A Word To Our Readers

To begin with, many thanks to you all for making 2012 an outstanding year for us.  It seems that the world has finally discovered the source of true knowledge, of peace of mind, and a more abundant and eternal way of life.  

Every month, our site was visited by people from about 80 countries, but when we looked at the year as a whole we discovered that we had unique visitors from 130 countries.  And they did not just come and go, but downloaded our materials by the gigabyte. 

Nothing could make us happier, for it shows that our efforts have not been in vain.  We could not help but think of the Scripture which says: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Ecc 11:1).  We just hope that “many days” will not be too many, for we are getting a bit tired and old to keep carrying on this burden alone. 

Now while an impressive number of people make good use of our website, the fact remains that many come to us not to seek further enlightenment on spiritual matters but to contend and argue with us.  That makes us happy too, for our witness must go out to sinners and righteous alike.  We just wonder why people are so defensive about their religion when it has become obvious that it is false and they worship the wrong gods. Do they really know what they worship?  Have they ever considered or heard of these statements from Jesus Christ and His Apostles?

 

Joh 4:21  Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.

Joh 4:22  You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the [spiritual] Jews.

Joh 4:23  But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

 

1Co 10:19  What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?

1Co 10:20  Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.

1Co 10:21  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons.

 

Eph 4:4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;

Eph 4:5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

Eph 4:6  one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

What these statements are telling us is that there is only one true way that leads to salvation, and many ways that lead to perdition, a fact made abundantly clear by Jesus Christ.

 

 Mat 7:13  "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate

Mat 7:14  and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Mat 7:15  "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.

 

False prophets are associated with the wide gate that leads to destruction, not the narrow gate that leads to life.  Our nemeses would like to turn things around and portray us as the false prophets and they as the true ones.  There is just one problem with that: we are not many and they are not few.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not meant to be witnessed to the world by many people but by very few; in fact by just one.  

 

Mal 4:4  "Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, Which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, With the statutes and judgments.

Mal 4:5  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.

Mal 4:6  And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.

 

Mat 24:14  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Mat 24:21  For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.

Mat 24:22  And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

 

The fact that these and other end-time prophecies are being fulfilled before our eyes enrages our nemeses. It is not that they had not been given the chance to repent, turn around and participate, but as the Scriptures say, those that are evil by nature cannot be made straight. 

 

Ecc 1:15  What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be numbered.

2Pe 2:22  But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "a dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."

 

Jesus Christ, whom we preach, has given humanity the greatest proof of God’s power and existence, and of true religion, salvation and eternal life.

 

Joh 17:1  Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,

Joh 17:2  as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.

Joh 17:3  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

 

One cannot know God and attain eternal life except through Jesus Christ.

 

Joh 6:44  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Act 4:12  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

 

Now although historically Christianity has had its ups and downs, it has always risen to the occasion, upheld its standards, and been a messenger for good.  Whenever there were calamities in the world, and they’ve been coming thick and fast lately, Christians were always there to help.  We are yet to see Muslims and people of other religions make a virtue of helping Christians who have fallen on hard times. Christian benefactors on the other hand make no distinction on whom they were going to help.  

No doubt, there are good people in Islam and other religions, for we know that in the Kingdom of God there will be people of all nations, but how and when they are going to get there is not entirely clear. What it is clear though is that they can only do so through the Lamb of God.

 

Rev 5:1  And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.

Rev 5:2  Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?"

Rev 5:3  And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it.

Rev 5:4  So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it.

Rev 5:5  But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."

Rev 5:6  And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Rev 5:7  Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Rev 5:8  Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Rev 5:9  And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

Rev 5:10  And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."

Rev 5:11  Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,

Rev 5:12  saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!"

Rev 5:13  And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!"

