Prophecy News Watch - Week In Review/Aug 25- Aug 29
Keeping You Informed of World Events From A Biblical Perspective
Prophetic Trends & Headline News
1. Where is the United States in Bible Prophecy?
Why The Earthquake Near San Francisco May Just Be The Start Of A Whole Lot Of Shaking
If you thought that the earthquake that struck northern California on Sunday was something, just wait until you see what is coming in the years ahead. As you will read about below, we live at a time when earthquake activity is dramatically increasing.
This is especially true of the "Ring of Fire" which runs roughly along the outer perimeter of the Pacific Ocean. Approximately 81 percent of all big earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire, and the entire west coast of the United States falls within the danger zone. Over the past few years, we have seen huge earthquake after huge earthquake strike various areas along the Ring of Fire, but up until now the California coastline has mostly been spared. However, there are indications that this may be about to change in a big way.
Early on Sunday, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck the heart of wine country. It was the largest earthquake to hit northern California in 25 years. More than 120 people were injured, scores of buildings were damaged and Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency.
It is being projected that the economic loss from this earthquake will exceed a billion dollars. Since the initial quake, there have been more than 60 aftershocks, and residents are very much hoping that the worst is over. The following is how the damage caused by the earthquake was described by CNN...
"Everything and everyone in Napa was affected by the quake. My house, along with everybody else's, is a disaster. It looks like somebody broke in and ravaged the place, room by room." said CNN iReporter Malissa Koven, who was awakened by the shaking at about 3:20 a.m.
"Anything and everything that could fall, did," she said.
The damage in Napa is "fairly significant," said Glenn Pomeroy, the CEO of the California Earthquake Authority, who surveyed the area Sunday afternoon.
"The downtown area is hardest hit, probably because of the age of construction down there," Pomeroy said. In the residential areas, he is "seeing a lot of chimneys that've come crashing down."
That sounds pretty bad, right?
But remember, this was only a 6.1 magnitude earthquake. As Wikipedia explains, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake would be many times more powerful...
The Richter magnitude scale (also Richter scale) assigns a magnitude number to quantify the energy released by an earthquake. The Richter scale is a base-10 logarithmic scale, which defines magnitude as the logarithm of the ratio of the amplitude of the seismic waves to an arbitrary, minor amplitude.
As measured with a seismometer, an earthquake that registers 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times greater than that of an earthquake that registered 4.0, and thus corresponds to a release of energy 31.6 times greater than that released by the lesser earthquake.
And the earthquake that happened on Sunday would not even be worth comparing to an 8.0 or a 9.0 quake. In fact, one study concluded that a 9.0 magnitude earthquake along the Cascadia fault could potentially produce a giant tsunami that would "wash away coastal towns"…
If a 9.0 earthquake were to strike along California’s sparsely populated North Coast, it would have a catastrophic ripple effect.
A giant tsunami created by the quake would wash away coastal towns, destroy U.S. 101 and cause $70 billion in damage over a large swath of the Pacific coast. More than 100 bridges would be lost, power lines toppled and coastal towns isolated. Residents would have as few as 15 minutes notice to flee to higher ground, and as many as 10,000 would perish.
Scientists last year published this grim scenario for a massive rupture along the Cascadia fault system, which runs 700 miles off shore from Northern California to Vancouver Island.
And when we think about "the Big One" hitting California, most of the time we think about southern California. The most famous fault line in southern California is the San Andreas fault, but the truth is that many experts are far more concerned about the Puente Hills fault line. According to one seismologist, that is the fault that would be most likely to "eat L.A." and cause hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage...
Video simulations of a rupture on the Puente Hills fault system show how energy from a quake could erupt and be funneled toward L.A.'s densest neighborhoods, with the strongest waves rippling to the west and south across the Los Angeles Basin.
According to estimates by the USGS and Southern California Earthquake Center, a massive quake on the Puente Hills fault could kill from 3,000 to 18,000 people and cause up to $250 billion in damage. Under this worst-case scenario, people in as many as three-quarters of a million households would be left homeless.
So don't get too excited about what happened on Sunday. Scientists assure us that it is only a matter of time before "the Big One" hits California.
In fact, the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that hit northern California on Sunday was not even the largest earthquake along the Ring of Fire this weekend. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook the area around Valparaiso, Chile on Saturday and a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Peru on Sunday.
As I mentioned above, we have moved into a time when seismic activity is steadily rising. It has gotten to the point where even the mainstream media cannot ignore it anymore. For example, just check out the following excerpt from a recent CBS News report…
The average rate of big earthquakes — those larger than magnitude 7 — has been 10 per year since 1979, the study reports. That rate rose to 12.5 per year starting in 1992, and then jumped to 16.7 per year starting in 2010 — a 65 percent increase compared to the rate since 1979. This increase accelerated in the first three months of 2014 to more than double the average since 1979, the researchers report.
Something is happening that scientists don't understand, and that is a little scary.
As I wrote about the other day, earthquake activity seems to particularly be increasing in the United States. While the west has been relatively quiet, the number of earthquakes in the central and eastern portions of the nation has quintupled over the past 30 years…
According to the USGS, the frequency of earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S. has quintupled, to an average of 100 a year during the 2011-2013 period, up from only 20 per year during the 30-year period to 2000.
Most of these quakes were minor, but research published by the USGS earlier this year demonstrated that a relatively minor magnitude 5.0 quake caused by wastewater injection after conventional oil drilling triggered a much bigger, 5.7 magnitude quake in Prague, Okla.
“We know the hazard has increased for small and moderate size earthquakes. We don’t know as well how much the hazard has increased for large earthquakes. Our suspicion is it has but we are working on understanding this,” said William Ellsworth, a scientist with the USGS.
What in the world could be causing this to happen?
Oklahoma, which used to rarely ever have significant earthquakes, has experienced over 2,300 earthquakes so far in 2014.
That is absolutely staggering.
And of course volcanic activity has been rising all over the planet as well. In 2013, the number of eruptions around the globe set a new all-time high, and right now persistent rumbling under Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano has much of Europe on alert...
For more than a week the earth has been rumbling beneath Iceland’s looming Bardarbunga volcano. The almost continuous small earthquakes led the government to activate its National Crisis Coordination Centre this week and block off access to the largely uninhabited region around the Bardarbunga caldera.
Major airlines are making contingency plans for a potential eruption that could throw dust into the atmosphere and disrupt flight paths between North America and Europe.
Some scientists are saying that if that volcano erupts, it "could trigger Britain’s coldest winter ever".
Clearly something is happening.
All over the world seismic activity is on the rise.
That means that the shaking in California (and in much of the rest of the world) may soon get a whole lot worse.
2. Israel - God's Timepiece
Is the Gaza War Really Over?
Statements made by Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders and spokesmen following the announcement of the long-term cease-fire agreement with Israel this week serve as a reminder of their true intentions and strategy.
Over the past two months, the two groups, together with several armed factions in the Gaza Strip, repeatedly announced that their main goal was to end the "siege" on the Gaza Strip and build their own airport and seaport.
During the cease-fire talks in Cairo, the Palestinian groups repeatedly and stubbornly insisted that complying with these demands, along with opening all the border crossings with the Gaza Strip, was the only way to end the violence and achieve a long-term cease-fire with Israel.
However, it is important to note that these cease-fire demands are not part of Hamas's or Islamic Jihad's overall strategy, namely to have Israel wiped off the face of the earth.
Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip are not only fighting for an airport and seaport. Nor are they fighting only for the reopening of all border crossings with Israel and Egypt.
During this war, many seem to have forgotten that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are actually fighting to "liberate Jerusalem and all Palestine." The two groups have never recognized Israel's right to exist and continue to oppose any attempt to make peace with the "Zionist entity."
Many foreign journalists who came to cover the war in the Gaza Strip were under the false impression that it was all about improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip by opening border crossings and building an airport and seaport. These journalists really believed that once the demands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are accepted, this would pave the way for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Yet these journalists, like many others in the international community, failed to look at the bigger picture or take into consideration the context of conflict. Moreover, most of them did not even seem to be listening to what Hamas and Islamic Jihad have been stating before and after the war -- that their real goal is to "liberate all Palestine."
Operation Protective Edge may have ended, but the dream to destroy Israel is still alive. Even if Hamas and Islamic Jihad eventually get their own airport and seaport, it is obvious that the two groups are now more determined than ever to pursue their fight to eliminate Israel, especially in light of the fact that they feel they have emerged from the war triumphant.
The Egypt-brokered cease-fire may achieve some calm for Israelis and Palestinians in the foreseeable future, particularly in the aftermath of the severe blow Hamas and Islamic Jihad suffered as a result of Israel's massive military operation.
Indeed, Hamas and its allies will now be busy rebuilding the damage in the Gaza Strip. But they will also continue to raise new generations of Palestinians on glorification of terrorism and jihad, with the hope of achieving the destruction of Israel, which they view as an alien body planted by colonialist powers in the Middle East.
To understand the true intentions of Hamas and its allies, it is sufficient to follow the statements made by their leaders after the cease-fire announcement earlier this week. Evidently, these statements show that Hamas and Islamic Jihad see their "victory" in the Gaza Strip as a first step toward "liberating all Palestine." They also show that these groups intend to use the new cease-fire to continue preparations and amass more weapons for what they call "the mother of all battles - liberating Palestine."
Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah was one of the first figures to spell out his organization's real intentions. Hours after the cease-fire announcement, the Lebanon-based Shalah declared: "The war is not over. It will continue in other means and methods."
He went on to warn Palestinians against resuming negotiations with Israel, saying the Oslo Accords were now "buried under the rubble of the Gaza Strip" and Palestinians should as of now only endorse the "path of resistance."
The following day, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh crawled out of the bunker he had retreated to during the war to declare that "Gaza is now preparing for the battle of comprehensive liberation."
He told Hamas supporters during a "victory" rally in Gaza City that "Gaza has paved the way for reaching Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque."
To his credit, Haniyeh has never concealed Hamas's desire to destroy Israel. Only days before the war, he said in a speech before schoolchildren attending a Hamas summer camp that his movement's strategy "is to liberate the land of Palestine." He added: "Whether we are in the (Palestinian) government or outside, we will continue to educate and call for the liberation of all Palestine and the establishment of a Palestinian state on all the land of Palestine."
For those who do not know, Haniyeh is in fact just repeating Hamas's charter, which does not accept Israel's right to exist on any part of what is perceived as Muslim-owned land.
Another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, went even farther by calling for the establishment of a "Palestine Liberation Army" in wake of the "victory" scored by his movement and other Palestinian groups during the war.
Further evidence that this war was not about border crossings or improving living conditions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip was also provided by a spokesman for Hamas and several Palestinian groups that participated in the fighting against Israel.
At a press conference one day after the cease-fire announcement, Abu Obaida, spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin al-Qassam, declared: "Gaza won because it has revived the hopes of 1.5 billion Arabs and Muslims that the road to Jerusalem is now open and all we need is to be united and have a will."
So for Hamas and its allies, the war in the Gaza Strip is not just about the closure of border crossings or freedom of movement. Instead, they see the war in the Gaza Strip as part of their strategy to destroy Israel. What they are actually saying is, "Give us open borders and an airport and seaport so we can use them to prepare for the next war against Israel."
No Winners In Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas’ political bureau chief Khaled Meshaal have been going at it for 17 years. The saga began during Netanyahu’s first term (1996-99), as a young Israeli prime minister. After a long quiet spell, Hamas started rearing its head, conducting suicide bombings in Israel proper. Netanyahu looked for ways to carry out a “low signature” strike at the organization. Being his usual self, Netanyahu abhorred head-on confrontations, real wars or forceful moves that might have rattled his seat. He preferred to operate under the radar. Back then, Meshaal was relatively anonymous — a senior Hamas militant residing in Jordan, thought by the Israeli Shin Bet and Mossad to be one of the “heads of the snake.”
Netanyahu instructed the Mossad to assassinate Meshaal “quietly.” The operation took place in September 1997, but Meshaal survived the assassination attempt. His standing skyrocketed, making him the most prominent leader in the organization under Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. When the latter was assassinated by Israel in 2004, Meshaal became the landlord. It is uncertain whether that would have been the case had it not been for this earlier assassination attempt.
