Prophecy News Watch - Week In Review/Dec 8- Dec 12
Keeping You Informed of World Events From A Biblical Perspective
Prophetic Trends & Headline News
1. Where is the United States in Bible Prophecy?
China Takes Nuclear Weapons Underwater Where Prying Eyes Can’t See
China is preparing to arm its stealthiest submarines with nuclear missiles that could reach the U.S., cloaking its arsenal with the invisibility needed to retaliate in the event of an enemy strike.
Fifty years after China carried out its first nuclear test, patrols by the almost impossible-to-detect JIN class submarines armed with nuclear JL–2 ballistic missiles will give President Xi Jinping greater agility to respond to an attack.
The nuclear-powered subs will probably conduct initial patrols with the missiles by the end of this year, “giving China its first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent,” according to an annual report to Congress submitted in November by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission.
Deploying the vessels will burnish China’s prestige as Xi seeks to end what he calls the “cold war” mentality that resulted in U.S. dominance of Asia-Pacific security. Since coming to power, Xi has increased military spending with a focus on longer-range capacity, including plans to add to the country’s tally of a single aircraft carrier.
“For the first time in history, China’s nuclear arsenal will be invulnerable to a first strike,” said independent strategist Nicolas Giacometti, who has written analysis for The Diplomat and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s the last leap toward China’s assured nuclear-retaliation capability.”
China’s nuclear-defense strategy is engineered to provide retaliation capability in the event of attack from nuclear powered nations as far away as the U.S. and also from Russia and India, according to Felix Chang, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.
While China doesn’t view North Korea as a direct nuclear risk, officials are concerned about what might happen if North Korea threatened South Korea or Japan and the region became unstable, Chang said.
China’s nuclear-armed submarines will be “useful as a hedge to any potential nuclear threats, including those from North Korea, even if they are relatively small,” he said.
The deployment of the submarines could pressure China to assure foreign militaries that its navy chiefs and political leaders can communicate with and control them. Chinese and U.S. ships and planes are coming into greater proximity in the Pacific as China asserts its claims to territory in the South China Sea and East China Sea, risking near misses or a clash.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview in January that ex-President Hu Jintao “did not have strong control” of the People’s Liberation Army. The “best example,” Gates said, was China’s roll out of its J-20 stealth fighter jet during a visit he made in January 2010. The event seemed to catch Hu unaware, Gates said.
Since coming to power Xi has tightened his grip on the military, taking over as head of the Central Military Commission in November 2012, when he became Communist Party chief. Hu waited about two years before becoming chairman of the commission.
“China is going to have to reassure their adversaries that those submarines are under positive control at all times,” said Malcolm Davis, an assistant professor of China-Western relations at Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast.
“Positive control” refers to the procedures to ensure the CMC’s absolute control of its nuclear assets, such as the authorization codes it would send to submarines, where, after verification by the commander and probably two other officers, missiles would be launched.
“It demands that China set up appropriate command and control infrastructure to ensure that the CMC can keep in touch with the submarines, even when they are at sea and under the water,” said Davis. “The U.S., U.K., France and Russia all maintain such communications capabilities for ensuring positive control” of their submarines at sea.
By assuring potential enemies that weapons will only be fired if ordered by central command, China’s military would increase the deterrent value of its nuclear-armed submarines, he said.
“Those assurances are likely to be made at the highest level military-to-military meetings behind closed doors,” Davis said. Otherwise China is largely expected to keep its nuclear capabilities secret.
“High-confidence assessments of the numbers of Chinese nuclear capable ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads are not possible due to China’s lack of transparency about its nuclear program,” the U.S. report to Congress said. The Pentagon hasn’t provided an estimate of the size of China’s nuclear warhead stockpile since 2006, according to the report.
China’s defense ministry did not reply to faxed questions about when regular patrols by nuclear-armed JIN-class submarines would begin, or China’s nuclear strategy.
The modernization of China’s nuclear forces is focused on improving the capacity to deter other nuclear powers, said Giacometti, speaking by phone from Brussels.
Until 2006, its only ballistic missile able to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S. was the liquid-fueled, silo-based DF-5A, he said. These were considered vulnerable because fueling takes a few hours during which the missile must remain in its silo. To protect them, China built mock silos and adopted a policy of secrecy that made a disarming first strike harder to execute.
In 2006, China introduced the land-based mobile DF-31A ballistic missiles, whose 6,959-mile (11,200 kilometer) maximum range could reach the U.S. The missiles are solid-fueled, so can be fired almost immediately if warheads are pre-fitted, Giacometti said.
The U.S.’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities -- from satellites to high-altitude drones, such as the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk -- can monitor vast areas of territory and detect mobile intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, he said. Any information gleaned could be transmitted to U.S. strike assets, from long-range high-speed missiles to B-2 Spirit Stealth Bombers, to take out the launchers before they fire.
In comparison to the land-based launchers, nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarines that rarely need to surface are much better at hiding.
Right now, China has three of those -- the JIN class -- and is likely to add two more by 2020, according to the Commission’s report. Each could carry 12 JL-2 missiles, which after a decade of development “appear to have reached initial operational capability,” it said.
The JL–2’s range of about 4,598 miles means China could conduct nuclear strikes against Alaska if it unleashed the missiles from waters near China; against Alaska and Hawaii if launched from waters south of Japan; against Alaska, Hawaii, and western continental U.S. if fired from waters west of Hawaii; and against all 50 U.S. states if launched from waters east of Hawaii, the report said.
“The big scoop would be determining where those submarine patrols will take place,” said Chang.
The submarines are expected to initially confine themselves to China’s coastal waters and the South China Sea where they could roam with little chance of detection. For the missiles to reach Hawaii or the continental U.S. the submarines would need to foray into the western Pacific and beyond, which Davis from Bond University said would be “more challenging because they’d have to run the gauntlet of U.S. anti-submarine capabilities.”
China’s advances are cause for concern in some parts of the U.S. defense establishment.
“We must continue to modernize our nuclear capabilities,” Admiral Harry Harris said Dec. 2 at his nomination hearing to become commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, when asked how the U.S. should respond to China’s build up. Harris said that he considered North Korea, which is developing its own nuclear arsenal, to be the biggest threat to security in Asia.
Analysts don’t expect China to modify its longstanding “no-first-use” nuclear policy that states its weapons will only be used if China comes under nuclear attack.
Having enhanced its nuclear-deterrence capability, China may begin to communicate more about the planned evolution of its nuclear forces, Giacometti said.
“More openness on China’s side might then open up more space for confidence-building measures and lay the ground for future arms control discussions,” he said.
How Financial Warfare Could Bring America To Its Knees
Financial warfare is coming to the fore. It’s something that’s been talked about for some years, but now it’s actually being played out and practiced. Since 2012 the United States has been in a financial war with Iran. It’s not a shooting war, we’re not invading Iran, but because of their nuclear ambitions, the U.S. has tried to isolate Iran. We kicked them out of the dollar payment system so Iran could not transact in dollars. They said, well who cares, we’ll just transact in Euros or Yen or other currencies.
So, then the United States got together with our allies and kicked Iran out of the international payment system, so suddenly they were at a point where they could ship oil, but they couldn’t get paid, at least not get paid in any currency that they would actually want.
So, they started doing workarounds, barter deals, they put hard currency in Chinese and Russian banks and let those Chinese and Russian banks front for them to the international payment system. So the money was moving, but it looked like it was coming from Russia, and not from Iran, and Russia never disclosed who is the real party in interest.
There was a run on the bank and Iran’s people wanted to get their local currency out, convert to dollars on the Black Market to preserve the value against what was collapsing in their own economy. They had to raise interest rates, and it caused inflation in Iran.
