its entire history. It is the only continent on which something called "The Hundred Years' War" ever happened. In the last century, some of these constant small battles were saved up and unleashed as the two biggest wars in world history. But even WWI and WWII were not enough to satisfy the bloodlust haunting Europe. 
There was also the small matter of a Soviet occupation of half the continent and countless feuds within feuds. Italy just completed its 61st change in government in 66 years. Spain was ruled by a dictator up until 1975 and had its first democratic election in 1977. 

Germany, of course, tried to take over the world twice, and always followed the advice of bumper stickers by thinking globally and invading locally. The effort to make these nations suddenly join together in happiness and love is one of the most foolish ventures ever conceived. It is unraveling now. It would be a joke if it weren't tragic.

The EU is Belgium writ large. A group of unelected officials from around Europe got together and dreamed up the EU, then arbitrarily made it happen. Now it is in the position of managing the countless factions of Europe. 

Constant bailouts and subsidies are the only things that keep everyone happy. There isn't enough money to keep up the charade, and there are considerable efforts to break it up. Each nation of the EU is held together by nothing more than the selfish decrees of others. It is crashing as you read.

Europe has come full circle. The EU has taken over Italy and Greece and installed unelected puppet regimes there. Belgium, a puppet nation dreamed up by Europe with no history, no government, and no money, finds itself ruling puppet governments of the two foundational sources of European civilization because they have no money. 

In WWII Germany went through Belgium to take over France. Now Germany is going through Belgium to take over Italy and Greece.

This is all you need to know about the EU. It is a messy assortment of peoples haphazardly crammed together, with no functional government, saddled with extremely high debt. Belgium was created as a puppet nation with no historical roots. 

Now it's been converted into a base from which all of Europe is held together as a puppet nation with no historical roots. The EU, like Belgium, is not strong enough to govern its various factions, nor does any freedom-lover desire it to be. The cradles of European history, Athens and Rome, are swallowed up by a puppet newcomer. It would be tragic if it wasn't an outrage.

The next EU takeover will probably be Spain, and there will be more after that. At some point Europe will fall. The only question is the direction in which it falls. It may fall into totalitarianism, or it may dissolve back to its historical national divisions. 

There are mounting efforts in both of these directions already, and there will be tremendous instability either way. Do not be surprised if there is war. Watch what Belgium does.

World Economic Update

"Debtsperation" is not a word that you will find in Webster’s unabridged dictionary. It is though, being defined on the front pages of leading newspapers around the world today. It has to do with the global financial panic and smoldering debt crisis.

Europe was rocked on Wednesday, when Germany was unable to sell all their government bonds that were put up for auctions, as 35 percent went unsold! 
Until now, Germany was able to point to it’s solid economy and public spending cuts as the answer to the region’s debt woes. Germany has been the most vocal opponent of having the European Central Bank act as a lender of last resort to bail out national governments caught in this terminal debt spiral.

Euro-zone technocrats say they are determined to save the Euro, the common currency. It seems as though, the people with money are voting with their feet. There has been a startling drop in corporate bank deposits. Recently in Italy, deposits shrank 12% and in Spain 20%. 

This is occurring just as the Europeans are mandating that these banks increase capital levels to insure stability. The European Central Bank is providing emergency funding for Greek, Portuguese, Irish, Spanish, Italian, and French banks! Where is all this heading? Please don’t worry, they have a plan.

Wolf-gang Schauble, the current German finance minister sees this impending financial meltdown as a catalyst. It will help finish the uncompleted job of unifying Europe into a super-state. He is a close confidant of Angela Merkel, Germany’s prime minister. He seems to be at the right place at the right time to get the job done. 

On December 9, a meeting is scheduled in Brussels. The German government will propose treaty changes that will move Europe closer to a centralized monetary union. The New York Times quoted Mr. Schauble on Saturday November 19, 2011, as saying, 

“The ultimate goal, is a political union with a European President directly elected by the people. What we’re now doing with the fiscal union, what I’m describing here, is a short-term step for the currency. In a larger context, naturally we need a political union. We can only achieve a political union if we have a crisis." He sees the turmoil not as an obstacle but as a necessity.

4. The Gog/Magog War

Putin Prepares the Russian Empire to Strike Back

As prime minister for the past four years, Vladimir Putin never really went away. But his looming reincarnation as the all-powerful, executive president of Russia – the country's "paramount leader" in Chinese parlance – poses a stark challenge for which the US, Britain and other beleaguered western powers seem ill-prepared. As president, potentially until 2024, Putin has one overriding objective: the creation of a third, post-tsarist, post-Soviet Russian empire.

Putin famously described the collapse of the Soviet Union, the "evil empire" of Ronald Reagan's imagining, as "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century". His aim, once this weekend's heavily managed parliamentary elections and next March's presidential coronation are out the way, is to put this disaster to rights. Reinstalled as president, and with his political potboy, Dmitry Medvedev, pushed aside, Putin will again exercise unchallengeable control over Russia's external affairs.

Never much interested in domestic policy, Putin's only political trick is a hyper-nationalism that pits a proudly embattled Russia against a hostile, US-led, world conspiracy. But the trick works. Despite mounting criticism during the Duma campaign, both supporters and opponents acknowledge his perceived achievement in restoring Russia's standing in the world following Boris Yeltsin's chaotic 1990s decade.

Accepting the presidential nomination of his United Russia party last month in an otherwise tedious speech, Putin said: "When I hear people shout out 'Russia', I think the entire audience should do that." The response, according to witnesses, was a deafening chant of 'Ro-see-ya! Ro-see-ya!" while Putin pounded his fist on the podium.

Elements of Putin's strategy to make Russia great again are slowly coming into focus. Much of the plan is defined by Russia's opposition to the US, the traditional foe. Thus the Kremlin announced last week that it would renounce the strategic arms reduction treaty (known as New Start) agreed with Washington two years ago if the US did not abandon its European missile defence plans.

This announcement, coupled with the unveiling of a new Russian missile base in Kaliningrad on Nato's doorstep, has striking implications. New Start was the centrepiece of Barack Obama's 2009 "reset" of bilateral relations. The reset is viewed by the White House as a major foreign achievement (and 2012 re-election asset) for a president who has but few to his name.

Missile defence ostensibly aimed at deterring Iran is seen as another success. With the US preoccupied by wars in the Middle East and South Asia and fixated by the Arab spring, a quiet Russian "front" has been deemed essential by Washington. Putin appears set to change all that.

On his eastern flank, meanwhile, Putin is busy reviving the idea of a remodelled union embracing the former Soviet republics of central Asia, an arrangement that prospectively boosts Russian political and military influence. "Russia will begin this new iteration of a Russian empire by creating a union with former Soviet states based on Moscow's current associations, such as the customs union and the collective security treaty organisation. This will allow the 'EuU' [a Eurasia union] to strategically encompass both the economic and security spheres … Putin is creating a union in which Moscow would influence foreign policy and security but would not be responsible for most of the inner workings of each country," said Lauren Goodrich in a Stratfor paper.

Putin's third empire project also includes, crucially, a tightening of Moscow's politicised grip on Europe's strategic energy supplies.

Following last month's Gazprom deal with Belarus, industry analysts suggest up to 50% of Europe's natural gas could be controlled by Russia by 2030. This is hugely significant: Putin's new Russian empire can only be financed by continuing, high-priced energy export revenues. In effect, Europe could be paying for its own future domination.

The empire-fights-back scenario has numerous other aspects. Recent remarks by Medvedev about the lack of wisdom, in the context of the 2008 Georgia conflict, of unchecked Nato enlargement vividly illustrated Russia's visceral opposition to any interference in what used to be called its "near abroad" – and Putin's desire to roll back the western encroachments of the past 20 years. Russia's determination to defend wider spheres of traditional influence in the non-aligned and developing world can be seen in its obdurate refusal to penalise Syria, in the face of almost universal outrage over the crackdown there; and in its de facto defence of Iran's nuclear programme. Putin, meanwhile, continues to prioritise Russian military modernisation.

Western countries inclined to take issue with this external empire-building, or with Russia's lamentable internal democracy and human rights deficit, have been told to save their breath. "All our foreign partners need to understand this: Russia is a democratic country, it's a reliable and predictable partner with which they can and must reach agreement, but on which they cannot impose anything from the outside," Putin told the United Russia convention. Attempts to influence the election process or the reform agenda were "a wasted effort, like throwing money to the winds".

As Putin – former secret policeman, physical fitness fanatic and hyper-nationalist – prepares to resume Russia's presidency, his third empire ambitions become ever clearer. March's election will be no contest. Only when it is over will the real fight begin.

Report: Iran Preparing for Final Conflict with Enemies

Iran is ramping up its rhetoric against the United States and Israel after the International Atomic Energy Agency released its report on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. 

But Iran sees the report as an excuse for an attack. 

Iran blasted talk of new sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Leaders claimed those sanctions would only unite Iranians behind the nuclear program. 

Nearly 1,000 Iranian students even formed a human chain to symbolically protect the uranium conversion facility in Isfahan. 

They vowed a devastating response to any Western attack. 

This is all part of the vision of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accordng to retired Israeli Lt. Col. Michael Segall. 

"It was the first time he refers in public to the phrase of final confrontation -- final confrontation with the West. Indeed Iran is preparing itself for the final confrontation," he told CBN News. 

Segall said the prospect of war actually plays into Ahmadinejad's theology.

The Iranian president believes it's his calling to usher in the return of the Islamic messiah known as the Mahdi through a violent upheaval in the region and world. 

Segall added that Iran sees the so-called "Arab Spring" as an Islamic awakening. 

"Iran has prepared the ground for years for these events and now they are seeing these events. The Islamic Awakening or the Arab Spring as divine development for change," he explained. 