Meshaal survived thanks to an operational blunder by Kidon (“bayonet”) — the Mossad’s hit-man unit. The poison that should have been sprayed on the back of his neck hit his ear. The entire incident, designed to have been well-orchestrated and to have taken place quietly, turned into a brawl. A manhunt ensued, which subsequently led to the arrest of two of the would-be assassins, who identified themselves as Canadians. The failure turned into a resounding diplomatic defense farce, forcing Netanyahu to urgently dispatch Mossad Director Danny Yatom to Jordan and provide the Jordanians with the antidote to neutralize the effect of the poison, which would have killed Meshaal within a few hours.
That’s exactly what happened. Danny Yatom hurriedly flew to Jordan and Meshaal’s life was spared. To get its agents back, Israel was forced to release Yassin, the leader of Hamas, from prison. Netanyahu came out of this affair with a fact-finding commission, humiliation and quite a headache. Since then, Meshaal has continued to soar in the skies of the Middle East as the organization’s chief facilitator. And he remains so to date. Netanyahu’s headache turned into a migraine.
Until the morning of Aug. 26, while I was writing this article, everyone awaited Meshaal’s decision. One of the more resounding intelligence failures during Operation Protective Edge was the erroneous assessment regarding the dominant hierarchy in Hamas and Meshaal’s near-absolute power, as well as the organization’s strategic situation prior to the operation, whose mindset was “sink or swim.”
As for Meshaal himself, he was caught in a typical Catch-22. Having climbed a high horse, he brought about unprecedented devastation to Gaza as well as some 2,000 fatalities. On top of that, he also lost two of his greatest strategic assets — the tunnels and the rockets — and led to the extreme isolation of Hamas in the Arab world. To justify all this, he needed his people to see he had something to show for it.
The problem is that there were two powerful elements resolved to prevent him from making any significant gains — to wit, Israel and Egypt.
Israel, for obvious reasons, has its citizens to defend. And what about Egypt? The same applies. Hamas has long been declared the enemy of the Egyptian people. Its president, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has vowed revenge on Hamas. The Egyptians are having a great time with the current turn of events, having no intention of handing Meshaal a ladder to climb down or giving him a hand. So Meshaal continued to vacillate, had second thoughts and hunkered down. But the more he continued, the worse the situation for his people in Gaza became.
Netanyahu, too, has his share of problems. The Israeli school year is slated to begin next week, on Sept. 1. The residents of the Gaza periphery have by and large evacuated their homes. The tourist industry is paralyzed and the economy is taking a beating. Additionally, the prime minister’s approval ratings are plummeting.
So which of the two — Netanyahu or Meshaal — will reach his breaking point first? That question was on everybody's mind in recent days. In the end, they both reached that point almost at the same time. The one who held it up was Meshaal, but in the end, he, too, consented. He didn't really have much choice. Thus, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a cease-fire, to which Hamas gave its support. Israel followed suit immediately.
“Netanyahu has known Meshaal for nearly two decades,” said a senior Israeli diplomatic official, even before the cease-fire. “He has studied him inside out. He knows almost everything there is to know about him. I think he prefers to play against him than against any other reality that will take place once he is gone.”
The source was alluding to reports about deliberations among top Israeli officials whether to instruct the security apparatus to include Meshaal on Israel’s hit list. Certain statements to this effect have already been heard, mainly by Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who also said that Hamas’ political leaders “can be killed,” too.
Some top Israeli defense officials had pushed for Meshaal’s assassination since the start of Operation Protective Edge, arguing that he is the cause of Hamas' extremism. Being the main obstacle to reaching a resolution, he forces his will on Hamas’ military wing as well as the organization’s political leadership in Gaza. Until he is assassinated, there is no possibility of bringing some sort of sanity into the region.
Pitted against them is Netanyahu. He’s already tried to assassinate Meshaal once and barely survived it himself. He will invariably prefer the known bad to the mysterious unknown that follows. Netanyahu is very strong at making statements and threats, but Operation Protective Edge exposed him for all his failings when it comes to taking action, even to those who doubted that.
As noted, on the evening of Aug. 26, the much-hoped for response finally arrived. It is too early to say who wins, who loses and what the strategic repercussions of Operation Protective Edge will be. What is clear, however, is who did pay a price: The Palestinian people, with thousands of fatalities and casualties; the Israeli people, with dozens of dead soldiers; an entire region that was bombed and turned into a semi-deserted frontier; and peace proponents from both sides.
From Netanyahu's standpoint, this is the lesser of two evils. He knows that as soon as the war drums in Gaza quiet down, his personal war of survival will begin.
On Aug. 25, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that the prime minister’s approval ratings plummeted to merely 38%, compared with 82% just a few weeks ago. And he has yet to face the deadly political criticism, which will come mainly from the right wing. So it is not only Meshaal’s fate that will be sealed in the coming weeks, but also Netanyahu’s. These two have not been able to break loose from each other’s stranglehold for 17 years.
4. The Gog/Magog War
Putins Pride - Danger For The World
As the Obama administrations draws down our forces to pre-WWII levels, and even front-line military officers are dismissed when in action against the enemy, Russia is doing something quite different. Russian president Vladimir Putin is proudly boasting of his nation's "offensive and defensive" weaponry which is so advanced that "other armies in the world" do not yet have their equal, according to a Kremlin-controlled Russian-language website.
Russia's feverish military build-up began in 2008 and is projected to continue through 2020. The Kremlin is determined to rival the U.S. armed forces. Moscow is almost completely remaking its military, and has developed, or is process of developing, new models of jet fighters, bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles, submarines, and surface ships. Putin has also shaken up the Russian top brass with a completely re-done command and control structure.
The Russian army itself is projected to become more of a volunteer, professional force, much less reliant on draftees. Military pay and housing are also improving as the build-up proceeds.
There are problems, however. Russian industry is having difficulty producing modern, technically sophisticated weaponry. Moscow has turned to the West for assistance, and the West has obliged. The most enthusiastic supporter of the Russian arms industry is France, which is building two Mistral-class helicopter assault carriers. The deal for the carriers was first struck in 2008, and the delivery dates for the ships, one in 2014 and the other in 2015, have remianed firm despite the Russian invasion of Ukraine's Crimean province.
The Mistral carriers are ideal for the rapid deployment of elite troops and support vehicles. One of the carriers is to be deployed in the Black Sea, possibly out of the recently captured port of Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula. The second carrier is slated to be used in the area around several Japanese islands occupied by Russia since the end of World War II. Tokyo wants the islands returned, Moscow refuses.
While France has decided to go through with its carrier deal with Russia, Western military aid has dried up following the Crimean invasion. The Russian military and political elite are now reviving the Soviet strategy of having all military equipment domestically produced.
How long Western nations can resist a lucrative Russian market and follow Fance's example is difficult to assess, but exporting military technology for short term gain is tempting to nations with weak or stagnant economies.
With or without Western assistance, Moscow is determined to field an armed force comparable to the U.S. and NATO in terms of training, technological expertise, and overall effectiveness.
Russian military prowess is only one part of the threat which the United States will be facing very shortly. While Putin and the Moscow elite are glowing with pride as the Russian military begins to compare favorable with what Russians increasingly regard as the legendary Red Army, the Kremlin is not prepared to go it alone against the United States.
Putin's pride does not blind him to the need for friends in his struggle with the United States, and in the same statement about Russia's military might, Putin also refers to "our partners," which, he adds, Russia is "glad to have."
Moscow's "partners" include the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), which is engagning in a military build-up of its own. Putin's Latin American"partners" may, in the future, supply bases for Russian aircraft and naval forces. In addition, Cuba is a floating spy base for Russia and China. Electronic signals broadcast from the U.S., especially from the north-east section of the nation, are intercepted and analyzed. Targets include political as well as military communications.
Cuban intelligence officers and their agents operate very effectively within the United States, and are also an important source of information for Moscow and Beijing.
Putin is particularly "glad" to have the PRC as a "partner." Moscow has stated that the political elites in both nations have nearly identical interests. One of the areas of common interest is the Asia-Pacific region.
Cooperation between Russia and China can make life very difficult for U.S. allies in the area. Japan is particularly vulnerable. Unfortunately for Tokyo, both Russia and China have reasons for weakening Japan Moscow does not want to see a strong Japan as a competitor for the Russian-occupied islands which Japan still claims. Moscow is building up its naval, air, and land forces near Japan, and Russian aircraft periodically violate Japanese airspace. China is ready to confront Tokyo over a chain of uninhabited islands (Senkaku to the Japanese, Diaoyu to the Chinese) in the South China Sea, and area which is also one of the world's most important shipping lanes.
If Russia and China are ever allowed to intimidate Japan and possibly reduce Japan to a dependent state, the United States would be seen as powerless, and unable, or unwilling, to protect its allies. If America retreats from the Asia-Pacific region, the independent island of Taiwan would fall to China's overwhelming might, and even the Philippines and Australia would find themselves in danger.
The United States would, in effect, no longer be a world power.
In such a situation, the United States would rapidly find itself as dependent on the will of Moscow and Bejing. Russia and China will then be the de facto arbiters of the world, and Americans would then find that even in domestic politics, the political elite of Moscow and Beijing would have a controlling interest.
Free people, in order to remain free, must remain loyal to each other. Any sign of weakness will bring on the most calamitous consequence.
5. Apostate Christianity
Increasing Number Of Christian Artists Adopting Gay Theology
Another artist in the genre of contemporary Christian music has openly declared her homosexuality. Vicky Beeching, a talented worship leader from Great Britain, made the announcement one week ago to the dismay of many Christians who have enjoyed listening and worshipping to her music. Her songs, “Glory to God” and “Breath of Life”, are sung at worship services all around the world. Beeching made the revelation in an interview with the “Independent” newspaper of London.
Beeching joins a number of Christian artists of late, who have openly admitted their homosexuality. In the “Independent” interview, she recounted the story of her life spent in mental anguish because of her secretive same sex attraction.” I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people” stated Beeching. For the past year, Vicky Beeching has been urging churches to amend their doctrine concerning same sex unions.
These attempts to effect doctrinal change have some conservative Christian leaders concerned that this is only the swell of a massive wave barreling down on the church, seeking to force the “gay agenda” on evangelicals. Scott Lively, an evangelical attorney and evangelist, sees this onslaught as a harbinger of coming events. Lively, in a recent WND article, stated that he expects to see “attacks on Christians in America like we have never seen before”, as those seeking the approval of homosexuality by the church, go on the offensive.
The past 40 years have witnessed a domino effect as one institution after another has fallen to the relentless” gay agenda.” Just last year, the Boy Scouts succumbed to the “steam roller” of gay activism and now, “one last barrier to ‘gay’ cultural hegemony remains: the Christian church,” continued Mr. Lively.
In his brochure, Not ‘just another sin”, he, argues that a” dangerous and modern heresy called ‘gay theology” is infiltrating the church at an alarming pace. Many believers who are afraid of being called intolerant are trivializing homosexuality and calling it just another sin.” His assertion is that from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible teaches that “homosexuality is not just another sin, but is in fact a form of extreme rebellion” against the sovereignty of God.
While acknowledging that Jesus does indeed love the homosexual, Dr. Michael Brown, Christian author of the book ”Can You be Gay and be a Christian!”, explained in a Charisma blog post, that Jesus reached out to sinners in His day and changed them by His presence and words rather than affirming them in their sin. Jesus teachings and life were to be transformational to the sinner. Dr. Brown urged Christians to pray for Vicky Beeching’s repentance.
“I appeal to you, Vicky, to go back to God once again, to recognize that His Word really is clear in terms of homosexual practice, and that you can advocate for freedom and wholeness in Jesus without advocating for homosexual practice. (In fact, if you advocate for homosexual practice, you will bring people into bondage, not freedom.),” continued Brown.
Finally, Pastor Kris Vallotton, in an earlier Facebook post, explained that his many years of pastoral counseling has” taught me that when you define yourself by your temptations or your passions (instead of managing your appetite and resisting temptations); there is no bottom to that cesspool! The truth is that we all have temptations and appetites that are not healthy and must be managed, or we will live with a deep sense of shame no matter what values our culture tries to validate because God has written His own values on our hearts."
If the church is to stand against this “gay theology”, individual Christians must arm themselves with the truth of God’s Word as they face another attempt to dilute its message of salvation and hope for sinners in need of forgiveness and transformation!
6. The Rise of Islam
Muslim Activists Demand Overhaul Of All U.S. Law Enforcement Training
Islamic activists that strong-armed the FBI to purge anti-terrorism training material considered “offensive” to Muslims have made their next wave of demands, which include an overhaul in the way all law enforcement officers are trained in the United States.