It was very, very disruptive and destructive to the Iranian economy. It was almost to the point that if we had pursued it longer, we might have got regime change in Iran without firing a shot. But last December, the President relieved some of those sanctions and freed up tens of billions of dollars for use by the Iranians, so we kind of let them off the mat.
There’s another financial war brewing right now, which is with Russia around Crimea. Russia of course invaded Crimea. No one – left, right or center thinks the U.S. should use military force in Crimea. We’re not sending the 82nd Airborne into Sevastopol anytime soon, but the U.S. doesn’t want to be seen to be doing nothing, and so we’re engaging in economic sanctions, which is a form of financial warfare.
There’s a big difference, however, between confronting Russia and confronting Iran. Russia has a much greater ability to strike back — and just to show how this could escalate, so we put sanctions on, you know, some mid level bureaucrats, who cares, that’s no big deal.
But recently, we put sanctions on Igor Sechin, who is one of the most powerful men in Russia, close crony of Putin’s, former KGB. Russia might decide to escalate. What could they do? They could freeze U.S. assets in Russia, they could dump U.S. treasury bills, drive up U.S. interest rates, sink our housing market and our stock market, which are sort of propped up by low rates and ultimately, they could unleash their hackers and shut down the New York Stock Exchange, which they’re completely capable of doing.
And people say well, wait a second, don’t we have hackers? Can’t we close down the Moscow Stock Exchange and I say, of course we can, but who wins? The Moscow Stock Exchange is practically irrelevant to global capital markets, but the New York Stock Exchange is the beating heart, so we shut down each other’s stock exchanges, the Russians win.
So, these are the kind of things that could come out of the blue. Most investors aren’t thinking about it at all. Why should they? They’re not expert necessarily in international politics or financial warfare, but if we’re going to have wars that are not shooting wars, that are cyber and financial wars, but capitals markets are the collateral damage that investors can suffer even if they don’t see it coming.
Pearl Harbor: 6 Things We Should Remember To Avoid Repeating History
The conditions that led to the Pearl Harbor attack in Hawaii exist today, on an even broader scale.
The United States was in a high state of vulnerability on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941 – a date President Franklin Roosevelt declared would "live in infamy." But it was also a day full of lessons vital for our times.
Enemies probe the vulnerable points and seek to exploit them, as the Japanese did. States whose strategic thinking is based on delusion are the most exposed.
Hillary Clinton was right December 3 when she said at George Washington University that the United States should use "every tool and partner" in pursuit of peace. But then Mrs. Clinton said America should try to "empathize" with its enemies, understanding their "perspective and point of view."
One can trust empathetic leaders who are also realists, but progressives are prone to romantic idealism which forms delusory policies that make their nations more vulnerable. Here are six varieties:
1 - The delusion of invulnerability
America in the first half of the 20th century was still under the spell of 18th century manifest destiny doctrine (the idea of the inherent right to westward expansion), the adventurism of Theodore Roosevelt, the idealism of Woodrow Wilson, and the seemingly heroic stature of Franklin D. Roosevelt. American Christianity too easily became a syncretism of the Bible and the cultural ethos of that period (as it is now in a much different way).
Albrecht Furst von Urach was a Nazi journalist stationed at one point in Tokyo. Writing in 1942, von Urach characterized Japan's 80-year rise to "world power" status as "the greatest miracle in world history." The secret was the Samurai spirit, and its idea of the nobility of warfare, made transcendent in the Zen Buddhism and Shintoism of the era, thought von Urach. Japan's army was a "spiritual school," favoring the "strength of the spirit over the strength of the material."
America's sense of invulnerability resulted in a lack of preparedness. Japan's delusionary confidence in her invulnerability drew her to overreach, and launch war against a foe that would guarantee her defeat and humiliation.
2 - The delusion of isolation
Both the United States and Japan floated happily on the huge oceans that isolated them from combatants whose backyards bordered one another. American manifest destiny had thrust her westward, but so had the Japanese belief in its right to establish and dominate a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere."
Both felt safe to pursue those interests because of their isolation. Wincing from the agonies of the First World War, the U.S. Congress rejected President Wilson's drive to link America with the League of Nations, and that attitude continued in the minds of many until the isolationist delusion was shattered on December 7, 1941.
3 - The delusion of non-engagement
Attempts at appeasement of Hitler by Britain and France, along with American isolationism were among the factors leading to the rise of Hitler and the Second World War, says Victor David Hanson.2
Some in 1930s Britain, including members of the royal family, saw Hitler as a dynamic, progressive leader. There was no need to engage by rearming, and the warnings of Churchill were seen as the ravings of an irrelevant, spent politician. France dreamily ignored the Nazi problem, until it capitulated to Hitler. American isolationism translated to a policy of non-engagement.
Such policies create the vacuums aggressors seek to fill.
4 - The delusion of neutrality
As Hitler's dominance spread across Europe, Holland initially declared neutrality. Hitler attacked anyway. The Dutch learned the hard way that enemies will recognize neutral states only when they feel they can use such countries – like Switzerland – to their advantage.
American foreign policy has gone from the activism of the George W. Bush years to reliance in recent times on isolation and non-engagement and attempts to be neutral, for example, in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The result has been disastrous for both sides.
5- The delusion of good intentions
British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to negotiate with Hitler in September, 1938. And it was Chamberlain who stepped off the airplane back home waving the signed agreement, declaring "peace in our times." Hitler's surprise attack (blitzkrieg) on Poland proved his real intentions and shattered Chamberlain.
Chamberlain was part of an idealistic mindset characterizing many 1930s British aristocrats. Everyone is good at their core and wants to do good, went the mantra.
Progressivism in our time is vulnerable to setting a foreign policy based on such idealism, and negotiates treaties the other side has no intention of keeping. This was the nature of the entire Cold War. It is most certainly the attitude of adversaries who believe they are executing the wrath of God on infidels.
6 - The delusion of alliances
Stalin really believed he could hold Hitler out of the Soviet Union by entering an accord with him in August, 1939. On June 22, 1941, Hitler scoffed at the agreement, and launched Operation Barbarossa by invading Russia with three million troops.
ISIS may be creating some strange alliances. The United States and Iran are fighting the Sunni movement together. However, though the rhetoric might be softened there has been no recanting of Iran's view that the United States is the "Great Satan."
Thus all these delusory conditions infect contemporary American-Western foreign policy, and make the United States and her allies vulnerable to surprise attack:
• The seeming victory in the Cold War made us feel invulnerable during the presidencies of Bush 41 and Clinton.
• Obama Administration foreign policy philosophy was initially neo-isolationist, creating vacuums into which forces like ISIS would rush.
• Contemporary international doctrine has tilted toward disengagement as a reaction to the high engagement levels of the post-911 Bush 43 Administration.
• Idealists in the White House and State Department still hope to make the United States neutral, and this has been a key factor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
• Those same idealists are too easily hypnotized into believing in the "good intentions" of people hiding behind religion and high-sounding rhetoric.
• The United States suffers yet from the delusion of alliances, believing, for example, that agreements can be made with rogue nations.
These were the conditions that lured America to sleep and Japan to attack on December 7, 1941. But they are also the conditions that bring on our own personal "Pearl Harbors". That's what we will examine in Part 2 of this series coming soon.
How Does It Feel To Be Number Two?
For more than half of its lifespan, the United States of America has been considered the leading economic superpower of the World. That's quite a run, and one that no other nation can lay claim to. For nearly 140 years, America's economy has been the largest among the nations; but there's a new Power that holds that position.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), China just surpassed the U.S. in economic output, producing $17.6 trillion in so-called “real” terms of goods and services. According to MarketWatch.com, as recently as 2000, we produced nearly three times as much as the Chinese. So how did this happen, and what does it mean for the already shaky American economy? And what does history tell us this development means for our future, moving forward?