During the last 10 years or so, Iran has seen the downfall of enemies like the Taliban in Afghanistan, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, as well as the rise of friends like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

"So When Ahmadinejad comes and says, 'We are ready for the final confrontation,' Iran takes all of these payload of events and says, 'This is divine. This is a divine sign that we are on the right way,'" Segall said. 

And while most Middle East Muslims are Sunni and Iranians are Shia, the Islamic Republic is trying to build a new Middle East based on common enemy. 

"The only common denominator is hate for the West and hate for Israel," Segall explained. "Iran is trying to rebuild and reshape the Middle East." 

And that prospect spells a potential perfect storm for the Middle East and those who live there.

Iran Says 150,000 Missiles Pointed At Israel

Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi said that Iran has up to 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel, according to the semi-official Iranian FARS news agency.

According to the report, Vahidi questioned threats against the Islamic Republic from the Jewish State, asking "How many missiles have they prepared themselves for? 10,000? 20,000? 50,000? 100,000, 150,000 or more?" 

The Iranian defense minister also warned against an offensive by the United States, saying it would meet a hard defensive line were it to attack Iran. 

"The US and its allies should know that Iran is so powerful that its battling will teach the US how to fight and what war and warrior mean," Vahidi told a crowd of 50,000 volunteer soldiers in Bushehr, a city where one of the country's nuclear power plants is located.

Iran claims the country's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, but an incriminating International Atomic Energy Agency report said that Tehran has continued to covertly develop nuclear-weapons technology.

Since the release of that report, Western nations have called for international pressure on the regime in Tehran to halt their nuclear program.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada cast stringent sanctions on Iran's energy and financial sectors, a move which pushed Iran to expel the British ambassador. 

France and the Netherlands have called for similar action against the Islamic Republic. 

On Saturday, Tehran made a rare threat against Turkey, saying it could target the recently installed NATO anti-missile shield in any future conflict. 

"We are ready to attack NATO's missile shield in Turkey if we face a threat and then we will follow other aims," the semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Amir Ali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards' aerospace division, as saying.

Iran Poised to Choke Oil Supplies if Hit By Israel

Iran is contemplating violently shutting down shipping in the Persian Gulf as one of several counterattack options if Israel strikes its nuclear facilities, regional and intelligence analysts say.

Such attacks would present the Obama administration with the option of undertaking a limited war against Iran by striking its warships and shore-based anti-ship missiles to keep the Gulf open for business.

Former CIA analyst Larry C. Johnson said Iran has enough firepower to effectively close the Gulf and Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of all the world’s oil moves.

“One of the things that Iran has exercised, has the capability to do, is shut down the Persian Gulf,” Mr. Johnson said. “The best-case scenario is they shut it down for a week. The worst case is they shut it down for three to four months.”

He said Iran could unleash small boats laden with explosives “that we don’t have adequate covers for. Add to that the ability to fire multiple missiles. Our naval force will try to stop it, and that’s the hope.”

Mr. Johnson, now a consultant on counterterrorism, said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which has orchestrated attacks against the U.S. in Iraq, also likely would hit targets in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations.

“I think we would be looking at a significant wave of terrorist retaliation by them,” he said.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli media have reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been seeking consensus on attacking Iran’s nuclear sites ahead of a U.N. atomic agency report last week that said the Islamic republic has engaged in activity consistent with building a nuclear weapon.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a former senior Pentagon official who runs the Center for Security Policy, said Iran’s ruling mullahs have always had designs on attacking the U.S., and an Israeli attack might prompt them to do so.

“I think they will try to do as much damage to as many of us as they can,” Mr. Gaffney said. “My guess is they will try options to have Hezbollah cells engage in attacks around the world against our forces.

“I think they will probably try to retaliate directly against the Israelis, of course, perhaps with missiles, perhaps through their proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas.”

Iran this year launched an aggressive public relations campaign to convince the West that it has assembled a powerful arsenal of guided anti-ship missiles that can be launched from hard-to-find mobile batteries on shore.

In addition, Tehran said in February that it had begun mass production of a ballistic missile with a range of nearly 200 miles. In August, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally unveiled another anti-ship missile, the Ghader.

“The best deterrent is not allowing the enemy to dare to attack the country,” he said.

Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George W. Bush and President Obama have advised caution in choosing a military option to slow Iran’s drive to build an atomic bomb.

But retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, disclosed that an updated war plan exists.

“You’ve got to be careful of unintended consequences here,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said last week. “And those consequences could involve not only not really deterring Iran from what they want to do, but, more importantly, it could have a serious impact in the region, and it could have a serious impact on U.S. forces in the region.”

John Pike, who directs, said oil-producing Iran likely would retaliate against Israel directly through its surrogates — Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the Gaza Strip to Israel’s south, and the Shiite militia Hezbollah in Lebanon, on the Jewish state’s northern border.

“Attacking Persian Gulf shipping is tricky for them, since the Saudis are not completely dependent on the Persian Gulf, whereas Iran is,” Mr. Pike said. “But attacks would drive up the price of oil, which would benefit Iran.”

The hard-line Islamic state also could take the momentous step of attacking the U.S. homeland.

“If Iran was bold, they would infiltrate commandos across the Mexican border and blow up elementary schools in Iowa,” Mr. Pike said. “Attacking U.S. and Saudi targets is risky for them because there would still be lots of stuff in Iran that could be blown up in retaliation, and Iran would run out of things of value before the U.S. ran out of bombs.”

War drums began beating more loudly this month with reports of Mr. Netanyahu trying to win Cabinet approval for a strike on Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad has called for Israel’s destruction.

But the Israeli military would face a daunting challenge.

Iran has so many scattered, buried nuclear sites — perhaps 50 or more —s that Israel’s air force and its U.S.-provided long-range F-15s would have a difficult time executing the kind of broad strategic campaign needed to hit most of them.

“Ultimately, it won’t be a successful mission because Iran has not concentrated its nuclear capabilities in one or two locations,” Mr. Johnson said. “They’ve dispersed them.

“And by virtue of dispersing them, Israel’s best chance is to get one or two targets. On top of this, [Israeli pilots] still have the problem of penetrating an integrated air defense system and doing so over a long distance.”

Mr. Johnson added: “If they were using nuclear weapons, they might have a chance of really causing significant damage to these sites.”

Mr. Pike has the view that if Israel is able to destroy just a handful of sites, it would set back Iran for a while.

“There are really not much more than half a dozen critical targets in Iran’s nuclear program,” he said. “Iran needs their entire complex, so Israel does not have to destroy everything in order to disable the program.”

5. Apostate Christianity

Kentucky Church Bans Interracial Couples From Becoming Members & Leading Worship

A small Kentucky church finds itself at the epicenter of a battle over racism and the gospel. Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church, a small, 40-person congregation located in Pike County, Kentucky, is catching widespread grief over its recent decision to target interracial couples. The church has decided to forbid these couples from partaking in worship activities and will not allow them to become members.

At the heart of the decision stands 24-year-old Stella Harville. Her father, Dean Harville, is a longtime member of and secretary for church who has come out strongly against the newfound regulation. While his daughter grew up in the church and worshiped there, she is not currently a member.

The situation commenced when Stella, who is working on a master’s degree in optical engineering at a college in Indiana, brought her African-born fiancé, Ticha Chikuni, to church last June.

It what many would describe as a wonderful example of a couple worshiping together, Stella played the piano, while Ticha sang. All was well — or so they thought.

Later on in the summer, Dean claims that the church’s former pastor, Melvin Thompson, told him that Stella and her boyfriend were not permitted to sing to the congregation again. In August, Thompson stepped down from his pastoral post, citing health concerns. However, in what many are calling an instance of racism, he refused the family’s requests to drop the issue and to allow interracial performances.

The new pastor, Stacy Stepp, apparently told the couple that they were free to sing at the church if they wanted to. But in November, Thompson, clearly still having influence in the church, pushed the issue further and encouraged congregants to go along with his bans on various aspects of interracial worship.

Apparently, the proposal read, ”parties of [interracial] marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services.” has the entire alleged statement:

“That the Gulnare Freewill Baptist Church does not condone interracial marriage. Parties of such marriages will not be received as members, nor will they be used in worship services and other church functions, with the exception being funerals.

All are welcome to our public worship services. This recommendation is not intended to judge the salvation of anyone, but is intended to promote greater unity among the church body and the community we serve.”

The church decided to put the proposal up for a vote this week and apparently nine individuals voted in favor, with six others voting against it. While there were others in attendance, some didn’t take a stand on the matter.

Dean called the entire spectacle racist and said, “It sure ain’t Christian. It ain’t nothing but the old devil working.” Thomson, though, says that the proposal has been taken out of context and has declined to comment further on the matter.

“It’s just a travesty, especially of Christianity, that this church feels this way. They‘ve crossed the line in revoking my fiance and mine’s right to worship in a public place,” Stella told WYMT-TV. “It hurts even more that I have attended this church ever since I was a baby.”

Stella is extremely saddened by the spectacle and does not have plans to go back to the church. Her parents plan to ask the church to reconsider its decision during Wednesday night’s service — or they plan to find a new house of worship.

New D.C. Episcopal Bishop Seeks to 'Build Up the Liberal Church'

The Rev. Mariann Budde, the newly consecrated and seated bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, wants to make a stronger voice for progressive Christians.

“I want to build up the liberal church again so we can be a legitimate conversation partner in the public arena religiously,” said Budde to the Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein.

Budde stated that she believed this “public arena” is presently “dominated by evangelical Christians and what many would call the Christian right, and I would agree.”

“It’s legitimate for them to be there, but they’re drowning us out,” said Budde.

In talking with the Washington Examiner, Budde spoke of supporting “full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in every aspect of the life of the church and of our society.”

“My guess is that in five to 10 years this issue would be behind us, I really do,” she told the Examiner.