The coalition of influential and politically-connected Muslim rights groups is demanding that the Obama administration implement a mandatory retraining program for all federal, state and local law enforcement officials who may have been subjected to materials they deem “biased and discriminatory” against Muslims. There must also be an audit of all federal law enforcement and intelligence gathering training and educational materials to identify and remove information that could exhibit bias against any race, ethnicity, religion or national origin, the groups demand.
Additionally, the administration must pursue disciplinary action against agents and officials who engage in discriminatory conduct as well as those responsible for the anti-Muslim training materials. Finally, the coalition insists that all federal funding to local and state law enforcement agencies be withheld unless they ban all training materials considered to be biased against race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. In short, these empowered Muslim activists want to dictate how our nation’s law enforcement agencies operate at every level.
The outrageous demands were made this month in a letter to Lisa O. Monaco, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism. Among the signatories is the terrorist front organization Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has repeatedly proven that it wields tremendous power in the Obama administration. Founded in 1994 by three Middle Eastern extremists, CAIR got the FBI to purge anti-terrorism material determined to be offensive to Muslims. Judicial Watch uncovered that scandal last summer and obtained hundreds of pages of FBI documents with details of the arrangement.
CAIR also got several police departments in President Obama’s home state of Illinois to cancel essential counterterrorism courses over accusations that the instructor was anti-Muslim. The course was called “Islamic Awareness as a Counter-Terrorist Strategy” and departments in Lombard, Elmhurst and Highland Park caved into CAIR’s demands. The group responded with a statement commending officials for their “swift action in addressing the Muslim community’s concerns.” CAIR has wielded its power in a number of other cases during the Obama presidency, including blocking an FBI probe involving the radicalization of young Somali men in the U.S. and pressuring the government to file discrimination lawsuits against employers who don’t accommodate Muslims in the workplace.
Other signatories include the powerful open borders group Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Muslim Advocates, Women in Islam Inc., the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to name a few. The group’s claim that recent administration directives to promote multicultural and diversity sensitivity training in law enforcement aren’t enough because they don’t specifically address anti-Muslim materials.
Al Qaeda Magazine Hints Of Looming Attack; Urges Bombing Of Vegas, Military Targets
A new English-language Al Qaeda magazine features a how-to article on making car bombs and suggests terror targets in the United States, including casinos in Las Vegas, oil tankers and military colleges, and implies that an attack is imminent.
The online publication, called “Palestine-Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience Al-Malahem” and put out by the media arm of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, calls for Muslims around the world to follow “the recipe” provided to set off car bombs in crowded venues. It includes a timeline of "selected jihadi operations" that the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which first flagged the slickly-produced latest edition of the terror publication, finds chilling.
“The timeline concludes with the date 201?’ and blank spaces and question marks for the photo and information of the next attack -- implying that it is coming soon.” said MEMRI Executive Director Steve Stalinsky.
There is a suggested list of targets for lone-wolf, or individually executed, terror attacks, including New York's Times Square, casinos and night clubs in Las Vegas, oil tankers and trains, the Georgia Military College, the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, and General Atomics defense contractor in San Diego.
“This recipe gives you the ability to make a car bomb even in countries with tight security and surveillance,” one article reads, before providing a “shopping list” of supplies needed to make such a bomb, including cooking gas, oxygen gas, a barometer, decoration lamps and matches.
There is also a list of targets in Britain including a military academy and the Marks and Spencers chain of department stores. The magazine calls for the stores to be hit on Friday during prayers so that Muslims won’t be affected.
Globally, AQAP calls for the targeting of tourist resorts frequented by Israelis, Britons and Americans.
In a nine-page spread entitled, “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom,” the magazine details a do-it-yourself, illustrated guide on assembling a pressure-cooker bomb similar to the ones used in the Boston Marathon bombings.
“My Muslim brother, before you start reading the instructions, remember that this type of operation if prepared well and an appropriate target is chosen and Allah decrees success for you, history will never forget it. It will be recorded as a crushing defeat on the enemies of Islam,” the article says.
The “Palestine” magazine is a spin-off of AQAP's Inspire magazine, which mainly encourages and instructs jihadi recruits to carry out lone-wolf attack in the West. This new magazine is meant to play upon the recent anti-Israel and anti-U.S. sentiments brought about by the conflict between Hamas and Israel.
“Both AQAP and IS, as well as every other Al-Qaeda branch and offshoot is relying on U.S. social media companies including Twitter and YouTube for their cyber-Jihad efforts,” said Stalinsky, whose organization monitors the online and media activity of Jihadi groups and reported on the release of this publication.
This list comes as U.S. intelligence investigates the increased chances of a terror attack on American soil as Islamic State militants continue on their rampage in Iraq and Syria.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon confirmed reports of the death on a Syrian battlefield of American Douglas McCain, of San Diego, who was recruited to Syria to fight for IS.Now, the Free Syrian Army is reporting that a second American may have died in the same battle.
“There could be some envy by AQAP that IS is now getting all the headlines,” Stalinsky said in response to the probability of an Al Qaeda-backed attack.
Why The Double Standard Between ISIS And Hamas?
President Barack Obama has rightfully condemned the ISIS beheading of American James Foley in the strongest terms. This is what he said:
"There has to be a common effort to extract this cancer so it does not spread. There has to be a clear rejection of the kind of a nihilistic ideologies. One thing we can all agree on is group like (ISIS) has no place in the 21st century. Friends and allies around the world, we share a common security a set of values opposite of what we saw yesterday. We will continue to confront this hateful terrorism and replace it with a sense of hope and stability."
At the same time that President Obama has called for an all-out war against the "cancer" of ISIS, he has regarded Hamas as having an easily curable disease, urging Israel to accept that terrorist group, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction, as part of a Palestinian unity government. I cannot imagine him urging Iraq, or any other Arab country, to accept ISIS as part of a unity government.
Former President Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu have gone even further, urging the international community to recognize the legitimacy of Hamas as a political party and to grant it diplomatic recognition. It is hard to imagine them demanding that the same legitimate status be accorded ISIS.
Why then the double standard regarding ISIS and Hamas? Is it because ISIS is less brutal and violent than Hamas? It's hard to make that case. Hamas has probably killed more civilians — through its suicide bombs, its murder of Palestinian Authority members, its rocket attacks and its terror tunnels — than ISIS has done. If not for Israel's Iron Dome and the Israeli Defense Forces, Hamas would have killed even more innocent civilians. Indeed its charter calls for the killing of all Jews anywhere in the world, regardless of where they live or which "rock" they are hiding behind. If Hamas had its way, it would kill as least as many people as ISIS would.
Is it the manner by which ISIS kills? Beheading is of course a visibly grotesque means of killing, but dead is dead and murder is murder. And it matters little to the victim's family whether the death was caused by beheading, by hanging or by a bullet in the back of a head. Indeed most of ISIS's victims have been shot rather than beheaded, while Hamas terrorists have slaughtered innocent babies in their beds, teenagers on the way home from school, women shopping, Jews praying and students eating pizza.
Is it because ISIS murdered an American? Hamas has murdered numerous Americans and citizens of other countries. They too are indiscriminate in who they kill.
Is it because ISIS has specifically threatened to bring its terrorism to American shores, while Hamas focuses its terrorism in Israel? The Hamas Charter does not limit its murderous intentions to one country. Like ISIS it calls for a worldwide "caliphate," brought about by violent Jihad.
Everything we rightly fear and despise from ISIS we should fear and despise from Hamas. Just as we would never grant legitimacy to ISIS, we should not grant legitimacy to Hamas—at the very least until it rescinds its charter and renounces violence. Unfortunately that is about as likely as America rescinding its constitution. Violence, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism are the sine qua non of Hamas' mission.
Just as ISIS must be defeated militarily and destroyed as a terrorist army, so too must Hamas be responded to militarily and its rockets and tunnels destroyed.
It is widely, and in my view mistakenly, argued by many academics and diplomats that there can never be a military solution to terrorism in general or to the demands of Hamas in particular. This conventional wisdom ignores the lessons of history. Chamberlain thought there could be a diplomatic solution to Hitler's demands. Churchill disagreed. History proved Churchill correct. Nazi Fascists and Japanese militarists had to be defeated militarily before a diplomatic resolution could be achieved.
So too with ISIS and Hamas. They must first be defeated militarily and only then might they consider accepting reasonable diplomatic and political compromises. Another similarity between ISIS and Hamas is that if these terrorist groups were to lay down their arms, there might be peace, whereas if their enemies were to lay down their arms, there would be genocide.
No democratic nation can accept its own destruction. We cannot compromise — come half way — with terrorists who demand the deaths of all who stand in the way of their demand for a Sunni caliphate, whether these terrorists call themselves ISIS or Hamas. Both are, in the words of President Obama, "cancers" that must be extracted before they spread. Both are equally malignant. Both must be defeated on the battlefield, in the court of public opinion and in the courts of law. There can be no compromise with bigotry, terrorism or the demand for a caliphate. Before Hamas or ISIS can be considered legitimate political partners, they must give up their violent quest for a worldwide Islamic caliphate.
7. Increase in Knowledge/New Technologies
Feds Creating Database to Track ‘Hate Speech’ on Twitter
The federal government is spending nearly $1 million to create an online database that will track “misinformation” and hate speech on Twitter.
The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online.
The “Truthy” database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.”
The university has received $919,917 so far for the project.
“The project stands to benefit both the research community and the public significantly,” the grant states. “Our data will be made available via [application programming interfaces] APIs and include information on meme propagation networks, statistical data, and relevant user and content features.”
“The open-source platform we develop will be made publicly available and will be extensible to ever more research areas as a greater preponderance of human activities are replicated online,” it continues. “Additionally, we will create a web service open to the public for monitoring trends, bursts, and suspicious memes.”
“This service could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate,” the grant said.
“Truthy,” which gets its name from Stephen Colbert, will catalog how information is spread on Twitter, including political campaigns.
“While the vast majority of memes arise in a perfectly organic manner, driven by the complex mechanisms of life on the Web, some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns,” according to the website.
“Truthy” claims to be non-partisan. However, the project’s lead investigator Filippo Menczer proclaims his support for numerous progressive advocacy groups, including President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action, Moveon.org, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, and True Majority.
Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University, links to each of the organizations on his personal page from his bio at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research.
The government-funded researchers hope that the public will use their tool in the future to report on other Twitter users.
“Truthy uses a sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex networks models,” the website adds. “To train our algorithms, we leverage crowdsourcing: we rely on users like you to flag injections of forged grass-roots activity. Therefore, click on the Truthy button when you see a suspicious meme!”
Conservative Christian groups have long warned that such technologies could be used to block or report speech not considered politically correct. As more and more traditional Christian viewpoints are considered "hate" is it possible the core message of the Gospel "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6) will one day be banned from the Internet?
For Sale: Systems That Can Secretly Track Where Cellphone Users Go Around The Globe
Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.
The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.
The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.
Users of such technology type a phone number into a computer portal, which then collects information from the location databases maintained by cellular carriers, company documents show. In this way, the surveillance system learns which cell tower a target is currently using, revealing his or her location to within a few blocks in an urban area or a few miles in a rural one.
It is unclear which governments have acquired these tracking systems, but one industry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive trade information, said that dozens of countries have bought or leased such technology in recent years. This rapid spread underscores how the burgeoning, multibillion-dollar surveillance industry makes advanced spying technology available worldwide.
“Any tin-pot dictator with enough money to buy the system could spy on people anywhere in the world,” said Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, a London-based activist group that warns about the abuse of surveillance technology. “This is a huge problem.”
Security experts say hackers, sophisticated criminal gangs and nations under sanctions also could use this tracking technology, which operates in a legal gray area. It is illegal in many countries to track people without their consent or a court order, but there is no clear international legal standard for secretly tracking people in other countries, nor is there a global entity with the authority to police potential abuses.
In response to questions from The Washington Post this month, the Federal Communications Commission said it would investigate possible misuse of tracking technology that collects location data from carrier databases. The United States restricts the export of some surveillance technology, but with multiple suppliers based overseas, there are few practical limits on the sale or use of these systems internationally.
“If this is technically possible, why couldn’t anybody do this anywhere?” said Jon Peha, a former White House scientific adviser and chief technologist for the FCC who is now an engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University. He was one of several telecommunications experts who reviewed the marketing documents at The Post’s request.