Rev 5:14  Then the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

 

There has never been a better, more urgent and appropriate time for people to examine themselves and get close to God.  They must do so for themselves and for their nations, for the destiny of the entire world is now at stake.  People will soon face their Creator and answer for themselves how they have used the time allocated to them by God. Unfortunately, today’s Christianity has lost its sense of moral purpose, spiritual guidance, and awareness of prophetic developments.  This is is why God had to call a man from a far away country, with no religious affiliation, to witness the Gospel of the Kingdom to all the nations.   

By abandoning the Bible as their guiding light, and embracing tradition and the fallacy of evolution, today’s Christian leaders have committed shipwreck. They have made themselves our most fierce opponents. This did not surprise us, for it is outlined in a number of end-time prophecies.    

We know that there are great commotions among the fundamentalist Churches of God about this work.  The fact that they cannot discard their old beliefs and practices, and embrace the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ proves that those who had departed from God once could never be brought back again.

 

Heb 6:4  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,

Heb 6:5  and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,

Heb 6:6  if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

 

Can one deny that God’s prophecies work out exactly as predicted?  First, they point out that the closer this world gets to its end time, the more lawless it becomes. And second, the more the false prophets multiply upon the earth, the fewer true believes are left in the world, even to the point that the last of them – the Two Witnesses of Revelation – are murdered. 

The work of witnessing the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to all nations is now virtually completed.   For although our site has been visited by people from 130 countries, these represent not just two thirds of the world’s population as this number would indicate, but more than ninety percent.  The remaining countries are small, isolated or island countries, which probably have poor internet connection or no connection at all.  We will do our best to reach them soon too.

In Europe, only Andorra, Bosnia Herzegovina, San Marino, and Liechtenstein have not come on board.  In Asia, it is Kuwait, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, North Korea, Laos, and Bhutan.  In the Americas it is Haiti, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, and Uruguay.  The remaining countries are in Africa and the island nations of the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. 

For years we have been puzzled by a country that signed itself as ‘European country’.  We wondered why anyone would use that subterfuge and not sign under its own name, but not anymore.  We now know that this is the Vatican.  Yes, we have ‘friends’ even in the Vatican who are keeping an eye on this work.      

In the early days of this work, we used to send out printed copies of our publications to leaders of all nations and to as many people as would receive them.  But we were never quite sure what they did with them, whether they took any notice or just discarded them.  Now our visitors come on their own volition, and their number is increasing rapidly. It is interesting to look at the order of our six best performers.

In July they were: the United States, China, Germany, Ukraine, Great Britain, and Canada.

In August: the United States, China, Germany, Ukraine, Great Britain, and France; 

In September: United States, China, Germany, Ukraine, France, and Great Britain;

In October: the United States, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, and Sweden;

In November:  United States, France, China, Sweden, Great Britain, and Germany;

And in December: United States, Sweden, China, France, Great Britain, and Germany.  

 

The numbers for Sweden and France astonished us.  We do not know why, but such extraordinary increase could only be good for their countries.  It is just a matter of keeping them up.  As for Germany, after being in the top three for years, it has now ‘fallen’ somewhat, but that is not because it has gone backwards, but because other countries have improved faster.

 

 

A word to our British friends

 

We do not claim to be an oracle, but we cannot help noticing a correlation between the rate of our readership and a country’s well being and prospects for the future. 

While other countries are improving steadily, Britain seems to be stuck in the fifth or sixth place, behind countries whose national language is not English; a damning reflection on the nation’s spiritual condition, and one which does not augur well for the nation.  

In our last edition, we said that Britain is in for some exceedingly difficult times. We did not have to wait long to see this prediction confirmed. 

 

UK faces Great Depression

Britain is teetering on economic abyss with fears its heading towards a triple dip recession – far worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. London Mayor Boris Johnson yesterday called on Chancellor George Osborne to “junk the talk of austerity” and pump more money into big spending projects thus increasing optimism.

The prominent Tory’s plea came after bleak figures from the Office for National Statistics showed output fell 0.3 per cent between October and December. 