Budde was elected by the Washington Diocese in June, having previously served as rector for St. John’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis.

“The community of St John’s is delighted that Bishop Mariann has this new role,” said Kate MacKinnon, senior warden of St. John's Episcopal Church, in an interview with The Christian Post.

“We will miss her terribly, but [we] have known for some time that she was destined for work in the greater church. She will be an incredible asset to the Diocese of Washington D.C. as well as the wider Episcopal Church.”

MacKinnon said that as rector at St. John’s, Budde helped develop “a number of outreach, inclusion and social justice ministries.”

This included, according to MacKinnon, partnering with local organizations to help families in need, providing medical aid to Haiti and Guatemala, and incorporating youth in church services.

While the Diocese of Washington consecrates Budde, conservative Episcopalians, like the American Anglican Council, look on with concern.

Robert Lundy, communications officer for the AAC, took exception to Budde’s statement that she wants “to build up the liberal church.”

“What happened to building up Christ’s Church?” Lundy asked CP, adding that he considered the statement to be “ridiculous.”

Regarding how Budde becoming bishop would affect the AAC, Lundy said that “in a twisted way it’s going to help us.”

Lundy went on to explain that if Budde continues to advance the Episcopal Church’s “biblical revisionism” and say things like her remarks regarding the liberal church, it will serve to help differentiate between churches that are faithful to the Bible and churches that are not.

The Rev. Mariann Budde officially became bishop of the Washington Diocese on Saturday, making her the first woman to hold that position. The consecration of Budde as Bishop of the Diocese of Washington was the first event to take place at the National Cathedral since the East Coast earthquake on Aug. 23.

While the structure remains sound and the damaged stone has been removed, a complete restoration may not be completed until 2021.

6. The Rise of Islam

3 Christian Pastors in Iran to Be Imprisoned? Ministry Warns of Increased Persecution

Three pastors have been called Monday to report to prison in Shiraz, a city in southwestern Iran, within the next 30 days in what is estimated to be an act of religious persecution, according to Present Truth Ministries, a Minnesota-based Christian advocacy group that monitors church communities abroad.

Parviz Khalaj, Mohammed "William" Belyad and Behrouz Sadegh Khandjani are three pastors of a non-denominational house church, the Network for Church of Iran. They were charged with "crimes against national security" and sentenced in Spring 2011, Jason DeMars, founder of Present Truth Ministries, who spoke with members of the Iranian church, told The Christian Post Wednesday. 

Khalaj has two convictions and is to serve two years, DeMars reports. Belyad was previously convicted and sentenced to 5 years in prison. He will serve a total of 6 years. Khandjani is expected to serve one year in prison.

All three pastors have families, the advocacy group reports. Khalaj has a 10-year-old son, Belyad has a one-month-old son and Khandjani has a 7-year-old daughter.

The pastors were essentially being sentenced for having meetings at home, making the government able to accuse them of conspiring, DeMars suggested. The wife of one of the pastors was sentenced with them but she was eight-months pregnant at the time and she fled the country several months ago, he added.

"Please pray that God makes a way of escape for them so that they can continue in the ministry," Present Truth Ministries appealed on its website.

The Christian Post did not manage to independently confirm the information.

"Based upon past experience, Christmas is a time of increased persecution in Iran. I ask that as you prepare for the Christmas season you remember our Iranian brothers and sisters in prayer," DeMars said.

As CP reported recently, a year ago, a major raid on Iran's house churches took place on Dec. 26. The Christian community in Iran is now also reportedly experiencing anxiety after Heydar Moslehi, Minister of Intelligence, declared recently that house churches are a threat to Iran's youth.

The story evokes a bitter memory of pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian convert who remains in prison in Iran after he was sentenced to death in 2010 for alleged apostasy. The pastor remains imprisoned and reports coming from Iran say his health has been deteriorating.

President Barack Obama, the U.S. Departament of State and the European Union.

David Yeghnazar, of Elam Ministries, an organization based in the United States and United Kingdom that helps Iranian Christians who fled the country due to persecution, told CP Wednesday that Christians who want to practice their faith in Iran are victims of a paradoxical arrangement. The authorities are forbidding them to build churches, but when they meet at homes, they are being charged with conspiring, just like the three pastors.

According to U.S.-based organization Iranian Christians International, Inc. (ICI), the persecution of the Christian community started in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, after foreign missionaries were chased out of the country.

"The increasing growth of Christianity in Iran is of course viewed as a threat to the Iranian regime which uses Islam to control its people. In order to maintain control, the regime continues to try to weed Christianity out of the country," Aidan Clay, ICC's regional manager for the Middle East told The Christian Post Tuesday.

Clay also told CP that the persecution experienced from the authorities is actually helping the Christian community in the country become stronger and more tightly-knit.

"Rather than fighting persecution, Iranian church leaders have accepted it and are using it to their advantage. In fact, an Iranian pastor recently told me that the church is thriving under persecution. And, it is the youth who are among those that God is using to spread this incredible movement that is leading thousands of people to Christ in Iran," Clay told CP Tuesday.

"There is still a chance that they would not be required to serve their sentences," he said.

U.S. Ally Qatar Playing al-Qaida's Tune

Qatar, the Arab country that was instrumental in the overthrow of the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and has the United States as a major backer, now is working hard behind the scenes to turn the Arab Spring into the Islamic Awakening throughout the Middle East, informed sources say in a new report in Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin. 

Attached to Sunni Saudi Arabia and not far from Bahrain, which is led by the Sunni al-Khalifia family and once ruled over it, Qatar is a close supporter of U.S. military operations and hosts the forward headquarters of the U.S. Central Command. 

But Qatar, the main location of what was regarded as al-Qaida's broadcast station, al-Jazeera, also happens to be the home of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who not only is one of the most influential clerics in Sunni Islam but is the main spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. 

As an unindicted conspirator in the 2007 U.S. case, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, al-Qaradawi in 2004 issued a fatwa, or declaration, to kill Americans. 

"All of the Americans in Iraq are combatants, there is no difference between civilians and soldiers, and one should fight them, since the American civilians came to Iraq in order to serve the occupation," al-Qaradawi said. "The abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq is a religious obligation so as to cause them to leave Iraq immediately." 

There's also mounting evidence that some members of Qatar's large ruling family are supporters of al-Qaida. There are various reports that the royal family of Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani not only shielded 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before he was captured by the U.S. in Pakistan, but allegedly has paid al-Qaida millions of dollars a year not to attack the country. 

In addition, Qatar supports Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas as part of its mediation and outreach initiatives. A State Department description of Qatar called the Obama administration's position on Qatar as "not (having) voiced public concern about Qatar's multi-directional foreign policy and has sought to preserve and expand military and counter-terrorism cooperation with the ambitious leaders of this wealthy, strategically located country." 

A 2009 leaked classified State Department cable described Qatar as the "worst" in counter-terrorism in the Middle East. 

"Officials should make known USG concerns about the financial support to Hamas by Qatari charitable organizations and our concerns about the moral support Hamas receives from Yousef al-Qaradawi," the leaked cable said. 

Sources say that Qatar has backed the al-Qaida-affiliated Al-Shabaab group in Somalia, with at least two members of al-Qaida in Qatar managing the terrorist group's money and personnel pipeline through Iran.

Muslim Brotherhood Takes Egypt Elections by Storm, Poised to Win Islamic Majority

Islamists appear to have taken a strong majority of seats in the first round of Egypt‘s first parliamentary vote since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, a trend that if confirmed would give religious parties a popular mandate in the struggle to win control from the ruling military and ultimately reshape a key U.S. ally.

Final results, expected Friday, will be the clearest indication in decades of Egyptians’ true political views and give the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood a major role in the country’s first freely elected parliament. An Islamist majority could also herald a greater role for conservative Islam in Egyptian social life and shifts in foreign policy, especially toward Israel and the Palestinians.

The showing in Egypt – long considered a linchpin of regional stability – would be the clearest signal yet that parties and candidates connected to political Islam will emerge as the main beneficiaries of this year’s Arab Spring uprisings.

Tunisia and Morocco have both elected Islamist majorities to parliament, and while Libya has yet to announce dates for its first elections, Islamist groups have emerged as a strong force there since rebels overthrew Moammar Gadhafi in August. They also play a strong opposition role in Yemen.

Judges overseeing the Egyptian vote count said Thursday that near-complete results show the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest and best organized political group, could take as many as 45 percent of the contested seats.

In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood wins, parties backed by ultraconservative Salafist Muslims looked poised to take 20 percent, giving Islamist parties a striking majority in the first round of voting in key districts, including Cairo and Alexandria.

Similar results in the remaining rounds would give Islamist parties a majority in parliament, which many believe they will use to steer the long-secular U.S. ally in a more religiously conservative direction.

The Islamist victories came at the expense of a coalition of liberal parties called the Egyptian block, the group most closely linked to the youth activists who launched the anti-Mubarak uprising – and which is expected to win only about 20 percent of seats.

In Egypt, the Brotherhood was officially banned and suppressed for decades, but built a nationwide network of activists who focused on providing services to the poor. After Mubarak’s fall, the group campaigned as the Freedom and Justice Party, their organization and the Brotherhood’s name-recognition giving them a big advantage over newly formed liberal parties.

The election also provided an opening for the Salafist Muslims whose strict Islamic practice is similar to that in Saudi Arabia. While the Muslim Brotherhood has said it will preserve individual rights, Salafi groups are not shy about their ambition to turn Egypt into a state where women must dress modestly and TV content deemed offensive will be banned.

The Brotherhood’s leadership has so far avoided defining the ruling coalition it will seek to build. And during the campaign, it often avoided strict Islamist rhetoric in favor of more inclusive messages about social equality and clean government.