“I’m worried about foreign governments, and I’m even more worried about non-governments,” Peha said. “Which is not to say I’d be happy about the NSA using this method to collect location data. But better them than the Iranians.”
‘Locate. Track. Manipulate.’
Location tracking is an increasingly common part of modern life. Apps that help you navigate through a city or find the nearest coffee shop need to know your location. Many people keep tabs on their teenage children — or their spouses — through tracking apps on smartphones. But these forms of tracking require consent; mobile devices typically allow these location features to be blocked if users desire.
Tracking systems built for intelligence services or police, however, are inherently stealthy and difficult — if not impossible — to block. Private surveillance vendors offer government agencies several such technologies, including systems that collect cellular signals from nearby phones and others that use malicious software to trick phones into revealing their locations.
Governments also have long had the ability to compel carriers to provide tracking data on their customers, especially within their own countries. The National Security Agency, meanwhile, taps into telecommunication-system cables to collect cellphone location data on a mass, global scale.
But tracking systems that access carrier location databases are unusual in their ability to allow virtually any government to track people across borders, with any type of cellular phone, across a wide range of carriers — without the carriers even knowing. These systems also can be used in tandem with other technologies that, when the general location of a person is already known, can intercept calls and Internet traffic, activate microphones, and access contact lists, photos and other documents.
Companies that make and sell surveillance technology seek to limit public information about their systems’ capabilities and client lists, typically marketing their technology directly to law enforcement and intelligence services through international conferences that are closed to journalists and other members of the public.
Yet marketing documents obtained by The Washington Post show that companies are offering powerful systems that are designed to evade detection while plotting movements of surveillance targets on computerized maps. The documents claim system success rates of more than 70 percent.
A 24-page marketing brochure for SkyLock, a cellular tracking system sold by Verint, a maker of analytics systems based in Melville, N.Y., carries the subtitle “Locate. Track. Manipulate.” The document, dated January 2013 and labeled “Commercially Confidential,” says the system offers government agencies “a cost-effective, new approach to obtaining global location information concerning known targets.”
The brochure includes screen shots of maps depicting location tracking in what appears to be Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Congo, the United Arab Emirates, Zimbabwe and several other countries. Verint says on its Web site that it is “a global leader in Actionable Intelligence solutions for customer engagement optimization, security intelligence, and fraud, risk and compliance,” with clients in “more than 10,000 organizations in over 180 countries.”
(Privacy International has collected several marketing brochures on cellular surveillance systems, including one that refers briefly to SkyLock, and posted them on its Web site. The 24-page SkyLock brochure and other material was independently provided to The Post by people concerned that such systems are being abused.)
Verint, which also has substantial operations in Israel, declined to comment for this story. It says in the marketing brochure that it does not use SkyLock against U.S. or Israeli phones, which could violate national laws. But several similar systems, marketed in recent years by companies based in Switzerland, Ukraine and elsewhere, likely are free of such limitations.
At The Post’s request, telecommunications security researcher Tobias Engel used the techniques described by the marketing documents to determine the location of a Post employee who used an AT&T phone and consented to the tracking. Based only on her phone number, Engel found the Post employee’s location, in downtown Washington, to within a city block — a typical level of precision when such systems are used in urban areas.
“You’re obviously trackable from all over the planet if you have a cellphone with you, as long as it’s turned on,” said Engel, who is based in Berlin. “It’s possible for almost anyone to track you as long as they are willing to spend some money on it.”
AT&T declined to comment for this story.
Exploiting the SS7 network
The tracking technology takes advantage of the lax security of SS7, a global network that cellular carriers use to communicate with one another when directing calls, texts and Internet data.
The system was built decades ago, when only a few large carriers controlled the bulk of global phone traffic. Now thousands of companies use SS7 to provide services to billions of phones and other mobile devices, security experts say. All of these companies have access to the network and can send queries to other companies on the SS7 system, making the entire network more vulnerable to exploitation. Any one of these companies could share its access with others, including makers of surveillance systems.
The tracking systems use queries sent over the SS7 network to ask carriers what cell tower a customer has used most recently. Carriers configure their systems to transmit such information only to trusted companies that need it to direct calls or other telecommunications services to customers. But the protections against unintended access are weak and easily defeated, said Engel and other researchers.
By repeatedly collecting this location data, the tracking systems can show whether a person is walking down a city street or driving down a highway, or whether the person has recently taken a flight to a new city or country.
“We don’t have a monopoly on the use of this and probably can be sure that other governments are doing this to us in reverse,” said lawyer Albert Gidari Jr., a partner at Perkins Coie who specializes in privacy and technology.
Carriers can attempt to block these SS7 queries but rarely do so successfully, experts say, amid the massive data exchanges coursing through global telecommunications networks. P1 Security, a research firm in Paris, has been testing one query commonly used for surveillance, called an “Any Time Interrogation” query, that prompts a carrier to report the location of an individual customer. Of the carriers tested so far, 75 percent responded to “Any Time Interrogation” queries by providing location data on their customers. (Testing on U.S. carriers has not been completed.)
“People don’t understand how easy it is to spy on them,” said Philippe Langlois, chief executive of P1 Security.
The GSMA, a London-based trade group that represents carriers and equipment manufacturers, said it was not aware of the existence of tracking systems that use SS7 queries, but it acknowledged serious security issues with the network, which is slated to be gradually replaced over the next decade because of a growing list of security and technical shortcomings.
“SS7 is inherently insecure, and it was never designed to be secure,” said James Moran, security director for the GSMA. “It is possible, with access to SS7, to trigger a request for a record from a network.”
The documents for Verint and several other companies say that the surveillance services are intended for governments and that customers must abide by laws regarding their use. Yet privacy advocates and other critics say the surveillance industry is inherently secretive, poorly regulated and indiscriminate in selecting its customers, sometimes putting profoundly intrusive tools into the hands of governments with little respect for human rights or tolerance of political dissent.
Refining the techniques
Engel, the German telecommunications security researcher, was the first to publicly disclose the ability to use carrier networks to surreptitiously gather user location information, at a 2008 conference sponsored by the Chaos Computer Club, a hacker activist group based in Germany. The techniques Engel used that day were far cruder than the ones used by today’s cellular tracking systems but still caused a stir in the security community.
From the lectern, he asked for help from a volunteer from the audience. A man in an untucked plaid shirt ambled up with his cellphone in one hand and a beer in the other. Engel typed the number into his computer, and even though it was for a British phone, a screen at the front of the room soon displayed the current location — in Berlin.
Two years later, a pair of American telecommunications researchers expanded on Engel’s discovery with a program they called “The Carmen Sandiego Project,” named after a popular educational video game and television series that taught geography by having users answer questions.
Researchers Don Bailey and Nick DePetrillo found that the rough locations provided by Engel’s technique could be mixed with other publicly available data to better map the locations of users. They even accessed the video feeds of highway cameras along Interstate 70 in Denver to gain a clearer picture of targeted cellphone users.
“We could tell that they were going a certain speed on I-70,” Bailey recalled. “Not only could you track a person, you could remotely identify a car and who was driving.”
An official for AT&T, Patrick McCanna, was in the audience when DePetrillo and Bailey presented their findings at a conference in 2010. McCanna praised the researchers for their work, they later said, and recruited their help to make it harder to gather location data.
Many of the world’s largest cellular networks made similar efforts, though significant loopholes remained.
As some carriers tightened their defenses, surveillance industry researchers developed even more effective ways to collect data from SS7 networks. The advanced systems now being marketed offer more-precise location information on targets and are harder for carriers to detect or defeat.
Telecommunications experts say networks have become so complex that implementing new security measures to defend against these surveillance systems could cost billions of dollars and hurt the functioning of basic services, such as routing calls, texts and Internet to customers.
“These systems are massive. And they’re running close to capacity all the time, and to make changes to how they interact with hundreds or thousands of phones is really risky,” said Bart Stidham, a longtime telecommunications system architect based in Virginia. “You don’t know what happens.”
Paired up with ‘catchers’
Companies that market SS7 tracking systems recommend using them in tandem with “IMSI catchers,” increasingly common surveillance devices that use cellular signals collected directly from the air to intercept calls and Internet traffic, send fake texts, install spyware on a phone, and determine precise locations.
IMSI catchers — also known by one popular trade name, StingRay — can home in on somebody a mile or two away but are useless if a target’s general location is not known. SS7 tracking systems solve that problem by locating the general area of a target so that IMSI catchers can be deployed effectively. (The term “IMSI” refers to a unique identifying code on a cellular phone.)
The FCC recently created an internal task force to study misuse of IMSI catchers by criminal gangs and foreign intelligence agencies, which reportedly have used the systems to spy on American citizens, businesses and diplomats. It is legal for law enforcement agencies in the United States to use IMSI catchers for authorized purposes.
When asked by The Post about systems that use SS7 tracking, FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart said, “This type of system could fall into the category of technologies that we expect the FCC’s internal task force to examine.”
The marketing brochure for Verint’s SkyLock system suggests using it in conjunction with Verint’s IMSI catcher, called the Engage GI2. Together, they allow government agencies “to accurately pinpoint their suspect for apprehension, making it virtually impossible for targets to escape, no matter where they reside in the world.”
Verint can install SkyLock on the networks of cellular carriers if they are cooperative — something that telecommunications experts say is common in countries where carriers have close relationships with their national governments. Verint also has its own “worldwide SS7 hubs” that “are spread in various locations around the world,” says the brochure. It does not list prices for the services, though it says that Verint charges more for the ability to track targets in many far-flung countries, as opposed to only a few nearby ones.
Among the most appealing features of the system, the brochure says, is its ability to sidestep the cellular operators that sometimes protect their users’ personal information by refusing government requests or insisting on formal court orders before releasing information.
“In most cases mobile operators are not willing to cooperate with operational agencies in order to provide them the ability to gain control and manipulate the network services given to its subscribers,” the brochure says. “Verint’s SkyLock is a global geo-location solution which was designed and developed to address the limitations mentioned above, and meet operational agency requirements.”
Another company, Defentek, markets a similar system called Infiltrator Global Real-Time Tracking System on its Web site, claiming to “locate and track any phone number in the world.”
The site adds: “It is a strategic solution that infiltrates and is undetected and unknown by the network, carrier, or the target.”
The company, which according to the Web site is registered in Panama City, declined to comment for this story.
The VMT Tax: Big Brother Will Be Watching You Drive
For years, even decades, the federal government has been urging motorists to drive fuel-efficient vehicles. In President Obama's first term, there was even a "Cash for Clunkers" program, offering drivers a financial reward if they traded in an old car for a more fuel-efficient new vehicle. And apparently Americans have done too good a job of following that government policy. Greater fuel efficiency means minimal or less frequent purchases at the gas pump. Some motorists have switched to hybrid or electric cars, which enables them to avoid the gas pumps altogether. All of which results in lower revenue from federal and state gas taxes, which means less money to build and repair roads and bridges and fund myriad mass transit programs. So policymakers are looking at taxing not the gas you buy, but the miles you travel.
A Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) tax might not reduce air pollution or the nation's dependence on foreign oil, the main reasons given for government's campaign to get motorists into more fuel-efficient vehicles. But it could raise more revenue and even be useful for traffic control since it could tax motorists for driving into already congested areas. But chances are drivers won't like being penalized for having long commutes to work or going extra miles on vacation trips any more than they would like paying more in taxes at the gas pumps. And at least some of us might resent the invasion of privacy involved in having the government track all our trips, short and long, to total up our mileage bill. As described on the federal technology news site, Nextgov.com:
It has long been a nightmare scenario for privacy advocates: Every time you get in your car, a computer relays your location and tracks your trip from start to finish. It can track how far you go, where you drive, how long the trip is, and even how much traffic you encounter.
For many drivers it is already a reality, as motorists take part in ride-sharing programs such as Zipcar or Car2Go, though both services record cars and drivers. E-Z passes enable drivers to zip through tolls without the delay and inconvenience of stopping to pay, but the system also creates electronic records of everyone's trips on toll roads. But to have a Global Positioning System or some such device in every car to track each motorist's comings and goings has overtones of an Orwellian "Big Brother" government, watching you every move and knowing where you are at all times. When then-Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood proposed such a system in early 2009, NextGov.com recalled, the Obama administration quickly disowned it, saying it was off the table. A proposal to research a VMT system was left out of the 2012 transportation reauthorization bill. But some transportation experts argue that Americans have already surrendered so much privacy for the conveniences of modern technology that the intrusive watchfulness of a VMT system should hardly bother us.