First of all, the United States has been in the forefront of prosperity and production for my entire lifetime. So a fall in position in such a rapid timeframe deserves some explanation, don't you think? I am also left wondering if this economic downturn somehow foretells a decline in other aspects of our nation. Is it just me, or does this state of affairs seem to mirror our diminishing civil liberties, constitutional rights, and rule of law? Are we seeing the permanent decline of the United States of America?
When you look at it from China's perspective, this is just the evolution that sees them resuming their natural place in the global order. After all, they have a history of dynasties that go back 3000 years, while the U.S. is not even 300 years old! They just had a little 200 year blip on their radar screen, which explains our dominance during that time period. Now, China thinks that things are back to being as they should; and perhaps we just got a little too big for our britches?
The economic gurus will tell you that the bottom line is that China is able to export more than we do, and do it cheaper. American manufacturing is on the ropes, and China is ready to deliver the knockout punch. With global powers pushing for a global economy, we are all intertwined with each other ... how many Chinese components are included in "American-made" products? The truth is that we need, and use, far more Chinese exports/products than they use of ours. Even if we tried to ban some of our components in the Chinese marketplace, there are emerging economies that are waiting to step in and take our place.
But here's a whole other paradigm to consider ... The IMF is a creation of the United Nations, and here is its official duty: "to promote international financial stability and monetary cooperation. It also seeks to facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world. Created in 1945, the IMF is governed by and accountable to the 188 countries that make up its near-global membership." In other words, it was created to establish a global, or one-world, financial system.
But here's the irony ... both China and the U.S. economies are fake; China has built "ghost cities" based on an inflated economy, while we have printed ourselves into a counterfeit recovery. However, for whatever reason, the global elite leaders have decided that China should now be the nation out front of the world economy.
Although this might all seem orchestrated, (and believe me, it is!) we must not forget the ideological changes our Number Two status could represent. We can expect to see a major change in the psychological, cultural, and moral aspects of the world's nations; because whatever beacon of Freedom we have been to the world is shining just a little dimmer at the moment. China has not exactly been a bastion of Liberty in the last three-quarters of a century ... Their "cultural revolution" resulted in the deaths of 30 million of their own people, and that's a conservative number. They killed tens of thousands in Tibet and then invaded Vietnam and India. And does anyone think that their cozying up to Russia is a good thing?
At the end of the day, I can't help but think of the Biblical prophesies that foretell Satan's political and economic systems that come into play close to the Second Coming of Christ. In fact, Satan even proclaims (in Luke 4:6) that he has been given power over the earth, and he can distribute it to whomever he chooses. The rulers of nations will be influenced by his evil machinations, and there will be a darkness imposed on the earth by Satan's rule through the governance of men.
But we must not forget that it is the hand of God that is really in control of the rise and fall of great nations and empires. Satan's influence is ultimately supervised by God. History is full of the narratives of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome -- all nations that were used for His plan and purpose. Each one of these nations played a part in the history of Israel and the Church. We are no different, except that our rise was meteoric, and our fall may be just as spectacular.
The real question becomes this: is God through with us? Can we still be used by Him to further His plan, or have we become so enamored by the temptations of Babylon's Harlot, that we no longer care about our purpose? When, as a nation, we are focused on ourselves, and we ignore or deny God, it makes no difference if we are Number One -- the collapse is inevitable. If our role as "defender of the free world" is reduced, and we no longer export faith in God to the nations of the world, then our role may well be finished. When that happens, we will become a footnote in history.
2. Israel - God's Timepiece
Speculation Concerning Israeli Pre-Emptive Strike On Iranian Nuclear Facilities Emerges As U.S. Privately Accuses Tehran Of ‘Cheating’
Speculation that Israel will launch a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities has emerged in the Israeli press, following the failure of international negotiators to reach a deal on the Tehran regime’s nuclear program by the agreed date of November 24.
Israeli website NRG says that in the event that current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wins the next parliamentary elections in March 2015, he will face the “difficult dilemma” of whether to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities in June, one month before the next deadline for an agreement.
NRG emphasizes that the decision will be a fraught one, especially as military action is highly unlikely to gain the support of the Obama Administration, which regards a deal with Iran as vital to its political legacy. However, many Arab states, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are deeply unhappy with the American-led negotiations, as they too regard the weaponization of Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat.
The NRG piece also quoted former leading Mossad official Haim Tomer as saying that the period leading up to July is the best time to increase sanctions on Iran, and not to reduce them. “The sanctions are being very effective, especially because of the drop in oil prices, and the economic collapse of Iran will force Iran to give up her dream,” Tomer said.
The talk of possible Israeli action – last seriously considered in 2011, before the current round of negotiations began – coincides with the revelation published in Foreign Policy by journalist Colum Lynch that Washington has “privately accused Iran of going on an international shopping spree to acquire components for a heavy-water reactor that American officials have long feared could be used in the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.”
Lynch said that the White House has so far not acknowledged its displeasure with the Iranians publicly. But, Lynch said, the current objections “stand in stark contrast to recent remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry, who has repeatedly credited Tehran with abiding by the terms of the November 2013 pact, which bound Tehran to suspend some of its work at the Arak heavy-water reactor. ‘Iran has held up its end of the bargain,’ Kerry said last month in Vienna as he announced a seven-month extension of the timetable for big-power talks.”
Lynch observed: “The allegation is also sure to add to the mounting congressional unease over the administration’s ongoing talks with Tehran. Many lawmakers from both parties believe that the White House is making too many concessions to Tehran to cement a deal that it sees as central to the president’s legacy. With the GOP slated to take over the Senate next month, Iran hawks like Arizona Republican John McCain and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk are already promising to push through a new package of economic sanctions, a move that the White House believes would scupper the delicate talks with Tehran. Both men are likely to see the new U.N. allegations as proof that Tehran simply can’t be trusted to abide by the terms of a future deal.”
Separate research by the Institute for Science and International Security also documents a possible Iranian violation of its commitment to freeze its centrifuge research and development (R&D) program under the “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA) agreed in Geneva last November. Restrictions on centrifuge R&D were tightened under the recent extension of the JPOA.
Commenting on the latest revelations, Rep Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, announced: “This regime is proving to be a determined cheater, showing no willingness to accept an effective verification regime. Despite Iran’s deceit and intransigence, the Administration’s optimistic talk goes on. We are on our second negotiations extension. Iran is not addressing our fundamental verification and enrichment concerns. It is well beyond time for more sanctions pressure.”
Israel Air Strikes Wiped Out Russian Hardware For Thwarting US No-Fly Zone Plan Over Syria
Israel’s air strikes near Damascus international air port and the Syrian-Lebanese border Sunday, Dec. 7, are depicted by Middle East military and intelligence sources as Israel’s first overt military clash with Russia in the course of the more than three-year Syrian war.
Those sources assert that the strikes demolished components of Russian SA-25 or other types of top-line anti air missile systems that Moscow had destined for Syria and the Lebanese Hizballah terrorist group after Russian President Vladimir Putin learned that the Obama administration and the Erdogan government were close to a final draft on a joint effort to activate a no-fly zone that would bar Syrian air force traffic over northern Syria.
Russian transport planes are said to have shipped these consignments in the last few days to the military section of Damascus international airport. It was pointed out that the Israeli air strikes occurred less than 24 hours after Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, the Kremlin’s point man for the Syrian war, met with Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah Saturday in Beirut. The Russians for the first time insisted on widely circulating photos of the two officials shaking hands.
DEBKAfile’s sources have learned that Moscow has been looking for a reckoning with the US and Israel over the fall in the last week of October of the large Russian intelligence post at Tel a-Hara in southern Syria to Syrian rebel units.. One of the most highly sophisticated Russian intelligence bases outside its borders, the secret site was located strategically close to the junction of Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel.