Critics, however, worry that once in power, the group will band together with its Islamist allies to impose stricter social codes. Many in Egypt‘s Coptic Christian minority fear they’ll face new restrictions on building churches.

The Obama administration has lauded the elections, saying it will cooperate with the victors, no matter what their persuasion.

Israel, which has long considered its peace treaty with Egypt a buffer against regional war, worries Islamists will be less cooperative than Mubarak was. Israel is highly unpopular in most of Egyptian society, and Brotherhood leaders have suggested they‘ll review Egypt’s relationship with the Jewish state. They may also deepen ties to Hamas, the militant group that rules the Gaza Strip.

This week’s vote, held in seven provinces, will determine about 30 percent of the 498 seats in the People’s Assembly, parliament’s lower house. Two more rounds, ending in January, will cover Egypt’s other 20 provinces. Three more rounds lasting until March will elect the less powerful upper house.

Egypt’s election commission said that unexpectedly large voter turnout in the first round had slowed the count and that results, initially expected Thursday, would be announced Friday.

Participation figures have not been released, but Maj. Gen. Ismail Etman of the ruling military council estimated that 70 percent of eligible people voted.

The power the new legislature will have remains unclear.

Several members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took control of the country when Mubarak fell, have said the new parliament will not appoint the prime minister or have power to dismiss the Cabinet. The military has also said it will appoint 80 of the 100-member panel charged with drafting a new constitution.

The Brotherhood is expected to challenge the army on these issues, and a strong showing in the elections will boost its mandate to do so. The group’s leaders have already said they will form a coalition government that will choose its own prime minister.

The military has other plans. Last week, military council head Hussein Tantawi appointed a Mubarak-era prime minister to head a new government. Kamal el-Ganzouri is expected to announce its members Saturday.

His government will not likely serve for more than a few months, and groups pushing for a faster transition to civilian rule consider it a mere front for continued military rule.

The trial of some 12,000 civilians before military courts this year has soured many on the military, and an attempt to clear the square of a sit-in by families of those killed by security forces two weeks ago sparked days of clashes in which some 40 more were killed.

This week’s large voter turnout, however, could undermine the call for renewed protest more than any military statement, as many Egyptians seem to have placed their hopes in the political process.

Some youth leaders acknowledged this.

“The revolution has partially ended with the holding of the elections,” said Ahmed Imam, a youth leader in the anti-Mubarak uprising. “The conflict now will not be between Tahrir and the military, but between the military and the next parliament. This will steal the spotlight from our revolutionary struggle.”

Nigerian Muslims and Christians Clash, Leaving Dozens More Dead

Another 25 people were buried over the weekend in the aftermath of deadly clashes between Christians and Muslims last week in Nigeria.

An estimated 45 Christians have already been killed since last week, when Fulani Muslim herdsmen along with Muslim soldiers attacked a Barkin Ladi church on Nov. 23 and killed four Christians, returning the next day to slay 35 more in a nearby village named Kwok, Compass Direct News reported. Before the major deadly attack, several smaller attacks reportedly took place, starting on Nov. 20.

Local media have reported a sharp rise of deaths resulting from violent clashes between Nigeria's Berom Christians and the Fulani Muslim population living in the country's central, turmoil-torn area of Plateau State.

Thousands of Christians are reportedly fleeing the area, which is known for instability with violence dating years back.

Plateau state lies in the so-called middle belt region between the mainly Muslim north and predominately Christian south of Africa's most populous nation, according to Agence France-Press.

"Beroms and other mainly Christian ethnic groups are viewed as indigenous in the area, while Hausa-Fulani Muslims are seen as the more recent 'settlers' despite the fact that many have been there for decades," the agency reports.

According to local authorities, thousands have been killed in recent years in the clashes between the two groups. The violent acts included bomb blasts on Christmas Eve of 2010 and the violence in the days that followed.

On Nov. 4, some 150 people had reportedly been killed -- at least 130 of them Christians -- by over 200 members of the Islamic extremist Boko Haram sect stormed the Yobe state capital, Damaturu, according to Compass Direct News.

The accompanying destruction included the bombing of at least 10 church buildings.

The Christian leaders in Damaturu told Compass that out of the 150 casualties reported in the Yobe attacks, more than 130 were Christians. The assault reportedly occurred when a group of Muslim extremists on their way to the town of New Jerusalem were asking Christians they met on the way if they could recite the Islamic creed, and if they could not, they were killed.

UN Human Rights Officer's Criticism of Flogging Results in Facebook Group To See Her "Slain and Driven Out of the Country"

Statements by visiting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay calling for a moratorium on flogging as a punishment for fornication and criticising the Muslim-only clause for citizenship in the Maldivian constitution have been widely condemned by religious NGOs, public officials and political parties.

In an address delivered in parliament last Thursday, Pillay said the practice of flogging women found guilty of extra-marital sex “constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women, and should have no place in the legal framework of a democratic country.”
The UN human rights chief called for a public debate “on this issue of major concern.” 

In a press conference later in the day, Pillay called on the judiciary and the executive to issue a moratorium on flogging.

On article 9(d) of the constitution, which states “a non-Muslim may not become a citizen of the Maldives,” Pillay said the provision was “discriminatory and does not comply with international standards.”

Local media widely misreported Pillay as stating during Thursday evening’s press conference that she did not believe the Maldives had a Constitution, which prompted a great deal of public outrage. Her comment, however, was in response to a challenge from Miadhu Editor Gabbe Latheef, who asked “if you believe we have a Constitution, why are you speaking against our Constitution?”

“I don’t believe you have a Constitution, you have a constitution. The constitution conforms in many respects to universally respected human rights. Let me assure you that these human rights conform with Islam,” Pillay said on Minivan News’s recording of the press conference, however her phrasing was widely misinterpreted by the media.

Pleading for hypothetical, coulda-woulda-shoulda, academic-exercise Sharia does not change what Sharia actually is, as this story makes clear.

Shortly after Pillay’s speech in parliament, Islamic Minister Dr Abdul Majeed Abdul Bari told local media that “a tenet of Islam cannot be changed” and flogging was a hudud punishment prescribed in the Quran (24:2) and “revealed down to us from seven heavens.”

They said it, they cited the same chapter and verse that we have noted many times. Are they Islamophobes?

Bari noted that article 10 of the constitution established Islam as “the basis of all the laws of the Maldives” and prohibited the enactment of any law “contrary to any tenet of Islam,” adding that the Maldives has acceded to international conventions with reservations on religious matters such as marriage equality.

In his Friday prayer sermon the following day, Bari asserted that “no international institution or foreign nation” had the right to challenge the practice of Islam and adherence to its tenets in the Maldives.
Meanwhile, the religious conservative Adhaalath Party issued a statement on Thursday contending that tenets of Islam and the principles of Shariah were not subject to modification or change through public debate or democratic processes.

Adhaalath Party suggested that senior government officials invited a foreign dignitary to make statements that they supported but were “hesitant to say in public.”

The party called on President Mohamed Nasheed to condemn Pillay’s statements “at least to show to the people that there is no irreligious agenda of President Nasheed and senior government officials behind this.”
The Adhaalath statement also criticised Speaker Abdulla Shahid and MPs in attendance on Thursday for neither informing Pillay that she “could not make such statements” nor making any attempt to stop her or object to the remarks.

The party insisted that Pillay’s statements and the SAARC monuments in Addu City were “not isolated incidents” but part of a “broad scheme” by the government to “pulverize Islam in the Maldives and introduce false religions”.

Later that night, the Civil Society Coalition – a network of NGOs that campaigned successfully against regulations to allow sale of alcohol in city hotels to non-Muslims last year – announced a nation-wide mass protest on December 23 against the government’s alleged efforts to securalise the country.

Spokesperson Mohamed Didi claimed the current administration was pursuing an agenda to “wipe out the Islamic faith of the Maldivian people” through indoctrination and “plots” to legalize apostasy and allow freedom of religion.

Freedom of religion? Oh, the humanity!

He suggested that “the few people who cannot digest the religion of the people should immediately leave the country.”
The NGO coalition said it expected “over a 100,000 people” to participate in the planned protest.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) announced today that it would join the protest. PPM interim council member and religious scholar MP Dr Afrashim Ali told newspaper Haveeru that Pillay “can’t say that to us” and condemned the statements on behalf of the party.

Afrashim called on the executive, parliament and judiciary to enact a law prohibiting any statements that “opposes the principles of Islam.”
In a statement today, religious NGO Islamic Foundation of Maldives (IFM) strongly condemned Pillay’s remarks and criticised MPs for not objecting at Thursday’s event.

Pillay’s statements in parliament amounted to calling on MPs “to legalize fornication and gay marriage,” IFM contended.

“Therefore, anyone who agrees to this surely becomes an apostate,” the statement reads. “And if this [fornication and homosexuality] is spread anywhere, Almighty God has warned that fire will be rained upon them from the seven heavens.”

Meanwhile, a Facebook group was formed yesterday with members calling for her to be “slain and driven out of the country.” The group currently has 207 members.

One member posted a banner to open a public debate on whether citizens should rise up and either “kill or lynch” those who “deny the Quran, not tolerate Islam and undermine the constitution.”....

7. Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies

Secret Data and Keystroke-Logging Software Revealed on Millions of Smartphones

Most of us don’t know exactly what software is installed on our phones when we purchase them. All that seems to matter is that it works. But when Android developer Trevor Eckhart found software installed on many popular mobile devices that logs every single one of your keystrokes — phone numbers dialed, text messages, encrypted web searches, etc. — people started to listen.

Last week, Wired reported that Eckhart had found a program called Carrier IQ installed rather secretly on smartphones; its a program that can track almost anything happening on your mobile phone. Carrier IQ threatened Eckhart, who had posted research and manuals on his website, saying he was in breach of copyright law and could face financial charges. But Eckhart didn’t back down.