"Logic has not really entered into that discussion," said Joshua Schank, president of the Eno Center for Transportation. "People have had cell phones and private cell companies knowing where they travel for years, but somehow that doesn't give them any more comfort if the federal government is going to track their driving."
Ride-sharing companies track trips for locations, speed, and travel times, but have policies aimed at offering motorists some assurance of privacy protection. Zipcar says it does "not actively track or monitor vehicle location, and we do not store historical GPS data regarding vehicle location." Uber, the rideshare and taxi service, uses GPS and geolocation through its mobile app to see where users and drivers are, but says the data is not shared with third parties and is used only for purposes such as customizing services, promotions, and data analytics.
"There's really a lot less privacy with those systems because they know at least where you are picked up and dropped off and someone's keeping track of that," said Rob Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. "I have no reason to doubt that these companies are trustworthy and it's possible that as people become more comfortable with that, they'll see that there are less privacy concerns."
"I don't think that means we should be any less concerned about the government doing something like this," said Gautum Hans, an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology. He told Nextgov.com that people may be more comfortable with a private company using location tracking for business or research use, but "as we like to say, a private company can't put you in jail." "Research is understood by individuals. You can understand why a ride-sharing app would want to do research as long as it's aggregated and takes steps to protect your privacy," he said. "With the government, there are reasons you would be concerned, whether it's the First Amendment and the freedom of association or how the information is kept."
A federal pilot program is already underway in Oregon, offering 5,000 volunteers a variety of options, including a smartphone app, self-bought GPS systems, or even a flat fee that would require no tracking at all. But if millions of motorists have switched to smaller, more fuel efficient cars to escape rising prices at the gas pump, would millions more not curtail needless trips to reduce their tax burden under a VMT system? What will that do to vacation trips?
Stay tuned for opposition from the travel and tourist industry.
New Three Parent Baby IVF Plan Raises Ethical Questions
If you are used to the concept of a one daddy and mommy, you may also soon need to adjust to the idea of daddy, mommy and mommy. And no, daddy isn’t getting a second wife, even where that is legal or permissible. Rather, when mommy number one isn’t able to have healthy kids due to some medical defects with her reproductive eggs, mommy number two steps in. And no, she won’t be a surrogate mum by carrying daddy and mommy number one’s child. Instead, she will donate sections of her eggs to mommy number one, so that mommy number one can have healthy children with daddy.
Ruth Gledhill writes about this budding IVF plan in a recent edition of Christian Today. The plan has been raising concern amongst certain Christians and scientists: the concept of "three-parent babies" or "mitochondrial donation" which has been criticized both by scientists and representatives of the Church of England as well as the Roman Catholic Church.
Gledhill reports that the Government last week published its response to a 12-week Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) consultation on draft regulations to permit the use of new techniques to prevent transmission of serious mitochondrial disease from mother to child. Some oppose the proposed IVF technique, "mitochondrial replacement therapy", because they believe it is a form of genetic modification and creates children with, in effect, three parents. The Government response emphasizes that no nuclear DNA, which provides physical and other traits that children inherit from their parents, would be contributed from the donated female egg or embryo. The Government has consistently rejected claims that the techniques constitute genetic modification. Critics in turn have rejected the Government's working definition which excludes mitochondrial donation techniques from being counted as actual genetic modification.
On the face of it, the government motive seems to be acting in a medically responsible, sensitive and pro-active manner, managing a form of preventative disease control. Gledhill quotes the Department of Health document in which it is estimated that one in 6,500 children is born each year with serious mitochondrial DNA disorder which can have a "devastating" effect on families. Consequences include premature death of children, painful and debilitating suffering, long-term illness and low quality of life. The intention is to avoid this by allowing the use of eggs and embryos where the damaged mitochondria are replaced by healthy mitochondria from a donor.
Critics however cite certain risks and concerns and risks:
• The loss of genetic material during transfer;
• The transfer of small amounts of [mitochondrial DNA or] mtDNA from the affected egg to the donor egg;
• A mismatch between foreign mtDNA and nuclear DNA;
• Concerns regarding possible genetic mutations caused by "disrupting nuclear-mitochondrial interactions, including the production of 'unhealthy mitochondria and compromised cell function. These could submit the resulting children to serious, irreversible health risks, which would pass from generation to generation;
• "Lasting emotional damage" to children arising from such confusions as their parental and personal identities emanating from three legal parents rather than the normal genetic two;
• Questions around further genetic modification of children to "enhance" traits such as intellect and appearance to create "designer babies";
• The clear establishment for the need for these procedures, and in-built safeguards, such as children born from the process to have access to medical and personal information about donors.
• The Government should have waited for the conclusion of these further tests before publishing the Draft Regulations.
Perhaps the statement attributed to Dr. Helen Watt (senior research fellow of the Anscombe Centre, a Roman Catholic medical ethics centre) best encapsulates the critic’s views: "The tone of the report is reassuring, but the proposals are extraordinarily reckless with the lives and health of future generations. To remove the entire nuclear material from one egg or embryo and place it in another partially-gutted egg or embryo is hardly a minor intervention. It is absurd to deny that this is germ-line genetic modification, just because the nuclear material is left untouched when 'harvested' from a donor egg or worse, a donor embryo. After all, on that definition cloning from an adult human being would not be 'genetic modification' either…these techniques treat no-one, they merely manufacture children by means which are hazardous not just to those particular children but to generations to come. It is far better for couples who wish to avoid passing on a condition linked to mitochondrial genes to adopt a child than to seek new ways to be genetically related to a child lab-produced in this destructive and fragmentary way."
Neither are these concerns unique or isolated: According to another Christian Today report published in May, Lobbyist group Christian Concern issued a statement calling the UK's proposal to allow two mothers' genetic material to be used for Invitro fertilization (IVF) "dangerous and unethical." The statement added that "There are widespread concerns about the profound, adverse effects on a child's physiological well-being, including the impact on his or her sense of identity, which could arise from a genetic, parental connection with three, instead of two, individuals." The report states that whereas as IVF and surrogacy have already navigated legal and societal conflicts, three-parent IVF poses more questions for legislators and parents.
Other ethical questions come to mind: could the death of any embryos in this process be equated to a laboratory abortion? According to a report published by Life Site News, this process can actually be considered worse than “regular” abortions. The limits are being pushed in the name of medical advancement and the greater good of all, but the fact remains that cloning, euthanasia, and forms of IVF that involve killing embryos are attempts to play God or attempt to improve on His original plans and designs for man, while disregarding His laws and principles. The Bible states that life begins before birth, at conception, and that a God–ordained marriage is the union between a single man and a single woman, which naturally would exclude any genetic third party contributions to their biological offspring.
Another example of how far science will go to replace God’s creation and systems can be seen from a recent report, published in Aleteia.org, titled ‘Growing Babies in Artificial Wombs: Inevitable? Desirable? Moral?’ Susan Wills describes this plan as “The logical next step in the techno-quest to do reproduction better than God.” Wills further explains that “The possibility of perfecting artificial wombs to gestate human babies until they are full-term and physically ready for our brave new world is the unapologetic goal of Dr. Helen Hung-Ching Liu. She directs the Reproductive Endocrinology Laboratory at Cornell University’s Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility."
One wonders where it will all end and what will spring from fertile, evil and godless imaginations next – all in the name of good, of course. No wonder the scriptures warn that in these last days, “… But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13)
8. Christian Worldview/Issues
Will China Be World's Largest Christian Nation By 2025?
Fenggang Yang is a sociology professor at Purdue University and author of Religion in China: Survival and Revival Under Communist Rule. He believes that "China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon." By his calculations, the number of believers in the People's Republic of China will rise to 160 million by 2025 and 247 million by 2030. If so, the country would be home to more Christians than any nation on earth.
When I visited Beijing a few years ago, I was told that the rate of Christian growth is even higher than Professor Yang documents. By some measures, as many as 100,000 Chinese people come to Christ every day. Growth there is hard to document, given the large underground Christian movement in the country. Some observers believe that there are more followers of Jesus in China than members of the Chinese Communist party.
When missionaries were expelled from China in 1949, there were less than four million believers in the country. Many predicted the death of the church. In the decades since, the Christian movement has exploded in growth, defying all odds and persecution. Recent attacks on church buildings in China are the enemy's latest response to the advance of God's Kingdom in this ancient land.
What has led to China's spiritual renaissance?
First, Christians in China have learned to depend fully and unconditionally on the power of God's Spirit. When I visited Beijing, I was astonished by the passionate spiritual depth I encountered. In a culture where there is little cultural support and active government resistance, believers must turn to God. Mother Teresa was right: "You'll never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have."
Second, Chinese Christians have paid the price of perseverance. They have weathered waves of persecution and opposition with steadfast resolve. Such commitment has deepened their community and their faith. Albert Schweitzer observed that "one who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome adversity." Albert Einstein believed that "in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity."
How has God called you to engage your lost culture with his truth and love? The higher your calling, the harder you must climb to fulfill it. But Charles Spurgeon was right: "If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe him at all."
Do you believe God today?
Florida School District Replaces Football Chaplains With "Life Coaches"
Troy Schmidt’s jaw dropped.
A few minutes before, he had been preparing to start his seventh year as chaplain for the Olympia High School football team in Florida. But now, those plans had been changed – radically changed.
“I received a call from the coach,” Schmidt told me. “He said Orange County Public Schools is no longer allowed to have chaplains as a part of the football program.”
“I could no longer open the Bible, talk about the Bible, talk about God or pray with the team in any capacity,” he told me. “It was heartbreaking.”
A spokesperson for Florida's Orange County Public Schools confirmed they have ended the long-standing tradition of having local ministers serve as volunteer chaplains for football teams.
“They cannot have chaplains or ministers before or after games – leading prayer,” spokesperson Shari Bobinski told me. “Students are more than welcome to lead their own prayers but our faculty and staff cannot be involved nor can we bring in an outside chaplain.”
The school district is also cracking down on other displays of Christianity – effective August 19, according to a memorandum prepared by the district’s legal counsel.
Teachers and coaches “cannot participate in a visible way with the players during student-led prayers,” the memorandum states.
Also, Bible verses and references to the Bible are banned on school property. Bible verses are also prohibited on clothing produced by the school. And songs with religious lyrics may not be used in school-related videos.
The school district’s crackdown on Christianity is a result of a threat filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The Wisconsin-based organization detailed all sorts of allegations in a letter to the district. They were alarmed about religious activity at another high school, Apopka High School, a school in the same district. They singled out the football team’s chaplain.
“It is inappropriate and unconstitutional for the district to offer a Christian minister unique access to befriend and proselytize student athletes,” FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel wrote to the district.
Instead of standing their ground and defending the volunteer chaplain at Apopka, the school district decided to ban all chaplains.
“Having a team chaplain is not permitted as it is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion in the same manner as a school employee participating in prayer with students,” the memorandum stated.
But the school district still wanted Pastor Schmidt to inspire the Olympia Titans – provided he remained strictly secular.
“They said I could still come and speak but I wasn’t going to be called a chaplain,” he said.
“They wanted to call me a 'Life Coach.'"
However, life coaches would still not be permitted to use any inspiration from the Bible.
Schmidt knew right away that he would not be able to accept such a position.
“That’s not me,” he said. “I don’t get any inspiration besides what I get in the Bible. My heroes come from the Bible and I think there is a lot of inspiration in there that can motivate a football player to get out on the field and play their best and be their best.”
Schmidt, who also writes for the Game Show Network’s “The American Bible Challenge,” told me his role as a chaplain was not to proselytize.
“I would speak to the team before the game and give them wisdom, inspiration,” he said. “I’d be available if there’s any crisis.”
On occasion he would join the team in a huddle for a post-game prayer.
And his church would always prepare a massive pre-game feast for the young men and their coaches.
“Roast beef, meatloaf, brownies – these were pretty extravagant meals,” he said. “We wanted to make sure they got a great home-cooked meal.”
And even though ministers are no longer welcome on school property, Pastor Schmidt said his church will continue to serve the meals.
“We don’t want the kids to suffer,” he said.
The Christian cleansing of Orange County Public Schools did not make national headlines. Their decision to banish the chaplains garnered no attention. And that’s why Pastor Schmidt decided to speak up.
“We can’t stay silent any longer,” he told me. “We can’t allow them to move into these areas that traditionally have always been a part of the football program.”