The gloomy outlook is stark contrast to London’s benchmark index, which hit a fresh four-and-a-half year peak on Friday, ticking up 19.54 points to 6284.45, having risen 6.6 pc so far this year. Mr Johnson said the “hairshirt” agenda set by the Chancellor and gloomy remarks from the Bank of England threatened hopes of a recovery.

And a sign of coalition tensions over the flatlining economy, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made it clear the Liberal Democrats will demand higher spending on infrastructure projects in the next public spending review.  The slump rounded off the worst four-year period for the British economy, excluding the aftermath of war, since 1830s. It is feared it could be followed by another quarter of decline at the start of this year which would mean Britain was in recession again.

Addressing British leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr Johnson called for a change in tack. “We need to junk talk of austerity and recognize that the single biggest inhibitor to demand is lack of confidence, and that if only some of the people in this room would invest some of the cash in their balance sheets we would see that confidence rewarded in a virtuous circle,” he said. 

The economy is still 3.3 per cent below its pre-crisis peak in 2008 and fears are mounting that Britain will be stripped of its coveted AAA credit rating as tax receipts dwindle and debts soar.

Howard Archer, chief UK economist at HIS Global Insight, said the economy is in a “dire” state and added: “We suspect that GDP will not return to the level seen in the first quarter of 2008 until the first half of 2015.”  That means Mr Osborne may not be able to go into the 2015 general election claiming to have restored the economy.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at financial research group Market, said the figures hang another nail in the coffin of the UK’s AAA credit rating as the economist faces the growing risk of a triple-dip recession.  He attacked the downbeat rhetoric from the Treasury and the Bank of England and alluded to the painful age of austerity overseen by Sir Richard Stafford Cripps. (Sunday Telegraph, January 27, 2013)              

 

The question is why is Britain so much worse now than other European countries, in particular worse than Germany?  Let us not forget that Britain won the Second World War while Germany lost it.  Now the countries are at the opposite ends of the economic spectrums.  The answer is not hard to find. 

I remember very well a cartoon from the Thatcher’s government time.  A group of striking British workers, standing around with arms crossed, looking at a baggily dressed Japanese worker who was working hard on his Toyota car, saying “what has he got that we don’t have”. The cartoon did not give a direct answer, but the implication was clear:  the Japanese had a different work attitude.   

In those days, the Japanese products were roughly where Chinese products are these days: rather poorly produced but reasonably priced and available.  The British products on the other hand were fast losing the reputation of quality and reliability.  Now which are the two countries with the reputation for quality, reliability and availability: Germany in Europe, and Japan in Asia – the vanquished of the Second World War.  They had no laurels to fall back on, like the British workers who wanted their share of the spoils of victory.  And the way to do that, they thought, was through strikes; never ending strikes. 

The consequences are clear to see:  Britain’s industry, especially the auto one, is in disarray, and the only British names still in production, Jaguar and Rolls Royce, are now in German hands. 

They failed to realize that Britain was as devastated by the war as Germany and other countries.   

The victors did not impose bankrupting war reparations on Germany as they did after the First World War.  And why didn’t they?  Because they wanted Germany to recover quickly in order to join them against a new threat, a former ally now turned into a deadly adversary – the Soviet Union.    

Now consider the ratios of the Gross Domestic Products in the two countries.  In Britain, about seventy per cent of it comes from the service industries the financial and insurance sectors, and about thirty per cent from heavy industry and manufacturing.  In Germany it is the opposite: more than seventy per cent comes from industry and manufacturing, and less than thirty per cent from the service and financial sectors. 

This is why the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 affected Britain so much worse than Germany and other nations.  People are no longer willing or able to invest their finances in a country with such poor prospects of recovery.  The chickens are coming home to roost in both countries. But while they have no problems in Germany, they find poor pickings for their nests in Britain.     

Britain rushed into the European Union when it saw it surging ahead in many fields.  But now that it is “teetering on economic abyss . . . far worse than the Great Depression” it wants to renegotiate its terms or it threatens to get out altogether. 