In fact, Eckhart has released a new video and research showing Carrier IQ at work on a phone, according to Wired. The company’s website says the program is used to give “manufacturer’s unprecedented insight into their customer’s mobile experience.” Wired states that Carrier IQ said the software is used to gather “information off the handset to understand the mobile-user experience, where phone calls are dropped, where signal quality is poor, why applications crash and battery life” — not logging keystrokes.

Now, as Eckhart notes in the video, his demonstration is shown on an HTC phone but he mentions he’s seen such software on other phones like Android, Blackberry, Nokia and more. Eckhart describes the software on his website as a “rootkit“ that is ”enabling someone continued privileged access to our computers“ and is ”hidden in nearly every part of our phones.”

Wired and Eckhart are unsure of how this software is covered under a privacy policy. 

“If HTC’s privacy policy doesn’t cover the information collected by Carrier IQ, it’s unclear whose privacy policy does,” Eckhart wrote on his website. “Carrier IQ has a minimal privacy policy, but it says, ‘Our products are designed and configured to work within the privacy policies of our end customers[.]‘ So whose policy covers this data — Carrier IQ, or the phone manufacturer, or the carrier? Nobody knows for sure.”

Eckhart writes, “An application should never be this hard to fully remove for security reasons — especially out of contract — when it serves no good purpose for the user, and its use should be opt-in ONLY.”

Last week, Wired reported that the Electronic Frontier Foundation came to Eckhart‘s rescue when he was threatened with legal action by Carrier IQ: 

“I’m mirroring the stuff so other people are able to read this and verify my research,” he said. “I’m just a little guy. I’m not doing anything malicious.”

The company is demanding Eckhart retract (.pdf) his “rootkit” characterization of the software, which is employed by most major carriers, Eckhart said.

The EFF says Eckhart’s posting of the files is protected by fair use under the Copyright Act for criticism, commentary, news reporting and research, and that all of Carrier IQ’s claims and demands are “baseless.” (.pdf)

Marcia Hofmann, an EFF senior staff attorney, said the civil rights group has concluded that “Carrier IQ’s real goal is to suppress Eckhart’s research and prevent others from verifying his findings.”

Wired had the opportunity to interview Carrier IQ’s marketing manager Andrew Coward who said the company should have control of distributing materials. Coward did acknowledge that if they wanted to look at text messages the probably could, but that wasn’t the point of the program, which is designed for metric analysis. 

Afterward, Carrier IQ released a message of apology to Eckhart, CNET reported: 

“Our action was misguided and we are deeply sorry for any concern or trouble that our letter may have caused Mr. Eckhart,” the company said in response to the EFF’s letter. “We sincerely appreciate and respect EFF’s work on his behalf, and share their commitment to protecting free speech in a rapidly changing technological world.”

It did use this apology as another opportunity to say that the company does not use the software to record keystrokes, provide tracking tools, inspect or report content of communications, or provide real-time data to any customer.

Sprint admitted to CNET that it was a Carrier IQ customer but sides with the software company in that it doesn’t use the data to spy on customers but to “understand device performance.”

Trade in Surveillance Technology Raises Worries

Northern Virginia technology entrepreneur Jerry Lucas hosted his first trade show for makers of surveillance gear at the McLean Hilton in May 2002. Thirty-five people attended.

Nine years later, Lucas holds five events annually around the world, drawing hundreds of vendors and thousands of potential buyers for an industry that he estimates sells $5 billion of the latest tracking, monitoring and eavesdropping technology each year. Along the way, these events have earned an evocative nickname: the Wiretappers’ Ball.

The products of what Lucas calls the “lawful intercept” industry are developed mainly in Western nations such as the United States but are sold all over the world with few restrictions. This burgeoning trade has alarmed human rights activists and privacy advocates, who call for greater regulation because the technology has ended up in the hands of repressive governments such as those of Syria, Iran and China.

“You need two things for a ­dictatorship to survive: propa­ganda and secret police,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.), who has proposed bills to restrict the sale of surveillance technology overseas. “Both of those are enabled in a huge way by the high-tech companies involved.”

But the overwhelming U.S. government response has been to engage in the event not as a potential regulator but as a customer.

The list of attendees for this year’s local Wiretappers’ Ball, held in October at the North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, included more than 35 federal agencies, Lucas said. The list, he added, included the FBI, the Secret Service and every branch of the military, along with the IRS, the Agriculture Department and the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service. None would comment on their participation in the event.

Representatives of 43 countries also were there, Lucas said, as were many people from state and local law enforcement agencies. Journalists and members of the public were excluded.

On offer were products that allow users to track hundreds of cellphones at once, read e-mails by the tens of thousands, even get a computer to snap a picture of its owner and send the image to police — or anyone else who buys the software. One product uses phony updates for iTunes and other popular programs to infiltrate personal computers.

Many monitoring systems work by cloning e-mails or making records of Web traffic, allowing police or other users to track the use of key words. Others use stand-alone hardware to eavesdrop on nearby cellphone or WiFi signals.

The Commerce Department regulates exports of surveillance technology, but its ability to restrict the trade is limited. Inter­mediaries sometimes redirect sales to foreign governments, even those that are subject to economic sanctions, once products leave the United States. The State Department, which has spent $70 million in recent years to promote Internet freedom abroad, has expressed rising alarm over such transactions but has no enforcement authority.

U.S. law generally requires law enforcement agencies to obtain court orders when intercepting domestic Internet or phone communications. But such restrictions do not follow products when they are sold overseas. 

Industry officials say their products are designed for legitimate purposes, such as tracking terrorists, investigating crimes and allowing employers to block pornographic and other restricted Web sites at their offices.

“This technology is absolutely vital for civilization,” said Lucas, president of TeleStrategies, which hosts the events, officially called Intelligent Support Systems World Conferences. “You can’t have a situation where bad guys can communicate and you bar interception.”

But the surveillance products themselves make no distinction between bad guys and good guys, only users and targets. Several years of industry sales brochures provided to The Washington Post by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, and released publicly Thursday, reveal that many companies are selling sophisticated tools capable of going far beyond conventional investigative techniques.

“People are morally outraged by the traditional arms trade, but they don’t realize that the sale of software and equipment that allows oppressive regimes to monitor the movements, communications and Internet activity of entire populations is just as dangerous,” said Eric King of Privacy International, a London-based group that seeks to limit government surveillance. Sophisticated technology “is facilitating detention, torture and execution,” he said, “and potentially smothering the flames of another Arab Spring.”

Surging demand worldwide 

Demand for surveillance tools surged after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as rising security concerns coincided with the spread of cellphones, Skype, social media and other technologies that made it easier for people to communicate — and easier for governments and companies to eavesdrop on a mass scale.

The surveillance industry conferences are in Prague, Dubai, Brasilia, the Washington area and Kuala Lumpur, whose event starts Tuesday. They are invitation-only affairs, and Lucas said he bars Syria, Iran and North Korea, which are under sanctions, from participating.

The most popular conference, with about 1,300 attendees, was in Dubai this year. Middle Eastern governments, for whom the Arab Spring was “a wake-up call,” are the most avid buyers of surveillance software and equipment, Lucas said. Any customers who come to the event are free to buy the products there.

“When you’re selling to a government, you lose control of what the government is going to do with it,” Lucas said. “It’s like selling guns to people. Some are going to defend themselves. Some are going to commit crimes.” 

The suppliers are global as well. About 15 of the vendors for the conference in Bethesda were based in the United States, Lucas said. Others were from Germany, Italy, Israel, South Africa and Britain; many of these also have U.S. offices targeting the market for law enforcement agencies and other government buyers.

Of the 51 companies whose sales brochures and other materials were obtained and released by WikiLeaks, 17 have secured U.S. government contracts in the past five years for agencies such as the FBI, the State Department and the National Security Agency, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal procurement documents.

Trade in surveillance technology raises worries
Text Size PrintE-mailReprintsFederal agencies declined to comment on the use of surveillance technology. But Lucas said the Fish and Wildlife Service uses monitoring gear to catch poachers, the Agriculture Department to investigate abuse of grants and the IRS to search for evidence that tax filers have understated their income.

“The IRS loves to find people filing zero income on their tax returns with photos of Ferraris on their Facebook pages,” Lucas said. 

An IRS spokesman declined to comment.

Privacy experts say that the legal framework governing the industry has not kept up with its growth and that products sold for legitimate purposes, such as blocking access to certain Web sites or investigating sexual predators, can easily be adapted for broader surveillance.

Far-reaching tools 

The brochures collected by WikiLeaks make clear that few forms of electronic communication are beyond the reach of available surveillance tools. Although some simple products cost just a few hundred dollars and can be bought on eBay, the technology sold at the trade shows often costs hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Customization and on-site training can provide years of revenue for companies.

One German company, DigiTask, offers a suitcase-size device capable of monitoring Web use on public WiFi networks, such as those at cafes, airports and hotels. A lawyer representing the company, Winfried Seibert, declined to elaborate on its products. “They won’t answer questions about what is offered,” he said. “That’s a secret. That’s a secret between the company and the customer.”

Another German firm, Elaman, touts in its government security brochure the capacity to “identify an individual’s location, their associates and members of a group, such as political opponents.”

A British company, Cobham, creates bogus cellphone towers that let users track phones up to three miles away and listen to some calls, according to its brochure. A spokesman confirmed it provides cellular tracking devices for “bona fide law enforcement agencies worldwide.”

The FinFisher program, which creates fake updates for iTunes, Adobe Acrobat and other programs, was produced by a British company, Gamma International. The Wall Street Journal reported on this product, and several other surveillance tools described in sales brochures, in an article last month. Apple said that on Nov. 14 it altered iTunes to block Fin­Fisher intrusions.