The prized hi-tech apparatus, much of it unfamiliar to Western spy agencies, was quickly shipped out of Syria for examination in the West.
The Kremlin has repeatedly warned - of late in strong messages through back channels - that the establishment of a no-fly or buffer zone in any part of Syria would be treated as direct American intervention in the Syria war and result in Russian military intervention for defending the Assad regime.
According to the US-Turkish draft, American warplanes would be allowed to take off from the Turkish airbase of Incirlik in the south for operations against Syrian warplanes, assault helicopters or drones entering the no-go zone. Thus far, Ankara has only permitted US surveillance aircraft and drones the use of Incirlik for tracking the movements of Islamic State fighters in northern Syria.
The Obama administration was long deterred from implementing a no-fly zone plan by the wish to avoid riling Moscow or facing the hazards of Syria’s world-class air defense system.
But Washington was recently won over to the plan by a tacit deal with Damascus for American jets to be allowed entry to help Kurdish fighters defend their northern Syrian enclave of Kobani against capture by al Qaeda’s IS invaders.
However, the US administration turned down a Turkish demand to extend the no-fly zone from their border as far as Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, over which Syrian army forces are battling rebels and advancing slowly into the town.
Other Israeli air force targets struck near Damascus airport in Sunday’s raid were the 103rd brigade of the 4th Division, which is the Syrian president’s republican guard, and the same division’s logistic rear base at Dimas near the Lebanese border.
The fact that Israel conducted air strikes against two facilities of the same Syrian army division along the route to Lebanon indicates that the targeted weapons were on their way from Syria to Hizballah strongholds in Lebanon.
Moscow reacted swiftly and angrily with a Note to the United Nations Monday accusing Israel of “aggressive action” and demanding “that such attacks should not happen again… Moscow is deeply worried by this dangerous development, the circumstances of which demand an explanation.”
The Assad regime has held back from reacting to past Israeli air raids for preventing advanced weaponry from reaching Hizballah. This time, spokesmen in Damascus warned that their government’s response would be clandestine and cause Israel "unimaginable harm."
New Israeli Government In March Will Determine Future Of Peace Process
Israeli politics are famous for their unpredictability, and events in recent days have only underscored that reputation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday fired two senior coalition partners and announced snap elections next March—all this, not even half way through his third term.
In a televised press conference, Netanyahu accused Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni of plotting to topple his government.
He cited their opposition to Israeli policy on Iran’s nuclear program, settlement construction and, most recently, a controversial “nation-state bill,” which defines Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people”—not Israel’s Arab citizens.
Netanyahu also cited Livni’s meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in May, which he said he had not authorized.
But is this reason enough to dissolve a government? Chemi Shalev, U.S. editor and correspondent for Haaretz newspaper, doesn’t think so.
“Trust has never been—and I don’t think ever will be—a prerequisite to any coalition holding together. It’s not a commodity that one usually requires in politics,” he said.
So what really drove Netanyahu’s actions this week?
“The night before the firing, there was a meeting between Lapid and Netanyahu,” said Jeremy Man Saltan, an official with the Jewish Home Party of Naftali Bennett, Israel's economy minister.
“Netanyahu gave five demands from Lapid in terms of what’s needed to return the trust between them and try to move the relationship forward. And Lapid said out of all five of them, he’s not interested in even one of them," Saltan said.
Netanyahu reportedly demanded Lapid’s support on the nation-state bill, stop undermining the government on issues such as the settlements and relations with the U.S., drop a proposed affordable housing plan, transfer the funds to cover the army’s planned relocation to the Negev, and hand over a promised $1.6 billion to Israeli defense budget—the approximate cost of last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.
Many Israelis think the current crisis dates back to November 12, when the Knesset approved legislation designed to shut down a pro-Netanyahu daily newspaper owned and financed by U.S. casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson.
“This was so embarrassing for Netanyahu, and he was so angry that his coalition partners had voted in favor of this law, that this set off a chain of events that has brought us to this point now,” Saltan said.
In his speech Tuesday, Netanyahu blamed the crisis on the 2013 election.
“The current government, from the day of its inception, has been a rebellious government…forced upon me because of the results of the elections,” Netayanhu said. “The reason for this is simple: The ruling party under my leadership -- the Likud -- did not receive enough seats. That is the simple reason.”
Recent polls show Israel’s right wing gaining support and suggest that Netanyahu could once again be elected premier.
“The polls are talking about something from 70 to 84 seats for the right religious bloc of Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Bennett, ex-Likud minister Moshe Kahlon, along with the ultra-orthodox parties,” Saltan said.
"There are some polls that show that the current coalition of Lieberman, Bennett and Netanyahu--that is the caretaker government in Israel right now--could even have a majority in Parliament without the additional parties," he added.
But Haaretz’s Shalev says it's still a long way til the March 15 vote, and anything could happen between now and then.
“It’s like a war: You know where you start; you don’t know where you finish,” he said.
“And many events that are going to take place in the three, four months that are left before the election—including the new formulations of political parties and new players that will come in—and Netanyahu himself personally is not very popular right now," Shalev said.
Most analysts agree these developments considerably dull prospects for resumed Middle East peace talks for the near future, maybe longer.
“We are at a fork on the road,” said Shalev. “One, we could have a different government which would be more moderate, especially if Netanyahu were not prime minister—in which case, there would be a whole new path for peace talks to go forward.
Then again, he said, Israel’s new government could be even more religious and right wing than it is now—a scenario he believes is more likely.
“And then the prospects for the peace process will probably dim—and that’s an understatement.”
In Brussels this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he remains committed to the peace process, “which may at this particular moment be a misnomer.”
Kerry said he hopes the new Israeli election will “produce the possibility of a government that can negotiate and move towards resolving the differences between Israelis and Palestinians, and obviously, the differences in the region.”
Patterns Of War – Will History Repeat Itself?
The world is changing and becoming even more dangerous -- in a way we've seen before.
In the decade before World War I, the near-hundred-year European peace that had followed the fall of Napoleon was taken for granted. Yet it abruptly imploded in 1914. Prior little wars in the Balkans had seemed to predict a much larger one on the horizon -- and were ignored.
The exhausted Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires were spent forces unable to control nationalist movements in their provinces. The British Empire was fading. Imperial Germany was rising. Czarist Russia was beset with revolutionary rebellion. As power shifted, decline for some nations seemed like opportunity for others.
The same was true in 1939. The tragedy of the Versailles Treaty of 1919 was not that it had been too harsh. In fact, it was far milder than the terms Germany had imposed on a defeated Russia in 1918 or the requirements it had planned for France in 1914.
Instead, Versailles combined the worst of both worlds: harsh language without any means of enforcement.
The subsequent appeasement of Britain and France, the isolationism of the United States, and the collaboration of the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany green-lighted Hitler's aggression -- and another world war.
We are entering a similarly dangerous interlude. Collapsing oil prices -- a good thing for most of the world -- will make troublemakers like oil-exporting Iran and Russia take even more risks.
Terrorist groups such as the Islamic State feel that conventional military power has no effect on their agendas. The West is seen as a tired culture of Black Friday shoppers and maxed-out credit card holders.
NATO is underfunded and without strong American leadership. It can only hope that Vladimir Putin does not invade a NATO country like Estonia, rather than prepare for the likelihood that he will, and soon.
The United States has slashed its defense budget to historic lows. It sends the message abroad that friendship with America brings few rewards while hostility toward the U.S. has even fewer consequences.
The bedrock American relationships with staunch allies such as Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan and Israel are fading. Instead, we court new belligerents that don't like the United States, such as Turkey and Iran.