But that’s exactly what FFRF is attempting to do – eradicate Christianity in the public marketplace of ideas.
“Faith, family, football – have always gone together,” he said. “Here’s an organization like this coming in and trying to tear that out.”
Pastor Schmidt said it’s time to do something. “We’re not going to give up,” he said. “We’re not going to give up on the team.”
I’m glad Pastor Schmidt hasn’t given up because the school district, in an incredible act of cowardice, did give up. All it took was a threatening letter from the Freedom From Religious Foundation and the school leaders capitulated.
For the record, the chaplains were volunteers. Their prayers were voluntary. But thanks to Orange County Public Schools – the football players don’t have a prayer.
China Establishes New 'Christian Theology' To Control Its Christian Population
In a country known for quixotic public campaigns, China’s latest surely ranks among its most creative. The government will create a “Chinese Christian Theology” to guide the practice of Christianity in the country, the China Daily reported Thursday.
Although the government has yet to provide any details into what this new theology entails, its purpose is clear: Speaking to China Daily, Wang Zuo, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, said, “The construction of Chinese Christian Theology should adapt to China’s national condition and integrate with Chinese culture.”
On the surface, it may seem strange that an officially atheist state would create a new theology. But the endeavor provides a glimpse into an increasingly religious country, and a government’s desire to deflect any potential challenge to its authority.
Since relaxing prohibitions on religious faith in 1982, the Chinese Communist Party now recognizes five official faiths: Protestantism, Catholicism, Taoism, Buddhism and Islam. Because much religious faith remains underground, it is difficult to establish the precise number of worshippers in China. But a 2007 survey estimated that 31 percent of the country’s population, a number exceeding 400 million people, practiced a religious faith of some kind. Each religion has an organized, government-sanctioned hierarchy that is headquartered in Beijing and under the direct supervision of the Chinese Communist Party.
Even with that structure in place, the government has occasionally felt the need to further exert its control over the country’s religious life. In recent years, this trend has intensified. In 2007, Beijing passed a law prohibiting Buddhists from reincarnation.
(The government has thus far not revealed whether there have been any violations.) In Tibet, government minders have replaced monks as supervisors of Buddhist temples throughout the region, reversing a long-standing policy.
In the far-western Xinjiang region, whose 9 million ethnic Uighurs practice a mild form of Sunni Islam, Beijing limits permission of Muslims to make the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, while in July China banned fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. And this month, in Karamay, the local government said residents wearing Islamic clothing, and men wearing long beards, could not legally board city buses.
China’s religious repression in Xinjiang and Tibet has a clear political purpose: Beijing regards both regions as separatist threats, and has invested large sums of money in cajoling Uighurs and Tibetans toward loyalty to the Communist Party. But Christians, who do not have a specific geographical base in China, also experience persecution. In Wenzhou, government officials in April abruptly shut down a popular church without explanation, while police tore down crosses from thousands of churches throughout the city.
China’s attempts to micromanage Christian practice in the country have done little to stem the religion’s popularity: By 2030, one influential pastor estimates, China will have nearly 250 million Christians. That would, at current projections, give the officially atheist country the world’s largest Christian population.
For now, the Chinese government appears to recognize it cannot return to the Maoist era, which largely suspended all religious life in the country. But the creation of a bespoke Chinese Christian theology is an attempt to co-opt China’s newfound devotion into an explicitly patriotic enterprise.
Still, in a country where Web searches for Jesus far outnumber those for President Xi Jinping, Beijing may have a major challenge on its hands.
Top Church Destroying Countries
Recent research has shown that there are certain countries where churches are at high risk of deliberate systematic destruction, as well as sporadic attacks through religious intolerance and terrorism. If you are a Christian and happen to live in one of those countries, chances are that you and your family will also be singled out for the destruction of your property, belongings, and even your lives.
These likely outcomes were derived from a recent Pew Research Center study which calculated the world's top 34 countries with the most government destruction of religious property. In an article published in Christianity Today, Kate Tracy reports on this research in which other highlights derived were as follows:
• Three countries were found to have topped the church-destroying list with “100 or more” incidents: China, Russia, and Tajikistan.
• These were followed by another set of countries in the “10+ to 99” count category of churches destroyed. These were: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Syria, Pakistan, Angola, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan.
• There are another 21 countries listed in the “1 to 9” countries, including some of those notoriously and regularly covered in the press due to religious violence or intolerance, such as Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and Egypt.
• Overall, government damage to religious property occurs most often in the Middle East and North Africa, while in the Asia-Pacific region, 16 of 60 countries had government infringement on their property.
• Between the months of November 2012 and March 2014, persecution watchdog Open Doors found that 3,641 churches and Christian properties were destroyed. The four hardest-hit countries: Nigeria (with 1,539 cases, Egypt (with 829 cases), Pakistan (with 217 cases), and Syria (with 207 cases). Syria and Egypt lined up in Pew's second-tier ranking of countries with 10 to 99 cases of religious property damage, while Nigeria and Egypt were in Pew's third-tier ranking, with one to nine cases reported.
• Tajikistan ranks No. 45 among the 50 countries where it's hardest to be a Christian, while China ranks No. 37 and Russia does not rank.
• Colombia and Mexico—countries that don't even rank among the top 50 worst places of persecution—have high rates of church property damage. Colombia had 177 cases and Mexico had 36 during the latest reporting period. Based on this finding, Ronald Boyd-MacMillan, chief strategy officer for Open Doors stated that this indicates that religious violence is more a product of state factions, rather than the overall state itself.
• The other countries rounding out Open Doors' top 10 list for religious violence were the Central African Republic, India, Kenya, and Iraq, all with less than 100 incidents of Christian property destruction.
• China is also reportedly focusing on removing crosses, which are an integral symbol of Christianity, from as many churches as possible.
• As was recently reported by Christianity Today, Sudan recently reaffirmed its church-building ban as well as demolished a few existing ones. However, Sudan ranks low on Pew's list, with only one to nine incidents of religious property damage.
Another similar study was published in January and also referenced by Christianity Today. The study was based on the top 10 nations "where Christians faced the most pressure and violence," according to the 2014 World Watch List (WWL) from Open Doors International, were North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen (in that order).
The countries that overlap these two lists - where the high risks of church destruction are matched with a similarly high risk of anti-Christian pressure and violence - are Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Pakistan.
Although persecution of Christians and the destruction of churches and attacks on missions and missionaries have always existed, it is emerging that Christians are the most persecuted people on earth. In a recent article published in The Independent, Paul Vallely writes: “Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians…. The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world's nations.”
So as disturbing as these statistics are, should anyone be surprised by them? Hardly – Jesus Christ Himself warned:
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. (John 15: 18-21).
In another scripture, Jesus addresses the same issues and statistical implications raised in these reports of the persecution of churches and Christians:
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them (John 16: 1-4).
However there is no cause for dismay, as God promises His peace and victory to His servants no matter what they may face:
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
10 Characteristics Of Religious Church Systems Jesus Warns Us Against
Every church and/or organization has a corporate culture with norms, rules and expectations that pressure participants to conform. Some cultures are good and some bad.
That being said, there are particular attributes that characterize false religions or become the norm during religious decline in a true faith such as Christianity.
The Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah, Micah and Amos decried religious ritual that was without true righteousness, humility and love for neighbor (Is. 1:10-17; 58; Amos 5:21-24; Mic. 6:8). The line of prophets arose starting in the 8th century B.C. primarily because Israel had a tendency to focus more on adhering to the temple ritual worship of the Levitical system than the ethical lifestyle required by the Law of Moses as found in the Ten Commandments. For this, the prophets pronounced judgment upon the nation, and God dispersed the people and, on two occasions, let enemies destroy their temple.
We have the same issue in today's church, irrespective of the denomination or expression of the body of Christ.
The following are 10 of the characteristics of false religious systems as taught by Jesus in Matthew 23:
1. There are onerous rules and regulations some call legalism (Matt. 23:1-3).
In the contemporary church, there are numerous man-made traditions and requirements that never arose from the Word, which have become an unnecessary burden upon believers. For example, in many Pentecostal churches the emphasis is on outward holiness related to attire, makeup, the cutting of hair, jewelry and other regulations. I have spoken to numerous young people who stopped attending church because these regulations made them feel weird in front of their unchurched friends. Fundamentalists in the past forbade any form of entertainment, including watching movies, listening to the radio, watching television, etc. These are legalistic efforts to bring holiness that have resulted in numerous churches losing their next generation.
2. The church leaders serve to receive prestige from men (vv. 5-7).
God makes it clear in His word that some religious leaders love the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43). The judgment of God is against the leaders who are constantly posturing themselves within their denomination to attain the highest seats of authority and places of honor among men. Truly, some of the greatest people of God in the earth today are hidden from the public eye.
3. The leaders crave titles and moving up the ranks of hierarchical religious systems (vv. 8-11).
Today's church is replete with people who use titles to validate their ministries. I can't tell you how many people I have met with the title apostle, bishop, doctor or archbishop on their business cards who have very little influence in the church and secular world. Truly God doesn't care about an apostolic title; God looks more at apostolic function and fruit. I have found that, the more a person speaks about their academic achievements and ecclesial titles, the more insecure they are as a person and about their ministry accomplishments.
I say this as a person who has been consecrated both a bishop and apostle and who flows in circles with leaders who use these titles. There is nothing wrong with these titles (both are biblical) as long as we don't flaunt them, crave them and depend upon them for validation and/or to hide that we do not have real apostolic function and fruit. Many of the greatest leaders in the church world do not insist upon people referring to them with a title.
4. The leaders have an entitlement mentality (vv. 11-12).
I believe in the biblical principle of serving the people of God as a prerequisite to being qualified to function in the same ministry as they do. For example, Joshua was called the servant of Moses; Elisha served Elijah; David served Samuel and Saul, and the 12 apostles served Jesus.
That being said, there has also been abuse of this principle since many people desire to become leaders partially because it enables them to be waited upon. I believe younger ministers should serve older, more mature ministers out of honor and proper protocol, but at the same time older ministers should not demand it or become abusive if they do not receive it. We do not receive titles in the kingdom so we can be waited upon but so that we can have greater opportunity to serve in the church.
The more mature a Christ follower is, the more they will celebrate service as the highest form of ministry and leadership. God resists those leaders who emotionally abuse and/or lord it over those under their care (1 Pet. 5:3).
5. The leaders become a stumbling block to others seeking the kingdom (vv. 13-15).
It has been evident the past 30 years in both the evangelical and Roman Catholic churches that leaders can become huge stumbling blocks instead of assets to the kingdom. Whether it is lavish lifestyles, sexual misconduct, abuse of power, or other forms of narcissism, many believers have been turned off from Christianity by those who are supposed to represent it. Truly those who handle the Word of God will receive the most scrutiny at the judgment seat of Christ (James 3:1).
6. The leaders value and love money and wealth more than anything else (vv. 16-17).
While I do not believe church leaders should live in poverty, nor do I believe they should receive salaries from their churches that are greatly disproportionate to the average income of their congregation and/or community. The religious leaders Jesus denounced seemed to value gold more than the glory and honor of God. Leaders should never serve primarily for money but for the love of God and His people (1 Pet. 5:2).
7. The weightier matters of the Word are neglected (vv. 23-24).
Although I believe and practice the principles of tithing, fasting, church attendance and the like, they should never be an excuse for me to think I have fulfilled all of my Christian duties. Jesus says here that we ought to continue to tithe but also include in our lifestyle the practice of treating others with justice, mercy and faithfulness.
For example, if we tithe but treat our spouse poorly, neglect the poor in our midst, or mistreat others, our tithe will not do us any good. Then we are just like the Pharisee Jesus describes in Luke 18:10-14.
8. Ritual is valued more than inner transformation (vv. 25-28).
In the church we all have our traditions and rituals; whether it is the high-church liturgies of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox or Anglican churches, and/or the more informal gatherings of the Pentecostals and evangelicals. The tendency for human beings is to fall into a routine and equate our routine with true worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that she worshipped what she did not know (John 4), which means that people can worship in ignorance and/or without a true experience with God.
Whether it is the sacraments of denominational churches or the shouting, shaking and tongue talking of the Pentecostals, human nature has a tendency to fall into habit patterns of outward worship bereft of the life-changing dynamic of encountering the living God. We do not have to do away with these rituals, sacraments and traditions but should integrate them with true heartfelt worship and passion for our Lord.