A lawyer who represents Gamma, Peter Lloyd, said that Fin­Fisher is a vital investigative tool for law enforcement agencies and that the company complies with British law. “Gamma does not approve or encourage any misuse of its products and is not aware of any such misuse,” he said.

The WikiLeaks documents, which the group also provided to several European news organizations and one in India, do not reveal the names of buyers. But when Arab Spring revolutionaries took control of state security agencies in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, they found that Western surveillance technology had been used to monitor political activists.

Top 5 Aerial Weapons That Could Change the Future of Warfare

Here are the top five aerial weapons that one day could change the face of modern warfare. Relying on the most advanced technology in the world, these hyper-advanced projectiles may outmaneuver, outrun, and outmatch America’s foes around the globe, whenever the need arises.

1) The Mach-5 Cruise Missile

If a cruise-missile at supersonic speed is a full-throttle Ford Mustang, then a missile that hits Mach 5 is a Formula 1 racer going all out.

The problem is, that hypersonic Mach 5 pace — clocking in at five times the speed of sound– has yet to be reached by munitions. Until now.

The X-51 missile can hit hypersonic speed, and moves so fast that it doesn’t even need an explosive warhead. It’s kinetic energy will shred through targets.

Boeing has already tested the X-51, which last year flew at hypersonic speed for a few minutes after launching from a B-52 bomber. Though it fizzled early in the last test in June, there will be another trial in the months ahead.

2) “Super Decoy Drone”

The only defensive weapon that makes the list, this super decoy drone, called the Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD), is a distracting, annoying, weapons-jamming dynamo.

It‘s sort of like a flying JarJar Binks that soaks up all the enemies’ attention and firepower.

David Axe of Wired gives the specs and mission of the MALD as a:

“300-pound, jet-powered ‘bots cruise for up to 500 miles, more or less inviting enemy defenders to unload their guns and missiles at them. Meanwhile, Air Force and Navy planes carrying anti-radiation missiles sneak around to destroy the enemy air defenses as they’re busily killing the MALDs.”

The MALD’s mission is a space-a version of the adage “take one for the team.”

3) “Hyper Speed Bunker Buster”

Bad guys in Iran and North Korea are digging bunkers to hide their sensitive military sites like a horde of evil gophers. This rocket-fueled bunker buster punches through the earth to obliterate anything underneath it.

The main draw here is the trade-off of size for speed. Instead of using huge, 2,000 lbs bombs that rely on weight and ordnance for the job, the hyper speed bunker busters use kinetic velocity. It’s all about sheer speed.

As Bill Murray says in Caddyshack, “Au revoir, gopher.” 

4) “Triple-Target Terminator Missile”

It cannot be stopped. It does not feel pity. And it will chase down anything.

That pretty much describes the Triple-Target Terminator, in development by Darpa and missile-maker Raytheon. Meant as a “high-speed, long-range missile that can engage air, cruise-missile, and air-defense targets,” this projectile is the like the all-purpose utility player on a baseball team.

This one is a little far off from seeing action. It’s not easy to make a one size fits all ground, sea, air missile, but it would be cost effective, and already has a scary name.

5) “Pocket-Sized” Precision Nukes

The JDAM– or Joint Direct Attack Munition– has been roaring down from the sky to obliterate America’s enemies for years with symphony-like precision.

Now, defense scientists are looking to make the nuclear bombs as close to JDAM accurate as they can.

The B61, which has been America’s main nuclear gravity bomb for decades, is getting a GPS upgrade. A more accurate nuke means explosive power can be scaled back for the same effect.

Just the thought of getting a mini-nuke through a window might make the axis of evil countries play a little nicer with the world community.

Next Generation To Be Born Into ‘Cashless’ Society

Today's younger generation will trade in their cash, credit cards and cheques for mobile digital wallets by 2016, new research claims.

Children born today will be Britain's first "cashless generation" and will frequently use their smartphones in exchange for goods and services, according to a report by the research company Forrester for the e-commerce site PayPal.

The survey, based on interviews with ten senior executives from major UK businesses with a combined turnover of £85 billion in 2010, identified 2016 as the year that the "digital switchover" will take place on the high street.

From those interviewed, nine out of ten said they believed that mobile payments will be accepted within four years, while half of those interviewed said the development could happen in three years.

The firm predicts that consumers will trade in cash, credit cards and cheques for mobile wallets as soon as 2016, when mass adoption of mobile payment technology is expected to take place.

Commenting on the digital switchover, PayPal UK managing director Carl Scheible said: "We'll see a huge change over the next few years in the way we shop and pay for things.

"By 2016, you'll be able to leave your wallet at home and use your mobile as a 21st-century digital wallet."

Orange and Barclaycard launched the Quick Tap contactless mobile payment service earlier this year. The near field communication system allows consumers to have their handsets enabled to make purchases in more than 50,000 shops.

8. Christian Worldview/Issues

Conservative College Students Launch Website to Battle Liberal Academia

A group of conservative college students are fed up with what they feel is liberal bias displayed at public universities. The young conservatives have come together to launch a new website called The College Conservative in hopes of providing a platform for young conservatives everywhere.

The website launched Monday and currently consists of 28 college writers and editors from across the country. So far, 323 Facebook fans have “liked” the page, and Editor-in-Chief Zachary Freeman told The Christian Post that the number will only rise as he has discovered that “there’s an enormous conservative base out there on a lot of college campuses.”

Freeman is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee and helped establish the project when he discovered there were very few platforms for young conservatives to speak their mind.

Freeman told The Daily Caller that The College Conservatives hope to publish three articles per weekday and to have “a completely worldwide network of writers who are all for one unified cause.” He also added that he has a writer in Canada and is trying to acquire a British correspondent.

This is quite a lofty goal considering that originally the website was going to consist of just 4 to 5 writers from mid-Tennessee. After a while, Freeman said, more and more conservative college students started popping up and wanting to write for the website. The whole idea came to fruition after only a month of planning.

The goal of the movement is to promote the truth which has been lost greatly, according to Freeman.

“I think perhaps we (as a nation) have lost our faith and our understanding. The College Conservative works to indirectly promote the biblical truths,” Freeman told The Christian Post.

“I believe that the greatest way to promote biblical truth is by living it out. It’s better for people to see your faith. Our politics are shaped by Christ. It comes out in our writing. Our readers will be able to tell the principles by which we live.”

Freeman adds that the group does not want to come across as hateful, but rather they want to enlighten people on not just a political level but a foundational Christian level as well.

When asked what it was like to be a conservative on a largely liberal campus, Freeman replied that it is “horrible”

“I deal with professors all the time who want nothing less than to indoctrinate me completely and take away the way I was raised. I’ve definitely dealt with more than my fair share of liberal professors. All of our writers have experienced this to an extent.”

University of California San Diego senior and assistant editor, Gabriella Hoffman, can relate to Freeman’s experiences. She told the Daily Caller that she had a professor “outright say that if you’re Christian and you support traditional marriage, then you’re a Nazi.”

When asked if the editors would be willing to debate people who have other viewpoints, Freeman said, “Bring it on. They aren’t going to win, though, because they don’t have the truth on their side.”

Profile of Megachurches: Young, White, Still Growing

If megachurches were a denomination, they'd be the second largest Protestant group in the country, researchers say.

With that, Leadership Network and Hartford Institute for Religion Research decided to take a closer look at the large churches (2,000 or more attendants) that draw a total of nearly 6 million worshippers in a weekend. Their findings are in a report titled "A New Decade of Megachurches: 2011 Profile of Large Attendance Churches in the United States."

According to the study released this month, while 15 percent of megachurches did not grow or were in decline over the past five years, the stated average attendance for megachurches grew from 2,604 in 2005 to 3,597 in 2010. Growth, the researchers concluded, continues to be steady for America's largest churches.

"Megachurches," the study's authors say, "remain one of the most robust religious organizational expressions within North America."

Notably, these churches believe they're spiritually strong despite what critics say. In fact, 98 percent agree that their congregations are "spiritually alive and vital" and that they have strong beliefs and values. A majority also say they have a clear mission and purpose.

Another finding that debunks popular perceptions about megachurches is that they place a strong emphasis on personal accountability and Christian spiritual practices among attenders.

According to the study, at least three-quarters of megachurches say they promote "quite a bit" or "a lot" the practices of personal Bible study, prayer or devotions, talking with children about faith and stressing abstinence from premarital sex.

Sixteen percent also emphasize fasting and 13 percent stress observing the Sabbath.

Other emphases in megachurches include youth activities, community service, cash assistance, financial counseling and food pantries.

Less than half of the surveyed churches stress voter education/registration.

Providing a glimpse of the attendees, the study reveals that 70 percent of participants are under the age of 50 and 82 percent of the surveyed churches have a majority Caucasian participation. Forty percent of regular adult participants are new to the congregation in the last five years and only 20 percent are identified as life-long members of the congregation.

Other characteristics of megachurches:

•Half are multisite

•Nearly half (48 percent) have one or more Saturday night services (in addition to Sunday services)

•71 percent identify as evangelical; 8 percent say they're pentecostal

•70 percent say their church is part of a denomination, network, fellowship, or association of churches

•79 percent say the church’s most dramatic growth occurred during tenure of current senior pastor

•88 percent say their church/pastoral leadership uses Facebook or other social media regularly

•A quarter of megachurches were founded in 1949 or earlier

•Nearly all megachurches use drums, percussion, electric guitar and visual projection in their worship; only 43 percent use a choir

•94 percent describe their worship services as joyful; 46 percent say their services are reverent

Data is based on a survey of 336 churches with attendance of 1,800 and up; 304 of the respondents represented churches having attendance of 2,000 or more. The report was authored by Warren Bird and Scott Thumma.