No one has any idea of how to convince a rising China that its turn toward military aggression will only end in disaster, in much the same fashion that a confident westernizing Imperial Japan overreached in World War II. Lecturing loudly and self-righteously while carrying a tiny stick did not work with Japanese warlords of the1930s. It won't work with the communist Chinese either.
Radical Islam is spreading in the same sort of way that postwar communism once swamped postcolonial Asia, Africa and Latin America. But this time there are only weak responses from the democratic, free-market West. Westerners despair over which is worse -- theocratic Iran, the Islamic State or Bashar al-Assad's Syria -- and seem paralyzed over where exactly the violence will spread next and when it will reach them.
There once was a time when the United States encouraged the Latin American transition to free-market constitutional government, away from right-wing dictatorships. Now, America seems uninterested in making a similar case that left-wing dictatorships are just as threatening to the idea of freedom and human rights.
In the late 1930s, it was pathetic that countries with strong militaries such as France and Britain appeased fascist leader Benito Mussolini and allowed his far weaker Italian forces to do as they pleased by invading Ethiopia. Similarly, Iranian negotiators are attempting to dictate terms of a weak Iran to a strong United States in talks about Iran's supposedly inherent right to produce weapons-grade uranium -- a process that Iran had earlier bragged would lead to the production of a bomb.
The ancient ingredients of war are all on the horizon. An old postwar order crumbles amid American indifference. Hopes for true democracy in post-Soviet Russia, newly capitalist China or ascendant Turkey long ago were dashed. Tribalism, fundamentalism and terrorism are the norms in the Middle East as the nation-state disappears.
Under such conditions, history's wars usually start when some opportunistic -- but often relatively weaker -- power does something unwise on the gamble that the perceived benefits outweigh the risks. That belligerence is only prevented when more powerful countries collectively make it clear to the aggressor that it would be suicidal to start a war that would end in the aggressor's sure defeat.
What is scary in these unstable times is that a powerful United States either thinks that it is weak or believes that its past oversight of the postwar order was either wrong or too costly -- or that after Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, America is no longer a force for positive change.
A large war is looming, one that will be far more costly than the preventative vigilance that might have stopped it.
Egypt's Largest Military Maneuver 'Meant for Israel'
Egypt held its "Badr 2014" military maneuver between October 11 and November 6, its largest exercise since 1996 which was only half the size - according to a senior security expert the Nile state has its sights on Israel, despite the peace treaty.
Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay, former deputy head of the Israel National Security Council, detailed the maneuver in Israel Defense on Saturday, analyzing the massive military preparations.
According to Shay, Egypt wants not only to improve security domestically, but also "it hopes to reassert its historic leadership role and become the regional hegemony. ...With the rise of (President) Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a new generation of military leadership in Egypt has taken control of the country’s armed forces."
The security expert continued "Exercise 'Badr 2014' and the creation of the RDF (Rapid Deployment Force) signals a move toward enhancing Egypt’s more offensive, conventional, asymmetric and counterinsurgency capabilities both within and beyond the country’s borders."
Speaking directly about what that means for Israel, Shay noted that the exercise is meant to prepare for "a potential conflict with Israel."
"Israel is quietly stepping up its military co-operation with Egypt as both countries confront security threats from jihadist groups in the Sinai region and Hamas in Gaza strip. However, Egypt continues to see Israel as its primary military potential threat despite a decades-old peace treaty," analyzed Shay.
Shay quoted Egyptian Military Spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir as calling the recent maneuver "the largest and most sophisticated strategic exercise in terms of planning, training, and size of forces involved." He noted that the Egyptian army is the largest in Africa and the Middle East, with most of the country's $1.5 billion in US yearly aid being military aid.
Egypt likewise in February sealed a $2 billion arms deal with Russia, after Russia in November said Egypt offered to buy advanced defense systems, military helicopters, MiG-29 aircraft and anti-tank missiles.
Preparing for Sinai mobilization?
In one part of the maneuver, a simulation of a Suez Canal crossing was held on October 27 by the Third Army. The drill included establishing movable bridges to allow vehicles and tanks to cross, with APCs (Armored Personnel Carriers) crossing accompanied by air force units and boats.
The maneuver is significant in that the peace agreement with Israel forbids large-scale Egyptian military mobilization in the Sinai, although Egypt's military has been recently more active in the region while trying to put down rampant violence by salafist terrorists, with some warning that the increase in Egyptian military presence could potentially signify a threat to Israel.
In another drill on November 3, Sisi attended the main phase of air force exercises in Wadi Nartun. Over 250 combat fighters and helicopters took part in over 60 air sorties, in cooperation with paratrooper units, Egyptian commandos and the Central Military Region regiments.
Recent Egyptian ousters like the sinking of an Israeli ship?
On the naval front, Shay noted "the Egyptian Navy is the largest navy in Middle East and Africa, and is the seventh largest in the world measured by the number of vessels."
He added the annual exercise of the navy is held on Navy Day, October 21, a date established after an incident on that day in 1967 in which the Israeli destroyer "Eilat" was sunk by Egyptian missile boats about 12 miles from Port Said around four months after Egypt's defeat in the 1967 Six Day War.
Sisi released a statement likening the success of the recent ousters of former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi with the October 21 sinking of the "Eilat."
"Sisi noted that these events changed the reality of Egypt politically, economically and socially, and he praised the navy as one of the main branches of the Egyptian military," reported Shay.
4. The Gog/Magog War
An Iran-Russia Axis?
What do two nations with a history of over 200 years of enmity and war do when they seek a change of discourse? Find a common enemy — real or imagined.
For Russia and Iran, traditional foes since the 18th century, that common enemy is the United States, according to political circles in Moscow and Tehran.
Russian President Vladimir Putin dwelt on the idea last month during a speech in Sochi. He said the United States regards “Russia, because of its military might, China because of its rising economic power and Iran because of its nuclear program” as “enemies.”
On that basis, earlier this year, Putin tried to persuade China to transform the so-called Shanghai Group, set up to fight Islamic terrorism, into a fully-fledged military alliance that would also include Iran. When the Chinese wiggled out of the scheme, Putin focused his attention on “closer cooperation” with Tehran.
Russia and Iran share a number of grievances against the United States and its allies in Europe and the Middle East. Both have been subjected to sanctions that have already hit their economies, compounding the effects of global recession. Both claim that the current fall in oil prices represents a conspiracy by Washington and its oil-rich Arab allies to push Russia and Iran, both heavily dependent on export revenues, to the wall.
More important, perhaps, both are persuaded that the United States has long been targeting them for regime change via economic pressure combined with “velvet revolution” dissent.
The worldview of influential circles in Moscow as in Tehran could be described as classically 19th century, with an emphasis on territory and the use of force. Russia is seeking a security perimeter in Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and Trans-Caucasus. Iran locates its own perimeter in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, with further “territorial depth” in Oman and Yemen. The two powers are also working together to counter US influence in Central Asia with a mixture of bullying and bribery.
Analysts and policymakers in Moscow believe that Russia and Iran could use the remainder of Barack Obama’s presidency to create “irreversible realities” in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia.
The phrase “fortochka Obama,” meaning “the Obama window of opportunity,” indicates the belief that America’s next president might not be as pliable as the current one.
Thus, Tehran and Moscow are trying to use the “fortochka Obama” to achieve a number of goals.
First among these is to drag out talks on Tehran’s nuclear program long enough for Iran to reach the so-called “breakthrough” stage, which some experts believe might take another two years.
The next goal is to prop up what’s left of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria to ensure that no alternative government structure can emerge there. Even if Assad controls what is known as “useful Syria,” that is to say 40 percent of territory with half the population, that would be enough.