9. They honor the departed saints without living like them in the present (vv. 29-32).
I have found that it is much easier to study about revival than to actually work hard for it. It is much easier to study church history than it is to make history. Every denomination and expression of the church has its Christian heroes of the past, but very few denominations, churches and adherents attempt to emulate the life, passion and sacrifice of the saints of old (for example: Ignatius, Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Francis, Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, Finney, Spurgeon, Moody, Hudson Taylor, John G. Lake, Wigglesworth, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Francis Schaeffer and more).
Jesus wants us to honor the prophets of old by living like them, not merely by building and revering their tombs.
10. They reject the prophets and wise men who confront their false systems (vv. 33-37).
Those who are captivated by a religious system will never listen to those speaking for God who are not of their denomination and/or do not have acceptable academic credentials. Sound familiar? The Pharisees and Sadducees rejected Jesus (John 7:14-18) and Peter (Acts 4:13) for the same reason. It is not an accident that in Luke 3:1-2 it shows that the Word of God came to John in the wilderness and not to an already established institutional leader. Thus, God bypassed the litany of prominent political and religious leaders and their systems (3:1) because they were so corrupt.
When a leader is captivated by their religious system or dead institution they become blind to the pure Word of the Lord. God has to bypass them and speak prophetically through those outside the dead institution. Those who are humble and have ears to hear (as Nicodemus in John 3) will recognize and receive the people God sends to them, irrespective of their institutional affiliation.
Truly, God cannot be contained in a temple, an institution, a denomination or any one religious system. He is Lord of all and will seek after those who worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).
May God help us to avoid these 10 judgments!
Atheist Churches Creeping Into The Bible Belt
What looks like a church, sounds like a church and behaves like a church but is not a church? It comes complete with music, instruments, singers, sermons and its own pastor and speakers. It attracts a gathering of hundreds of adherents each Sunday morning. It has social programs and seeks to help the local community. Yet it’s still not a church in the traditional sense.
Its distinguishing factor is that it is one place where God Himself is not welcome – the “Sunday Assembly” secular church movement which is an umbrella body of atheist churches around the world. The organization is said to have 75 international congregations and will add another 25 in September.
Such are the atheistic or ‘faithless churches’ that are “good without God” –and are seemingly getting increasingly proliferated across the U.S Bible belt. Typically but unsurprisingly, they have no prayer, Bibles or worship songs. The National Post recently carried a report on this, using an example from a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. In the article, Peter Foster quotes David Lyle, a founder-member of the Nashville branch of the “Sunday Assembly” movement: “I pass seven big churches between my house and the main road two miles away, there are plenty of churches in Nashville, but we needed a place for us.”
Foster further explains that the Sunday Assembly concept offers a church experience but without the “God part” and, according to organizers, it is starting to catch on in America. It was reportedly started in London in January 2013 by a pair of British stand-up comedians. According to Sanderson Jones, one of the London co-founders, almost 400 towns from Sao Paolo to Singapore are now expressing interest in setting up an Assembly, and more than 150 of these are in America.
In addition, the movement is non-profit and hopes to tap into a rising tide of secularization which — for all the continued power of the U.S. religious Right — means that almost a third of American’s under-29s now say they have no religious affiliation. These are the so-called “fuzzy faithful.” The Nashville group, conscious of the continued stigma attached to atheism in Bible-minded places like Nashville, also performs public works, providing a monthly meal for the homeless and rounding up volunteers to clean up a local creek.
The Dallas News also recently reported that atheist Sunday Assembly co-founder Sanderson Jones is due to visit Dallas, where the growing North Texas Church of Freethought is located. Freethought is an atheist church that has been in the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1994. They have monthly meetings, a youth group and social outings — programs usually reserved for traditional religious organizations. Its pastor, Tim Gorski, said: “We want to not only be a community for people who reject the supernatural, but also for people who need help dealing with life upsets.”
What does an average Sunday Assembly meeting entail? The Dallas News account of the first Sunday of each month perhaps summarizes what a visitor could expect. Gorski’s church meets in a conference room at the Sheraton Grand in Irving. The members, ranging in ages and background, grab coffee and send their children to Sunday school, where Gorski’s wife and kids talk about how to handle classmates who don’t accept their lack of beliefs. Gorski opens with a “moment of science” to talk about scientific innovations, followed by music appreciation, where the members listen to pieces such as Beethoven’s “Merry gathering of the country folk.”
Besides the collective mindset that “there is no God”, certain statements made by the Assembly faithful typify what your average atheistic Sunday Assembly member’s philosophy of life is:
• “It’s my personal opinion as an atheist that we should leave the word church out of our vocabulary.”
• “The idea is why not steal all the good bits about church — the music, the fellowship, the community work — and lose the God stuff.”
• “Just because I’m an atheist doesn’t mean I’m not moral…I’m a conservationist; I have dedicated my life to doing good things and helping others. I just do it for myself and not for God.”
• “Not having a church doesn’t mean I don’t have a moral code…I want to get away from this idea that you have to have God to be good. You don’t.”
So concludes the atheist: “I don’t believe in God, I want no association with the church but I will borrow what I think I can use from it. I serve myself only and I have my own moral standards without God.”
Clearly the self-professed atheist does believe in one god – the god of self. In so doing, he or she unwittingly bows to and serves the ultimate god of self – Satan himself. There is no real atheist today because God has already revealed Himself to them, as specified in Romans 1:18-20:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.
No wonder the Bible also states:
The fool has said in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity;
There is none who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 Every one of them has turned aside;
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one (Psalms 53: 1-3).
Surprising Results From Bible Belief Poll
Non-Christians obviously don’t believe in the Bible – or they likely wouldn’t remain non-Christians, but would instead embrace the teachings in the Bible and become followers of Jesus Christ. This general perception seems logical enough, therefore it is quite surprising that findings from the 2014 Gallup Value and Beliefs poll actually suggest otherwise. The poll respondents comprised both Christians and non-Christians.
According to a recent report by Krista Burdine published in the World Religious News.com: “Each year the Gallup poll asks, “Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your views about the Bible?” As usual, about 75% of respondents believe it is the word of God, while 21% think it is a collection of fables. But an additional answer option this year for half the surveyed group strengthened and changed the composition of the group that believes the Bible is the word of God.” The survey has a margin of error of 5%, and taking this into account, results were as follows for the first (Form A) version:
• 28% believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.
• 47% believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally.
• 21% believe that the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.
The second or ‘Form B’ version of the survey kept these options and added a fourth, with the following results:
• 22% believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.
• 28% believe that the Bible is the actual Word of God but multiple interpretations are possible.
• 28% believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God but not everything in it should be taken literally.
• 18% believe that the Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.
The impact of adding the additional fourth “multiple interpretations” option was a resonation with 31% of respondents, nearly a third. Reasons for this vary and several opinions have been offered by Burdine as follows:
• It seems to confirm the sense that American culture has become more openly pluralistic. John MacArthur, megachurch pastor and bestselling author, finds this revealing of a shift in Christian culture, claiming there is little threat to believing in the Bible as God’s Word as long as one can reserve the right of refusal and claim a misinterpretation when that Word challenges our desires.
• Another more encouraging perspective is that a greater percentage of respondents were able to attribute the Bible to God as opposed to a completely man-made collection of fables.
• Some of the Christians polled may have understood the Bible to be composed of various types of literature with parts to be taken literally while others such as proverbs and parables are to be considered allegorical or merely illustrative.
• The possibility exists that perhaps the same percentage of respondents felt the same way on Form A, but did not have a choice that best described their opinion. In this case, the survey may rather merely reflect the improved accuracy of the poll.
• It seems that non-Christians prefer to think of the Bible as a divine book that is open to interpretation, than to say it’s a true book with some non-literal content.
•About 6% of non-Christians do believe in the Bible as the literal Word of God. When examining the demographics of non-Christian literalists further, this group generally has no religious upbringing or affiliation, yet they believe in the existence of God.
They tend to be non-white, second generation Americans with less education than average, and politically liberal. Burdine concludes: “if anything, this sounds like a group disillusioned with what they have seen of religion in America, who have not found themselves compelled by what they have seen to seek out the God who literally wrote the book.”
Another potential factor that was not listed could be that Protestantism is dogged by much denominational bias, hence Christians across various denominations tend to assume that multiple Biblical interpretations are possible - just as long as core/foundational Biblical tenets of faith such as the fall of man and the redemption purchased for man by Jesus Christ are not compromised.
The question also arises as to whether this confusion is really necessary amongst Christian believers. Does the Bible itself have verses that will point us to the correct and exact interpretation of what we should believe about it? Consider this:
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).
This one scripture alone confirms that the Bible is indeed the actual and inspired word of God. It also debunks the myth, believed by an astonishing 10% of professing Christians, that the Bible is just an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man. If this group of people ignore the authority of the holy scriptures and dismiss them in exchange for what is clearly an–age old satanic deception that has led multitudes to hell, on what basis are they calling themselves Christians rather than agnostics or even atheists? No wonder Burdine asks: “Maybe next time, someone can explain how 10% of people who identify as Christian also see the Bible as a collection of fairy tales, or manage to have no opinion on the matter.”
Just as interesting and adding to the paradox is the 6% of non-Christians who do believe in the Bible as the literal Word of God. They may fit a certain profile or demographic but in both cases of “Christian non- believers” and “non-Christian believers” perhaps another poll would really be useful in asking them why they believe as they do – assuming that they themselves even understand why.
Based on 2 Timothy 3:16, we can however safely move away from the cut-and-dried onto the slightly grayer areas: Yes the Bible is the actual Word of God but is to be taken literally, word for word? Certainly in some cases but not all, depending on the context in which each particular scripture was written. Consider these examples:
And put a knife to thy throat, if you are a man given to appetite (Proverbs 23:2).
If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the everlasting fire (Matthew 18:8).
It is also critical to note that whereas the interpretation of the scriptures is not always literal, its meaning still has a relevant application or principle as there is nothing irrelevant or insignificant in the Bible:
For assuredly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law, till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:18-19).
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
And yes the Bible is the actual Word of God but are multiple interpretations still possible? Certainly. There is no shortage of denominations and other forms of doctrinal divisions that are proof of this, ranging from such controversial topics as the role of women in the church today, the role of the Holy Spirit and whether or not the rapture will be pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, post tribulation. So perhaps the further question that needs to be asked is, although multiple interpretations of the scriptures are not only possible but prevalent, did God intend it to be that way? Hardly: the Bible categorically states that God is not the author of confusion (1Corinthians 14:33) so it must be that any interpretations of scripture that are contradictory or irreconcilable, point to errors in the understanding of the scriptures. No wonder the scriptures admonish:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worer who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth(2 Timothy 2:15).
This will be the third time I am coming to you. By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established (2 Corinthians 13:1)
Perhaps the failure of so many Christians to read the Bible whilst ensuring that every doctrine based on the scriptures is supported at least twice or thrice elsewhere within the Bible , is most responsible for the multiple interpretations in the church today. The natural outcomes of this are evidenced in the kind of poll results that reflect so much ignorance about the authority and relevance of the Bible within the body of Christ, and how it is to be understood and applied. How should we correct this? In part, we would do well to take some advice from David the Psalmist:
O how love I your law! it is my meditation all the day. You, through your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep your precepts (Psalms 119: 97-100).
9. Other Events To Watch
The Road To World War 3? Russia And Ukraine Expand Expand Shooting War
Russian soldiers and Ukrainian soldiers are now shooting at each other in eastern Ukraine. Could this conflict ultimately lead us down the road to World War 3?
This week, a very robust force of "tanks, artillery and infantry" has opened up a "third front" in the Ukrainian civil war in a part of southeastern Ukraine that had not seen much fighting yet.
Exhausted Ukrainian forces are suddenly being pushed back rapidly and many outsiders are wondering how the nearly defeated rebels were able to muster such impressive military strength all of a sudden. But it really isn't much of a mystery. The tanks, artillery and infantry came from inside Russia.
In recent days, Ukrainian units have captured ten Russian paratroopers and there have even been funerals for Russian paratroopers that have been killed in action back home in Russia. Even though it has become exceedingly obvious that Russia is now conducting a stealth invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin is still choosing to deny it.
But if he did publicly admit it, that would be even more dangerous. Barack Obama would be forced into a position of either having to do something about the Russian invasion or look weak in the eyes of the public. And as the Russians have already shown, they are more than willing to match any move that the Obama administration makes.