Student Fights Expulsion over Biblical Beliefs

A Christian graduate student at a Georgia university has asked a federal appeals court to bar the school from expelling her over her beliefs on homosexuality. 

Augusta State University put counseling student Jennifer Keeton on academic probation in 2010 after she said it would be hard to work with gay clients.

Keaton claims the university's move violates her First Amendment rights.

The university said her thinking was unethical and threatened expulsion unless Keeton attended gay pride events and sensitivity training.

She refused and filed a federal suit against the school for trying to expel her for her Christian convictions. A judge rejected her challenge, and the case is now before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The nonprofit Christian advocacy Alliance Defense Fund is representing Keeton in the case.

"[Augusta State University] faculty have promised to expel Miss Keeton from the graduate Counselor Education Program not because of poor academic showing or demonstrated deficiencies in clinical performance, but simply because she has communicated both inside and outside the classroom that she holds to Christian ethical convictions on matters of human sexuality and gender identity," Keeton said in the suit.

Both sides have declined to comment on the matter as the case is under a gag order by the court.

God in the Gallup Details

Decade after decade, the Gallup Organization reported some of the most familiar numbers in American religion.

More than 90 percent of Americans said, "yes" when asked if they believe in God -- a number that has changed little since the 1940s. Nearly 80 percent insisted they are "Christians," in some sense of that word.

How many claimed to have attended a worship service in the previous week or so? That number hovered between 41 and 46 percent.

These are the kinds of numbers religious leaders love to quote when trying to intimidate politicians, educators, journalists and Hollywood producers.

Nevertheless, these poll numbers consistently failed to impress one significant authority -- George Gallup Jr.

"We revere the Bible, but don't read it," warned the famous pollster, in an address to the Evangelical Press Association. "We believe the Ten Commandments to be valid rules for living, although we can't name them. We believe in God, but this God is a totally affirming one, not a demanding one. He does not command our total allegiance. We have other gods before him."

The bottom line, he said, in an interview after that 1990 address, is that most American believers simply "want the fruits of religion, but not the obligations."

"You got the sense that, however valuable those general numbers were in earlier polls, he was showing that you could experiment and try to find the realities inside all those numbers," said Green.

Gallup didn't enjoy punching holes in comforting statistics, in part because he sincerely believed that religious faith played a powerful, and for many decades overlooked, role in American life. This conviction was both professional and personal, since Gallup seriously considered becoming an Episcopal priest and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in religion at Princeton University before joining the family business.

Thus, while his father forever linked the Gallup name with political polling, George Gallup Jr. added a new goal for the firm's research -- probing the links between religious life and public life. Gallup retired in 2004 and died on Nov. 21 at the age of 81, after a one-year battle with cancer.

The key to Gallup's legacy is that he built on the basic religious questions his father and other researchers included in polls during the 1940s and '50s, said political scientist John C. Green of the University of Akron, who is known for his research into American politics and religious life. 

Instead of merely asking questions about religious affiliations, Gallup advocated a more systematic approach that focused attention on religious beliefs, attitudes and even behaviors.

"You got the sense that, however valuable those general numbers were in earlier polls, he was showing that you could experiment and try to find the realities inside all those numbers," said Green. The earlier Gallup numbers were "valuable because some of them went back so far into the mid-20th century. Then, George Gallup Jr. showed everyone that you could go beyond that general approach and dedicate entire surveys to religious questions."

By the end of his career, it was common to see a variety of researchers -- at the Pew Forum, LifeWay Research, the Barna Group and elsewhere -- focusing their work on highly specialized surveys targeting religious issues and trends. In 1977, Gallup helped found the Princeton Religion Research Center, in part to produce materials that would help clergy be more effective.

The basic problem, Gallup told me in 2004, is that far too many clergy "simply fail to take discipleship seriously. They assume that because people say they believe something, that this means they will live out those beliefs in daily life."

This shows up in the building blocks of faith, he added. Many clergy, for example, assume that people in their flocks understand simple Bible references. Many assume that people in their pews understand the truth claims of other religions. Many clergy are naive enough to believe that postmodern believers will -- without being challenged -- confess their sins and change the behaviors that cause havoc in their lives.

Far too many pastors, he lamented, seem afraid to ask tough questions.

"America is a churched nation, for the most part. Most Americans are either going to church or they used to go to church," said Gallup. "At some point we need to start focusing more attention on what is happening or not happening in those churches. ... Are our people learning the basics? Is their faith making a difference in their lives? Is their faith attractive to other people? "These are the kinds of questions we must be willing to ask."

Hispanic Shift the Salvation of American Christianity?

Young Latinos are beginning to shift their attendance from the traditional Catholic churches they were raised in to varying evangelical and Pentecostal congregations, according to a recent Pew Research study.

The trend was first noticed in 2009 after a religious polling group found a decrease in the number of Hispanic Catholics and an increase in the number of Hispanics claiming to be born-again Christians.

In a recent report, National Public Radio attributed this evolution of where and how Latinos worship to second and third generation Hispanics wanting a change of venue.

And the growing movement could have a significant impact on the makeup and mission of churches in America.

"Hispanics will transform American evangelicalism in the 21st century," Rev. Samuel Rodriguez , president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told CBN News.

"There are some in the non-Latino church that are swaying away from biblical truth," he continued. "And Hispanics evangelicals are very committed to biblical orthodoxy, biblical truth."

CBN News spoke with Rev. Samuel Rodriguez more about the church migration taking place among young Latinos and how this transition benefits the evangelical community. 

He also says because of the immigration debate, "We may be deporting the very salvation of American Christianity."

Churches That Embrace Technology Attract Younger Congregations, Study Finds

These days, technology is playing more and more of a prominent role in the life of the Church.

A study released in September by Hartford Seminary insinuates that technology such as LCD TVs and iPads are illuminating religious communities these days. In the decade-long study, the scramble to embrace technology was one of the most significant changes in American congregations.

The study analyzed over 30 religions, including Protestants, Mormons, Muslims, Catholics and Jews, and found that congregations that have significant numbers of young adults are twice as likely to use technology heavily.

The report found evangelical Christians to be the most tech-savvy group.

Technology is most dramatically used during many churches’ sermons, such as at Fellowship Church in Dallas, Texas. The parishioners at this church follow the sermons of Pastor Ed Young, Sr., through high-definition video as Young is beamed from the mother church in Grapevine, Texas, into their sanctuary.

Young is part of new generation of worship leaders who are using technology--including high-def video and even holograms--to present their Sunday morning sermons from “mother” churches to their “satellite” churches.

In addition to technology used during sermons, more churches have even embraced technology concerning monetary donations. E-giving has many benefits, says Deborah Matthews of ACH Direct, such as church members’ being able to “remain faithful to their commitment to give even when they are not physically at church,” such as during summer vacations, inclement weather and illnesses.

According to the 2010 Federal Reserve Payments Study, over three-quarters of noncash payments made last year were made electronically.

At Morning Star Church in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, Past Mike Schreiner encourages his congregation members to text message their questions to him throughout his sermon. His assistant, John Carrington, screens the questions, and the chosen ones are shown on a computer screen in front of Schreiner and read anonymously. The worship leader feels the accessibility that texting gives to his members is important.

9. Other Events To Watch

Israeli Security Forces: Turkey Nearing Military Intervention In Syria

Israeli security forces officials said Wednesday that they believe Turkey is nearing a military intervention in Syria, in order to create a secure buffer zone for opposition activists. 

Thus far, Ankara has given shelter to some 20,000 refugees who escaped the deadly crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad's security forces, and also housed Syrian opposition groups. 

In recent days, however, Israeli officials said that according to an updated assessment of the situation, Turkey is expected to set up secure buffer zones on its border with Syria that would allow armed opposition groups to organize against the Syrian regime from bases that would be protected by the Turkish army. 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently hardened his stance against Assad and suggested for the first time the possibility of foreign intervention in Syria. 

Wide protests against Assad's regime have been ongoing across Syria, but in recent weeks the focal point of the armed resistance by army defectors was in the three northern cities close to Turkey's border – Idlib, Homs, and Hama. 

According to various reports, there is an area in Idlib where the Syrian army lost control and has the potential to become an independent, rebel-controlled area, such as the Libyan city of Benghazi, which was seized by the rebels early in the revolution and became the temporary base for the opposition movement.

Survival Shop Reports Jump In Sales To People Preparing For “Possible Collapse”

A chain of three stores that sells survival food and gear reports a jump in sales to people who are getting prepared for the “possible collapse” of society.

“We had to order fifty cases of the meals ready to eat to keep up with the demand in the past three months,” said manager Steve Dorsey at Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters Inc. in Webster Groves. “That’s not normal. Usually we sell 20 to 30 cases in a whole year.”

Dorsey says business has been brisk since the spring uprisings in the middle east, as customers share concerns about political uprisings, the world economy and the future of the United States.

“I’ve had people in here that are very wealthy and they’ve spent thousands of dollars just on backpacks that they fill with survival gear, one for each person of their family,” Dorsey said, “And something where they can just grab a bag and get out of Dodge.”

Dorsey says some customers talk of stocking up on freeze-dried meals for the home, while others confide they are stashing supplies at a remote location away from the city where they would go in an emergency.

“There are people that have property and they’ve set up different things they’re building to protect themselves like towers they can stand up and watch,” Dorsey said, “There’s a lot of people I’m dealing with who buy all kinds of stuff because they have like twenty or thirty people going in on this together and they’re all going to go to this one spot if something like this happens.”

Uncle Sam’s Safari Outfitters in Webster does not sell guns, but Dorsey also reports many customers who do not own a gun are asking where they could go to buy one.

“I think people are scared. They don’t know where this country is going. They think we’re on a downward spiral with just dramatic,crazy spending. People just don’t know what’s going to happen,” Dorsey said.