The next goal is to reduce the effect of sanctions. Russia has already agreed to market $20 billion worth of crude oil on behalf of Iran, circumventing the US-led scheme to freeze a good part of Iranian oil revenues.
More important, Russia has agreed to help speed up Iran’s nuclear program. Last month an agreement to build two more reactors in Bushehr was signed in Moscow as part of an accord to double bilateral trade within the next five years.
Having supplied China with S-400 surface-to-air missiles, Russia is now expected to deliver similar weapons to Iran on the basis of contracts signed almost a decade ago.
Russia and Iran are also working together to exercise influence in both Iraq and Afghanistan before some future US president tries to fill the policy created by Obama’s confused and wayward policies. Using the opportunity created by the so-called Islamic State, Iran is building control on chunks of territory in northeastern Iraq with a view to secure a corridor linking it to both Syria and Lebanon.
Moscow and Tehran are also developing joint plans to modernize facilities in the Syrian port of Tartus used by both Russian and Iranian navies.
By the time the “fortochka Obama” is closed, Moscow and Tehran hope to have consolidated a firewall spanning a vast territory from the Baltics to the Persian Gulf, shielding them against what Putin and Iranian “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei designate as “American schemes.”
Obama’s final two years may provide Moscow and Tehran further occasions for making hay while the sun of opportunity shines
Putin Pushes Back: Beware The Wounded Russian Bear
Contrary to what he would like us to believe, things are going very poorly for Vladimir Putin these days. Having found the West more united than he expected on the issue of sanctions against Russia, he now discovers that the bottom has fallen out of the international oil market. As if that were not enough, he also finds Europe nixing his pet Southstream gas pipeline, supposed to run under the Black Sea, which he had hoped would increase Russia’s energy stranglehold over Ukraine and the rest of Europe.
But before we indulge in too much glee over Putin’s discomfort, we should consider the all-too-real risk that when cornered, he is apt to become even more dangerous.
Russia has a long history of rulers who start armed adventures abroad to deflect attention from economic and social troubles at home. When he annexed Crimea last March, Putin appeared to be continuing in that tradition.
A real danger is that a Russian economy in tatters will only increase the incentives for aggressive moves abroad.
The aggression came about in order to defuse growing domestic opposition to his increasingly corrupt handling of the Russian economy, and increase his authoritarian grip over the country. It worked. Encouraged by the highly favorable domestic response, Putin kept the foreign pot boiling by blatantly backing separatism in Eastern Ukraine.
When he launched his Ukrainian adventure around a year ago, Putin was counting on a divided Europe inability to join the U.S. in imposing meaningful economic sanctions as a response. He must now feel deeply disappointed. Despite considerable business pressure on German Chancellor Angela Merkel to duck sanctions, Europe did join in strengthening penalties on the Russian energy and financial sectors. This forced Putin to strike a long-term energy supply arrangement with China at prices generally viewed as unfavorable to Russia.
Since then, Europe has managed to thwart Russia’s further attempts to undermine Ukraine and increase its stranglehold on the European energy market. Effectively blocking the construction of Southstream was an important step in the process. Russia intended to use the pipeline to supply Europe with gas without having to go through Ukraine—a move that would have drastically increased his ability to squeeze that country without putting Europe’s energy supply in play.
The Southstream setback has caused Putin to make another hasty and questionable move: an alternative pipeline deal with Turkey. In order to seal the deal, Russia had to offer a 6 per cent discount on its gas prices. At the same time, supplying Europe through Turkey rather than through Ukraine will add considerably to Gazprom’s transportation costs and it is still not clear whether Europe will allow that gas to enter Europe through Greece.
In addition, Putin appears to have been caught totally flatfooted by developments in the international oil market. He especially seems to have misjudged the major shifts caused by the U.S. shale oil revolution, along with increased offshore oil and gas production in a variety of other countries, and the slowing in the overall global economy. Those changes have seen benchmark global oil prices decline from $115 per bbl. to around $75 over the past six months.
All this, in turn, has blown a hole in the Russian budget, which depends on oil for around 45 per cent of its tax revenues. Over the past six months, the Russian ruble has also lost around half its value, contributing to an inflation rate now at 9 per cent.
Coupled with sanctions, the dismal oil picture has caused a collapse in investor and household confidence in the economy, and forced Moscow to acknowledge that the country is headed for a recession next year.
A real danger, however, is that a Russian economy in tatters will only increase the incentives for aggressive moves abroad. This is, after all, how Putin’s era got started: with a lethal campaign against Chechnya to consolidate his regime at home.
Among other things, the bad news for Putin could be equally bad news for early resolution of the Ukraine crisis. Worse yet, as Senator John McCain has recently warned, it could spell trouble for countries like Moldova and the Baltic states, which Russia has long considered to be part of its “near abroad.”
It could also be the prelude for Russia using its energy leverage over countries even further afield, such Bulgaria, Finland and Slovakia. Like the Baltics, all are totally dependent on Russia for their natural gas supplies.
Thwarting a bear does not turn the beast into a lamb. It mostly creates an angrier and more unpredictable bear.
6. The Rise of Islam
Jordan’s Abdullah Plays The Flawed Demographics Card
During his recent visit to Washington to meet with President Obama, King Abdullah II of Jordan was interviewed on “CBS This Morning.” Displaying his keen sense of the terrible neighborhood in which his kingdom is embedded, he identified the war against ISIS jihadi terrorists as “clearly a fight between good and evil.”
Believing that they threaten “a third world war by other means,” he boldly called upon Arab and Islamic nations “to stand up” and demonstrate their resolute opposition to this “war inside of Islam” by “fighting back.” It was a rousing – perhaps unrivaled – appeal by an Arab leader for a demonstration of wisdom and courage in confronting the virulent Muslim poison within their midst.
But the King, as his survival strategy requires, played both sides of a volatile issue. He pointedly identified two possible resolutions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a one-state or two-state solution. But he erroneously cited “the demographic threat” to Israel, with a Palestinian majority west of the Jordan River eventually outnumbering the Jewish population.
Then he posed the dilemma that Israel presumably confronts: the choice between a democratic or “apartheid” (i.e. Jewish) state. “The two state solution,” he concluded, “is the only solution.” It would, however, be a three-state solution, comprising Jordan, Israel and Palestine-on-the-West Bank.
The King chose not to mention that Palestinians have rejected every two-state solution since 1937, when the British Peel Commission proposed the second partition of Palestine. The first came fifteen years earlier, when British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill lopped off three-quarters of Mandatory Palestine as a gift to Abdullah’s great-grandfather for his wartime loyalty to the Allied cause.
But unwilling to tolerate a Jewish state of any size in their midst, Arab leaders rejected the Peel proposal, the UN partition plan that followed a decade later, and even the dangerously generous two-state offers, involving huge Israeli land concessions, offered by Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert.
King Abdullah also chose (understandably) to ignore the demographic reality in Jordan, which poses a significant threat to the stability of his own regime. For obvious reasons, his kingdom provides no official census data about its Palestinian inhabitants. Best estimates (including by the U.S. State Department) indicate that they comprise more than half, and perhaps as high as two-thirds, of the Jordanian population.
In sum: the Hashemite king rules over a majority Palestinian population in two-thirds of Palestine. In translation: the Palestinians already have a state named Jordan, located in Palestine, and comprise a majority of its population. That is as it should be: the fulfillment of international assurances to Jews, and British promises to the Hashemites, that date back nearly a century.