There has already been much written about who is to blame for all of this, and I am sure that much more will be written about who is to blame in the future. The western world is blaming "Russian aggression" for the mess in Ukraine.
In return, the Russians point out that it was westerners that funded and organized the groups that violently overthrew the democratically-elected government of Ukraine. To the Russians, the current government of Ukraine is made up of neo-Nazi terrorist usurpers that are attempting to brutally oppress millions of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.
So the Russians seem themselves as "the good guys" in this conflict and so does the western world. But that is how most wars start. Both sides usually feel morally justified at the start of a conflict.
In the final analysis, however, is it really going to matter very much who was "right" and who was "wrong" if the end result is World War 3?
If the rebels in eastern Ukraine had been able to defeat the Kiev government forces on their own, Putin probably would have been content to let them do that. But instead, they had been pushed back to two major cities and seemed on the verge of defeat.
But now it is the Ukrainian forces that are experiencing "panic and wholesale retreat"...
Tanks, artillery and infantry have crossed from Russia into an unbreached part of eastern Ukraine in recent days, attacking Ukrainian forces and causing panic and wholesale retreat not only in this small border town but a wide swath of territory, in what Ukrainian and Western military officials are calling a stealth invasion.
The attacks outside this city and in an area to the north essentially have opened a new, third front in the war in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists, along with the fighting outside the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk.
How is this happening?
It is the Russians of course.
In fact, if you talk to Ukrainian soldiers, they are very clear on who they are fighting now...
"I tell you they are Russians, but this is what proof I have," said Sgt. Aleksei Panko, holding up his thumb and index finger to form a zero. Sergeant Panko estimated about 60 armored vehicles crossed near Novoazovsk. "This is what happened: they crossed the border, took up positions and started shooting."
The Ukrainian Vinnytsia brigade met the cross-border advance over the six miles of countryside separating Novoazovsk from the Russian border, but later retreated to the western edge of town along the Rostov-Mariupol highway, where soldiers were collapsed in exhaustion on the roadside. "This is now a war with Russia," Sergeant Panko said.
And as I mentioned above, Ukrainian forces have even captured ten Russian paratroopers. Rather than denying who they are, the Russian government is claiming that they wandered into Ukraine by mistake...
Ten Russian soldiers were detained in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, that country's Security Service said Tuesday, as tensions simmered over the conflict between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels.
The Russian soldiers were captured with documents and weapons on them, the Security Service said.
Moscow has repeatedly denied claims by Kiev that it has sent troops and weapons over the border into Ukraine, where the Ukrainian military is fighting pro-Russian rebels.
Russia's state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited a source in the Russian Defense Ministry as saying the soldiers had been patrolling the border and "most likely crossed by accident" at an unmarked point.
The denials that Russian forces are actively operating inside eastern Ukraine have become so absurd that even some in the Russian press are openly questioning them. For example, just check out this excerpt from a USA Today article that was posted on Wednesday...
Vedomosti, a liberal business daily, published an editorial Wednesday on events in Ukraine under the headline, "Are We Fighting?"
It noted the recent capture of the Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory and reports of "mysterious funerals" of Russian soldiers, some of whom are officially counted dying during training exercises.
"The number of questions that hang in the air of the dead and detained Russian troops on the territory of Ukraine has reached a critical number. Does Russia fight in Ukraine and, if so, on what grounds? If not, then who is in those freshly dug graves or giving testimony at SBU (Russian Security service) interrogations?"
A Bloomberg editorial contained some more details about the "mystery funerals" that have been taking place inside Russia...
One such burial, of two soldiers, took place in the village of Vybuty near Pskov in northwestern Russia, where an airborne division is based. Efforts to conceal the deaths produced a fiasco. Though the wife of one paratrooper had reported his death on the Vkontakte social network, when a reporter, Ilya Vasyunin of the Russian Planet website, called the wife's phone number, a woman who answered stated that the paratrooper was alive and well.
Two reporters, from Russian Planet and TV Dozhd, who visited the cemetery where the two fresh graves had been seen were immediately attacked by men in black tracksuits. Local journalists, however, succeeded in photographing the graves. According to the independent TV Dozhd, the soldiers' names and wreaths have been removed from the graves.
There are other reports of paratrooper funerals, which are hard to conceal. Soldiers have grieving families who do not necessarily share the authorities' desire for deception. In any case, Ukrainian troops have captured some Russian paratroopers. For the first time since the conflict began in March, they were able to record interviews with them.
Sadly, most Americans are not paying much attention to this conflict.
Most Americans are not really going to care much about a war on the other side of the planet that does not directly involve us.
But they should care.
Because things are about to escalate to a level that we rarely saw even during the darkest moments of the Cold War. Relations between the United States and Russia are spiraling downhill, and that could end up having a huge impact on all of our lives.
For example, in my previous article entitled "Russia Is Doing It – Russia Is Actually Abandoning The Dollar", I discussed how this tug of war over Ukraine was causing Russia to think about moving away from the petrodollar. Well, it turns out that now the Russians are actually taking concrete steps toward abandoning the petrodollar for good...
The Russian oil company Gazprom Neft has agreed to export 80,000 tons of oil from Novoportovskoye field in the Arctic; it will accept payment in rubles, and will also deliver oil via the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline (ESPO), accepting payment in Chinese yuan for the transfers, the Russian business daily Kommersant reported Wednesday.
The Russian government and several of the country’s largest exporters have widely discussed the possibility of accepting payments in rubles for oil exports.
Last week, Russia began to ship oil from the Novoportovskoye field to Europe by sea. Two oil tankers are expected to arrive in Europe in September. According to Kommersant, the payment for these shipments will be received in rubles.
That is huge news, but you probably haven't heard a thing about it on the big mainstream news networks.
Meanwhile, one thing that you probably have heard about is how "Russian hackers" attacked JPMorgan Chase earlier this month...
Russian hackers attacked the U.S. financial system in mid-August, infiltrating and stealing data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and at least one other bank, an incident the FBI is investigating as a possible retaliation for government-sponsored sanctions, according to two people familiar with the probe.
The attack resulted in the loss of gigabytes of sensitive data, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the probe is still preliminary. Authorities are investigating whether recent infiltrations of major European banks using a similar vulnerability are also linked to the attack, one of the people said.
As relations between the United States and Russia continue to decline precipitously, both sides will be looking for ways to hurt one another.
And that won't be good for any of us.
So let us hope that cooler heads prevail.
But ultimately, this current conflict could end up taking us to a destination that the Cold War never did.
World War 3 will probably not happen next week, next month or even next year, but right now we are on a road which could eventually lead to the unthinkable.
Let us pray that our politicians are able to find the exit ramp at some point.
UN To Continue Push For Global Governance Over Internet This Fall
In a recent essay entitled, "The Strategic Significance of the Internet Commons," former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff describes cyberspace and the Internet as a "global commons" that must come under "global governance." This is the latest salvo in an ongoing campaign by a disparate congeries of internationalists, socialists, communists, and jihadists to turn over control of the Internet to some sort of regime under the United Nations.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, the effort to transfer that control to the UN - including Internet taxing, censoring, and surveillance powers - is already far advanced. As The New American reported in March of this year, the Obama administration has already begun the phased transfer of Internet control to a nebulous and uncertain governance structure that has been set up as an innocent-appearing transition platform that, ultimately, is set for transfer to UN control.
The Chertoff article, which appeared on the International Relations and Security Network (ISN) on August 14, was originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of Strategic Studies Quarterly, a journal published by the Air Force Research Institute. In it, Chertoff writes:
Cyberspace, much like the high seas, air, outer space, and Antarctica should be viewed as the newest global commons.... Cyberspace is a strategic resource that is essential to today's global economy yet poses unprecedented risk and vulnerability. Like the development of global governance for the high seas and outer space, cyberspace needs global governance that preserves its freedom and openness while strengthening its security to protect the shared economic and utility value of all nations.
Chertoff Cheers UN Law of the Sea Treaty
Chertoff seems especially enamored of the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), citing it approvingly several times as the model for dealing with the cyberspace global commons. This is revealing, inasmuch as LOST has been a cauldron of controversy for decades, since it would: a) challenge the sovereignty of our inland and coastal waters; b) give the UN pretended legal authority over "all ocean space"; c) give the UN a huge constant revenue stream from seabed mineral rights and sea lane taxes ; d) subject our naval operations to UN interference; and much more.
So, how is it that former DHS chief Chertoff is now an expert on the Internet, and why is he stumping for "global governance" for cyberspace? The short bio at the end of his article that we quote above states that he is "the co-founder and chairman of the Chertoff Group and a member of the Global Commission on Internet Governance." Following in the footsteps of many other "public servants," Chertoff has parlayed the contacts and connections from his government career into a lucrative and influential consultancy business. We won't take space here to go into his business conflicts of interest (as, for instance, his public promotion of full-body airport scans, while failing to disclose that his firm's client, RapiScan, is the main producer of the technology and is making millions of dollars on the supposed "security" provided by the devices), but what about this Global Commission on Internet Governance. Sounds very official, no? So who commissioned this commission?
Chatham House Leads Internet Grab
According to a press release from Chatham House on January 22 of this year: "Carl Bildt, Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs, will chair a new Global Commission on Internet Governance, launched by The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House)."
The Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA, also known as Chatham House) is the British cabal of globalists who serve as the de facto governing class of the U.K., in much the same manner that its New York-based sister house, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR, also known as Pratt House), operates here in the United States.
Bildt serves on the International Advisory Board of the CFR. Another CFR luminary serving on the new Global Commission on Internet Governance is Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Spence, author of The Next Convergence. And another is Joseph Nye, professor and former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, former chair of the National Intelligence Council, and current executive director at the CFR, chair of studies at the CFR, and current North American chairman of the Trilateral Commission. Chertoff's aforementioned bio neglects to mention that he also is a member of the Trilateral Commission, a very rarified group of one-worlders organized by David Rockefeller (former chairman of the board and current honorary chairman of the CFR, as well as founder and current honorary chairman of the Trilateral Commission). The CFR, RIIA, and Trilateral Commission form the top tier of globalist think tanks promoting world government. Notable allied outfits in this effort include the Brookings Institution, Aspen Institute, Peterson Institute, Club of Rome, Club of Madrid, Rand Corporation (of which Bildt is also a trustee), and a host of the big foundations, such as Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Gates, Soros, Hewlett, et al.
And since we have mentioned the Aspen Institute, it is apropos also to mention that Michael Chertoff co-chaired Aspen's Homeland Security Group, which produced the 2012 report entitled, "Homeland Security and Intelligence: Next Steps in Evolving the Mission." As to be expected the Chertoff-led Aspen report advocated for evolution in the direction of centralized, nationalized control of police functions. That is always a given: In the CFR-RIIA world view, power - political and economic - must always "evolve" (with plenty of helpful pushes, shoves, and brow beatings by the CFR thought cartel) toward more concentrated and centralized power, first by breaking down checks and balances and transferring authority from the local to the national level, and then from the national to the regional and global levels.
So, it is not surprising that Chertoff is once again toadying for the CFR-RIIA globalist powers-that-be in asserting the need for "global governance" over another vital aspect of our lives. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, a CFR member, is a principal of the Chertoff Group. General Hayden served as a member of the CFR's Advisory Committee that helped produce the Council Special Report No. 56 entitled, "Internet Governance in an Age of Cyber Insecurity." The report was a project of the CFR's International Institutions and Global Governance (IIGG) program, an ongoing project that is ever pushing for more centralized, concentrated global government.
WEF and Upcoming UN's Internet Summit in September
It is also worthy of note that the venue chosen by the RIIA for its press release announcing the launch of the Global Commission on Internet Governance was - the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos Switzerland. The WEF is that annual glamorous soiree of globalist billionaires, bankers, butchers, dictators, politicians, and academics where the CFR-RIIA elites of the capitalist world hobnob and network with their communist and socialist counterparts. Thus the explosion of activity and propaganda in favor of "global governance" for the Internet.
The timing of the RIIA announcement at the WEF was not accidental; the organized one-worlders hope to push through much of their agenda to seize the Internet at the rapidly approaching Ninth Annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) conference to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, this September 2-5. Turkey, which is supplying the IGF venue, is, of course, something less than a paragon of civil liberties. And heading up the Internet Governance Forum confab is United Nations Under-Secretary General Wu Hongbo, a functionary of the Communist Party of the Peoples Republic of China, where posting an unapproved Internet comment can bring a visit from the cyber police and cause the offending commenter to "disappear."