Outside Uncle Sam’s, it appears civilization is intact. A red, white and blue Pepsi truck pulls up to supply beverages for a nearby grocery store. Motorists are having their cars washed at the General Grant car wash across the street. And the brass pendulums are swinging back and forth in the clocks on the wall at Helen’s Clock Repair.

Dorsey himself admits that he does not have a personal supply of meals ready to eat stashed in his basement. “We live just two minutes from the store,” he said, “If something happens, I can drive right over here.”

Reports of Coming Military Action in Syria

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad can feel the noose around his neck tightening. France is now calling for a humanitarian corridor in Syria and multiple reports talk of a Turkish-Arab military action following an authorization from the Arab League. The U.S. is telling its citizens to immediately leave the country. War may be on the horizon.

On Thursday, the French Foreign Minister asked the Arab League to endorse a “secured zone to protect civilians” in Syria. France is also officially embracing the Syrian National Council, an umbrella of opposition groups and figures, as a legitimate body. 

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe played a game of semantics, saying France was not endorsing a military intervention for a “buffer zone,” while admitting that the proposed “secured zone” would need military protection to ensure the delivery of aid.

At the same time, Israeli officials expect Turkey to soon establish buffer zones within Syrian territory near the border to create a safe haven for civilians and military defectors. The Turks are already housing the leadership of the Free Syria Army that is waging an armed struggle against Assad. 

The Kuwaiti Al-Rai newspaper is being told by senior sources in Europe that the plan is for a no-fly zone to be enforced by Arab and possibly Turkish air power after the Arab League approves of it. The U.S. will be involved behind-the-scenes, offering logistical support but no direct participation. NATO has ruled out military action in Syria. 

According to the report, the no-fly zone will not be limited to only stopping Syrian airplanes and helicopters, which have been rarely used in putting down the uprising. 

It will enforce a ban on all movement of military vehicles and artillery, forcing them off of the streets. It is hoped that Assad’s military will be forced to end operations “in less than 24 hours.” This account differs from the Israeli one in that it states that Turkey has ruled out sending its military into Syrian territory to create a buffer zone.

Turkish state television revealed on Tuesday that the commander of the army was evaluating the forces stationed along the border with Syria. The Syrian military is reinforcing its positions in the area, digging trenches and moving tanks behind trees. 

The Turkish government is telling its citizens returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca not to travel through Syria following an incident where Assad’s security forces fired upon two buses filled with Turkish citizens.

The U.S. is telling its citizens in Syria to immediately depart. Ambassador Robert Ford’s planned return to Syria has been canceled. It should be noted that the Obama administration waited to support military intervention in Libya until all American citizens had left.

Three cities near the Turkish border have become the focal points of the protests and the fighting between the regime and the Free Syria Army: Idlib, Homs and Hama, the lattermost being the base of the Muslim Brotherhood revolt in 1982 that was crushed by the regime. 

Part of Idlib is said to be free of the regime’s control. This makes it a candidate to be the Syrian version of Libya’s Benghazi where the opposition headquartered its revolution.

The Free Syria Army’s strategy is to create a safe haven in northern Syria near Turkey and then win international support for its fight to overthrow Assad. The leader of the Free Syria Army claims to have 15,000 defectors under his command, up from the number of 10,000 he regularly boasted of. 
This may be an exaggeration, but it is clear that the forces’ capabilities are increasing. It recently carried out attacks on the Air Force Intelligence headquarters near Damascus and the ruling Baath Party headquarters in the capital.

The rhetoric of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan towards Assad has become much more aggressive over the past week. He accused him of “cowardice” and said he’ll share the fate of Hitler, Mussolini and Qaddafi if he doesn’t resign.

“Just remove yourself from that seat before shedding more blood, before torturing more and for the welfare of your country as well as the region,” Erdogan said to Assad. He has been saying as far back as August that “the Syrian issue is an internal Turkish affair.”

Jordanian King Abdullah II became the first Arab leader to explicitly tell Assad to give up power. “If I were in his shoes, I would step down…If Bashar has the interest of the country, he would step down,” he said.

The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in a measure that only Yemen (where Syrian pilots are reportedly helping the regime) and Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon voted against. Iraq abstained, likely out of fear of Iranian proxy Moqtada al-Sadr, who is standing by Assad. 

The Arab League is signaling its support for regime change by meeting with the Syrian National Council in Cairo. An advisor to the Secretary-General of the Arab League said sanctions are being prepared against Assad and that it is working on “uniting the Syrian opposition on a united vision regarding the future of Syria during the transitional period.” Syria has until the end of Friday to allow a team of 500 human rights monitors into the country. 

Iran is standing by Assad, helping his forces to put down the revolution. At the same time, Iran tried to reach out to the National Coordinating Committee opposition group, which is opposed to foreign intervention. It is unknown if Iran is trying to build relations with the opposition in case Assad loses or if Iran is trying to split the opposition and empower the one opposed to outside help. Either way, the Committee rejected Iran because “no one trusted Iran.”

Russia has deployed warships to the Mediterranean Sea, which was widely interpreted as an expression of solidarity with Assad. According to one Arab newspaper, the Russian ships transported technical advisors to Syria to install advanced radar systems at every critical site. 

The advisors are said to be helping Assad set up the Russian S-300, an advanced air defense system, which the report says was delivered in recent weeks. Iran paid for the delivery. The Russians offered the same kind of aid to Saddam Hussein shortly before the invasion of Iraq.

Iran and Assad will not take this lying down, and Assad will not go down without a bloody fight. The Middle East is about to become an even hotter place.

Middle East On The Brink - Syria's 7 Neighbors Go On Military Alert

Twenty-four hours before the Arab League Sunday, Nov. 27, clamped down sanctions on the Assad regime, the first ever against a member state, the armies of Syria's seven neighbors were already scrambling into position on standby on its borders for acts of retaliation. 

Military suspense mounted after the Arab League vote to cut off transactions with Syria's central bank, withdraw Arab funding from projects and other painful sanctions over Bashar Assad's refusal to halt his crackdown on protest. 

debkafile's military sources report Israeli armored brigades pushed forward up to the Lebanese and Syrian borders; Ankara placed three armored brigades, its air force and navy in astate of preparedness, likewise Hizballah and the Lebanese and Jordanian armed forces, while the US and Russia are in the midst of a naval buildup opposite Syrian shores.

Military sources in the Gulf report that 150 Iranian Revolutionary Guards specialists had landed at a military airport south of Damascus on their way to Lebanon to join Hizballah which began bringing its rockets out of their hideouts.

Ahead of the Arab League vote, Qatar and Turkey were reported to be airlifting "volunteers" from Libya to fight alongside the rebel Free Syrian Army, some also transporting weapons, whereas Russia has begun another airlift to deliver top-notch missiles for Assad's forces.

Our sources report the two key items are advanced Pantsir-1 (SA-22 Greyhound) anti-air missiles for breaking a no-fly zone against most types of aircraft should one be imposed and supersonic Yakhont (SS-26) missiles for targeting vessels blockading Syria's shores at a distance of 300 kilometers. 

On Nov. 25, debkafile reported: Israeli and Jordanian armed forces declared a state of preparedness Friday, Nov. 25, after the Syrian General Command accused an "armed terrorist" group of an ambush killing 10 airmen including 6 elite pilots on the Homs-Palmyra road Thursday, "with the involvement of foreign parties, the foremost of which is Israel."

debkafile's military and intelligence sources report the ambush was another of the major operations against Assad regime's most sensitive targets executed by the Free Syrian Army this week.

It took place at a point on the highway east of Palmyra on the fringe of the Syrian Desert and close to the Syrian Air Force base at Tiyas.

The official statement aired on Syrian state TV said the attack claimed the lives of six elite pilots, one technical officer and three technical sub-officers of the airbase.

Our sources add that the rebel army must have penetrated the highest levels of Syria's military intelligence command for the attack and was clearly receiving targeting data from inside the armed forces.

The attack took place two days after the Free Syrian Army using rocket grenade launchers and heavy machine guns smashed into the Air Force Intelligence base of Harasta near Damascus, killing at least 10 Syrian troops. The ruling Baath party headquarters in Damascus was also attacked on Thursday.

The official statement broadcast Friday described the pilots as "qualitatively trained in piloting modern military aircraft" and "prepared to carry out "the sacred duty of liberating the land and restoring the usurped rights."

It went on to say: "The General Command… considers that the beneficiaries of this terrorist act are the enemies of the homeland and the nation, foremost being Israel."

The Syrian military vowed "to cut every evil hand that targets Syrian blood, and decisively confront all who threaten the homeland's security and stability."

The 24-hour lapse between the attack and the official statement indicated the level of dismay and confusion in Damascus over the sudden assault on the most stalwart buttress of the Assad dynasty in the nine-month crisis and a body blow to his regime.

Bashar Assad cannot afford to avoid retaliating. If he does, it will be an admission that the backbone of his armed forces is falling apart and out of control.

Since there is no knowing what form his revenge will take, Israel, Jordan and most likely Turkey too were braced Friday for trouble.

Assad no doubt took into account that bombing Free Syrian Army training bases across the border in Turkey would bring forth a Turkish military strike. So for now, he decided to point the finger at Israel, a reliable standby when the regime has its back to the wall. Jordan, through which large arms supplies reach the Syrian opposition, may seem to Damascus to be easy prey for the bombardment or raid of bases hosting Syrian rebels.

In the heat of the crisis, the Syrian ruler allowed the deadline set by the Arab League of his acceptance of hundreds of monitors go by Friday without an answer. "It is a last chance, a new chance for Syria,” Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Istanbul at a joint news conference with his Jordanian counterpart Nasser Judeh. 

By missing the deadline, Damascus faces possible economic sanctions spearheaded by the Arab League, which earlier this month suspended Syrian membership, amid growing international isolation.