Across the Jordan River to the West, the demographic reality decisively favors Israel – even if every West Bank Palestinian were to become a citizen of the Jewish state (which will never happen). Just as Jordanians deny the identity of the Palestinian majority they rule, so Palestinians inflate their own numbers in the former West Bank, more appropriately identified as Judea and Samaria – the biblical homeland of the Jewish people.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Labor Statistics, waging what it has labeled a “civil intifada” against Israel, insists that 2.6 million Palestinians inhabit this contested territory. But according to Israeli demographer Yoram Ettinger, the Palestinian Bureau has inflated the actual number of West Bank Palestinians (1.6 million) by two-thirds, including overseas residents, under-reporting Palestinian emigration, and double-counting Jerusalem Arabs.
Between the Jordan and Mediterranean two-thirds of the population is Jewish. Furthermore, during the past twenty years Palestinian birth rates have stabilized while Jewish births have significantly increased. “There is no demographic machete,” Ettinger concluded, “at the throat of the Jewish state.”
King Abdullah finds himself trapped between Palestinian rocks in hard places: his own Jordanian kingdom and its lost West Bank. As Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian Palestinian political refugee residing in London has written (Middle East Q., Winter 2012), the King “is merely using [Palestinians] as pawns in his game against Israel by threatening to make it responsible for Jordanians of Palestinian descent in the name of the ‘right of return.’”
King Abdullah’s verbal gymnastics should not be permitted to conceal the truths of ancient Jewish claims to their promised land. Nor should they hide the reality of the return to the Land of Israel launched by Zionist settlers in the 19th century, long before the Kingdom of Jordan was imagined by his Hashemite ancestors. King Abdullah’s ruse may sell in the Arab shuk to Israel-bashing tourists, but any knowledgeable shopper would instantly detect its fraudulence.
7. Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies
Surveillance Systems Getting Smarter
Surveillance cameras are now able to go “over and above the call of duty”, so to speak, where all they could do traditionally was to capture and transmit still and video images. They have now been advanced to a point where they are getting better at picking you out of a crowd and recording where you've been, what you are doing now, and where you are going after you are through. ABC news recently reported on these developments, quoting Jenq-Neng Hwang, electrical engineering professor at the University of Washington and lead author of a new study.
According to the report, Hwang's team has developed technology that will allow multiple cameras to follow an individual as he or she moves through a crowd, switching seamlessly from one camera to the next as the target moves from one field of view to another. It can do that, even if the target disappears for a while and then reappears in a different area.
His experiments linked several cameras in a network and they were able to follow one target all over the Seattle campus. The cameras were able to "talk" to each other, so the target could be highlighted, making it easy for the next camera to pick up the chase. They could do that, without human supervision, even if the target's face could not be seen. This would work anywhere, as long as the cameras are part of a network and can upload data to the cloud.
This system is still in the development stage, but Hwang pointed out that monitoring systems are already installed in many buildings and institutions, so it's not a giant leap to move from a broad surveillance network to a smart system that can focus on a single target.
The report also mentions some developments that could result in potential improvements to existing smart surveillance capacity and techniques:
• Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, are training cameras to pick out suspicious behavior, like loading a gun or putting an object in a pocket so the clerks in a store can't see it.
• Medical researchers at the University of Oxford want to see us all wearing cameras that will tell our doctor whether we are taking our pills and getting enough exercise.
• Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have developed a system that will monitor every activity in a nursing home. Their system is also capable of tracking a single individual, based on color of clothing, facial recognition, or other factors, and it is beyond the experimental stage. It has actually been installed in a nursing home.
• Banks are able to monitor traders who may attempt to conduct illogical or unethical trade practices. The office surveillance tools in use spy on trading relationships and behaviors. Mail Online reported: “Stung by billion-dollar fines for malpractice on their trading floors, the world's big banks are using 'fuzzy logic' tools such as relationship mapping and behavioral analytics to ‘read the minds’ of would-be cheats among their traders.
Indications are that these surveillance systems are being developed to a point where they can minimize the need for monitoring personnel to virtually none, except perhaps for required oversight of equipment functionality. The days when human beings will be required to view and interpret still picture images and video footage are clearly numbered.
According to Seagate.com, traditionally, the task of surveillance video review has fallen to trained security personnel. Capable of monitoring a modest number of incoming video streams, such personnel become progressively less effective as the volume of video data grows and overloads the ability of the human eye/brain to process visual details. Exacerbating the problem is sheer fatigue, with long shift hours degrading the monitoring abilities of security staff still further. Adding more security personnel is a very costly option that, while reducing the number of video streams each security staff member must review, still fails to eliminate the inherent disadvantages (limited attention span, interruptions and distractions, fatigue) that accompany human monitoring of video data.
IVS (Intelligent Video Surveillance Systems) software overcomes such limitations, enabling video surveillance equipment manufacturers and system integrators to create intelligent video solutions that see and process visual information similarly to humans. For example, such video analytics systems can distinguish between a person and a car. These systems can be programmed to track only objects identified as human and send an alert when the subject violates predefined rules, such as climbing over a wall.
Seagate lists the following advantages of Intelligent Video Surveillance Systems (IVS’s):
1. More Cost-Effective: Conventional video surveillance environments require security personnel to spend many hours watching live or recorded video to analyze/identify suspicious events. By contrast, IVS systems can scan many thousands of hours of video data without human intervention. Should the IVS system encounter questionable activity, it can automatically notify security personnel for further investigation. By increasing the number of video streams that can be handled by each security team member, IVS systems can significantly cut personnel costs.
2. More Accurate: A variety of tests have shown that humans lose anywhere from 50% to 90% of their visual perceptibility after 20 minutes of continuous video monitoring. The more video streams a person is required to monitor in a given period, the sooner impairments in visual perception manifest themselves. By contrast, IVS systems are immune to the fatigue, distractions and memory lapses that plague human beings. Live and recorded video review and analysis by IVS systems continuously scour video images for user-selected behaviors and patterns (for example, intruders, license plate numbers, unattended baggage), while ignoring the extraneous data that leads human monitors to generate false alarms.
3. More Scalable: Security environments are dynamic, changing both in size and character as a business grows. Thus any video surveillance solution must be able to scale and adapt as needs dictate. With a conventional security system, that means hiring and training more personnel to monitor any additional camera streams - a costly and time-consuming process.
Is it any wonder then that such smart surveillance systems are said to be the next level in cutting edge surveillance? Privacy advocates seem to be fighting from increasingly disadvantaged positions, as smart surveillance seems to score more points relative to their shortcomings. And as the ABC news report aptly concluded: “So big brother is already watching. But he's getting a lot more efficient.”
8. Christian Worldview/Issues
Porn Culture Infiltrating Schools
Computers are now commonly used in schools, colleges and most other educational centers. School students have a wide variety of choice for educational material available online. What parents and guardians may not however expect is the alarming finding that in some cases, students in schools also have access to pornographic websites via school computers. This is usually possible where computer site access controls are weak or poorly enforced, enabling mischievous students to deliberately bypass whatever controls may be in place.
In Great Britain, for example, a new Internet service provider-commissioned poll of 1,000 children of secondary-school age has found that one in six students has accessed pornographic websites on school computers. Children aged as young as 11 to 16 admitted to side-stepping teachers' safeguards designed to prevent access to websites containing inappropriate content, such as pornography and violence. These revelations, recently reported on by Charisma News, are said to follow widespread concern about the number of young people sending sexually explicit messages by phone and social media.
Only 25% of the pupils asked said that they had been blocked by internet security settings when they tried to access inappropriate websites. According to Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust: "Much more needs to be done to ensure that controls are watertight, and school staff need to closely supervise pupils in classes where they have Internet access."
Those recommendations would undoubtedly help in managing this issue. However, in perhaps what might prove to be a more effective deterrent approach, former British Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the Mail Online that children must be taught that sharing explicit images is a crime. Due to the potential consequences, chances are that fewer children would then willingly participate. Unless of course, they continue to see no action being taken against their fellow juvenile friends who get caught.
Nevertheless, since our current generation of children is so highly computer literate and technologically savvy, there are obvious limits as to how far these controls would be useful. For instance, following the survey, teachers were given new powers to delete sexually explicit images found on pupils' phones. Yet there will always be a fresh supply of access to pornographic images via by mobile phones, private laptops, print magazines and other sources, no matter how many times such cell-phone images can be found and deleted.
Various possibilities have been offered as causes for this upsurge in interest in pornography, or ‘porn’ by school-going children. Child-protection expert, Dr Zoe Hilton is reported to have advised the Commons Education Committee that celebrities are the cause of a sharp rise in the number of children sending sexually explicit text messages, or “sexting”. Little wonder, given the level of immoral influence that movie and rock music stars have on the youth, which is further worsened by the widespread media exposure accorded to celebrities.
Peer pressure would be another factor, given that growing children are vulnerable to social vices out of a desperate desire to be liked and accepted by their peers. In cases where children have lacked a firm moral upbringing and support structures such as church youth ministries, they will usually be quick to succumb to sexual immorality, drug substance abuse and violent, rebellious attitudes.
One of the many unfortunate and sad outcomes of student interest in pornography is the effect it has on well-brought up and morally upright children. In a recent publication of CBN.com, an account is given of a North Carolina mother, who says her 11-year-old son was exposed to pornography in the classroom via another student's school–issued laptop. Fortunately, he had the right training from home, to know that what he saw was immoral and inappropriate.
His mom commented: "It's not the kind of thing, at 11 years old, that he should be learning…he said it was disgusting and he wishes he could unsee it." She said her son was sitting in his middle school class when another student accessed porn on his school-issued laptop. She said her son later told her that "it's what you told me people do when they're married and they love each other, but this wasn't love. "When it happened again, this time with several kids watching porn in his cafeteria at Parkwood Middle School in Monroe, the mother turned to school administrators, who promised to do their best to monitor the issue.
Meanwhile, evidence continues to increase regarding the impact of pornography on its younger viewers in their later years. In a recent article published by the Gospel Coalition.com, it was reported that one study published in Cyber-Psychology and Behavior found that 39 % of college-aged males and 23 % of college-aged females said they had viewed bondage porn as teens, and 18 % and 10 % respectively said they had viewed rape porn.
Commenting on the study, Jacob and Joseph Phillips wrote: “While their bodies and minds are in key developmental stages, kids are viewing images that portray woman as objects to be used in whatever way a male desires. Is it any wonder that boys being educated about sex by pornographers become men who associate sex with the rape and bondage pornography that ignores the humanity of women?”
The analysis then proceeds to explain several ways in which pornography facilitates and complements the culture of rape that is so prevalent in society today. Below are extracts from the arguments put forward:
• Pornography presents women as inferior —In pornography, women are only valuable insofar as they bring pleasure to men.
• Pornography objectifies women — Similarly, the vast majority of pornography objectifies women; their bodies are important, as is their function as an element in sexual gratification. But their hearts, minds, opinions, experiences, feelings, and everything else that makes them self-consciously who they are is completely irrelevant.
• Pornography treats sexual gratification as an end to itself — Pornography perpetuates the harmful notion that sex is everything; it’s an end to itself. The value of things like consent, the perspective of others, relationship, love, conversation, covenant, interaction, deeper meaning? Unimportant.
• Pornography encourages male aggression — Not only is pornography continuing to expand, but formerly fringe forms of pornography that encourage male aggression are also becoming more mainstream (i.e., bondage porn, rape porn, BDSM). There is a logical reason for its growth; scientists have found “people who watch a lot of porn are likely to need increasingly graphic material to achieve the same sexual stimulation.”
Clearly, exposure of young people to pornography, whether at school or otherwise, doesn’t help when it comes to cultivating godly morals or limiting sexual crimes and perversions in society. Studies show how addictive pornography becomes once indulged in, similar to the effects of getting “hooked” on narcotic drugs like cocaine or heroin. No doubt the grip and pervasiveness of pornography has a lot to do with the high numbers of rapists, pedophiles, prostitutes, adulterers, fornicators, LGBT and other sexual perversions, not to mention broken or hurting marriages and relationships.
For parents and guardians who would like to see their children overcome the pornography challenge, there is still a lot of hope from the wisdom of God’s eternal Word:
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
9. Other Events To Watch
China's Prophetic Military Build-Up
What should be made of the tremendous and rapid military growth of China? What does it mean for the stability of rest of the world, and particularly the United States? Does the Bible have anything to say about China and her role in end-time Bible prophecy?
In a recent analysis titled ‘Is China’s Current Military Build-Up Prophetic?’ published in Concerning the Times, Howard Green attempts to answer these questions. Green explains that a resurgence of Russian and Chinese military power has over the past two decades or so begun to rival U.S military supremacy. It started with Russia but China is the country that has more recently reflected a challenge to U.S economic and military domination. Green proceeds to give some additional reasons for this:
1. On October 14th of this year, the IMF reported that China just surpassed the U.S as the world’s largest economy. The significance of this is that the continued growth of China’s economy fuels its massive military buildup and thirst for expansion to gain additional natural resources such as island chains and waterways, and especially oil.
2. US allies including the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan have all been the target of bullying by a robust Chinese navy despite U.S presence and disapproval. There have also been a number of ‘close calls and provocations’ by the Chinese. It may not be long before there is a miscalculation or a provocation that will set off a chain of events and the result could be a regional conflict or war. China may not necessarily win but could inflict major damage.
3.Some defense analysts project China will match the U.S in military strength within 20 years.
4.China is forging greater military ties with Russia and other U.S adversaries.
5.China has engaged in cyber warfare against the U.S in numerous ways in recent years, including through hacking into a defense contractor’s system and stealing the information to make its own aircraft.
6.The communist nation is aggressively planning, producing, and deploying hypersonic weapons that could overwhelm U.S missile defense systems, and place U.S aircraft carriers, land based targets, and allies at much greater risk than ever before.
More bad news about the Chinese threat has been reported in other emerging news. According to Investors.com, China now also has the capacity to knock out the entire U.S. power grid. The director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Michael Rogers, has so warned a congressional panel about the Chinese cyber threat, stating that China and "one or two other nations," after performing constant "reconnaissance" missions on U.S. utility companies, were now in a position to blow out the U.S power grid. It would be an act of war that would leave the U.S. powerless to retaliate and, worse still, powerless to identify the perpetrators.
And in terms of Bible prophecy, the growth of the Chinese military is part of the process via which China is assuming its position as a key player in the culmination of history. The U.S is thought not be a key end-times player, but could still be part of a confederacy of nations originating and based in Europe. As Green puts it: “Perhaps America’s dominance will be reduced by terrorism, war, or a global economic crisis and it would be the natural flow of events to swap its sovereignty and belong to a coalition of nations. I believe this coalition of 10 regions (revived Roman Empire) will be the geographical power base of the antichrist.
Ultimately the Chinese….and perhaps other armies from Asia will constitute the kings of the east. The vast army from Asia will move westward, cross the Euphrates River, and move on toward Israel. The news of the advancing army will trouble the evil world leader. Here is the picture the Bible paints for us about the military campaign:
“At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels. But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him. (Daniel 11:40-45)
How close are we to these events taking place? Green concludes: “Just a few short decades ago….this didn’t seem possible because China was just another emerging if not struggling country stuck in the past. Now with its economic dominance, aggressive political posture, and military power…..China appears to be situated for its role in the final page of history…We see signs pointing to the Lord’s return and we must tell the people we come into contact with to get ready. Those of us who love His appearing know that we have little time left to warn others to repent because Jesus is coming back soon.”
Or as it is written: He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.”Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20).