It was the worst possible thing that the Prime Minister could have said, for in most likelihood that will dry out even the little foreign investment that was still coming in.  Worse still, the nasty continentals think that they can get along without Britain, perhaps even better so. 

Britain is now courting some of its former dominions like Australia and Canada.  But the economies of these countries have been reoriented towards other economic partners, and they could never get back to colonial trade exchanges.       

Is there a better example in the world of what happens when a nation turns its back on God? Britain owed its greatness and benefits of empire to Almighty God, yet what did she do when she was on top of the world?  It facilitated the appearance of the evil ideologies of evolution and communism.  How the mighty have fallen and sowed the seeds of their own destruction.

There are few prospects of Britain coming out unscathed from these difficulties. Why? Because these are no longer transient problems that could be fixed by financial and stock market speculation; these are the times associated with the biblical “time of Jacob’s troubles” 

 

Jer 30:1  The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying,

Jer 30:2  "Thus speaks the LORD God of Israel, saying: 'Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.

Jer 30:3  For behold, the days are coming,' says the LORD, 'that I will bring back from captivity My people Israel and Judah,' says the LORD. 'And I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it.' "

Jer 30:4  Now these are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah.

Jer 30:5  "For thus says the LORD: 'We have heard a voice of trembling, Of fear, and not of peace.

Jer 30:6  Ask now, and see, Whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins Like a woman in labor, And all faces turned pale?

Jer 30:7  Alas! For that day is great, So that none is like it; And it is the time of Jacob's trouble, But he shall be saved out of it.

Jer 30:8  'For it shall come to pass in that day,' Says the LORD of hosts, 'That I will break his yoke from your neck, And will burst your bonds; Foreigners shall no more enslave them.

Jer 30:9  But they shall serve the LORD their God, And David their king, Whom I will raise up for them.

Jer 30:10  'Therefore do not fear, O My servant Jacob,' says the LORD, 'Nor be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar, And your seed from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return, have rest and be quiet, And no one shall make him afraid.

Jer 30:11  For I am with you,' says the LORD, 'to save you; Though I make a full end of all nations where I have scattered you, Yet I will not make a complete end of you. But I will correct you in justice, And will not let you go altogether unpunished.'

Jer 30:12  "For thus says the LORD: 'Your affliction is incurable, Your wound is severe.

Jer 30:13  There is no one to plead your cause, That you may be bound up; You have no healing medicines.

Jer 30:14  All your lovers have forgotten you; They do not seek you; For I have wounded you with the wound of an enemy, With the chastisement of a cruel one, For the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased.

Jer 30:15  Why do you cry about your affliction? Your sorrow is incurable. Because of the multitude of your iniquities, Because your sins have increased, I have done these things to you.

Jer 30:16  'Therefore all those who devour you shall be devoured; And all your adversaries, every one of them, shall go into captivity; Those who plunder you shall become plunder, And all who prey upon you I will make a prey.

Jer 30:17  For I will restore health to you And heal you of your wounds,' says the LORD, 'Because they called you an outcast saying: "This is Zion; No one seeks her." '

Jer 30:18  "Thus says the LORD: 'Behold, I will bring back the captivity of Jacob's tents, And have mercy on his dwelling places; The city shall be built upon its own mound, And the palace shall remain according to its own plan.

Jer 30:19  Then out of them shall proceed thanksgiving And the voice of those who make merry; I will multiply them, and they shall not diminish; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small.

Jer 30:20  Their children also shall be as before, And their congregation shall be established before Me; And I will punish all who oppress them.

Jer 30:21  Their nobles shall be from among them, And their governor shall come from their midst; Then I will cause him to draw near, And he shall approach Me; For who is this who pledged his heart to approach Me?' says the LORD.

Jer 30:22  'You shall be My people, And I will be your God.' "

Jer 30:23  Behold, the whirlwind of the LORD— Goes forth with fury, A continuing whirlwind; It will fall violently on the head of the wicked.

Jer 30:24  The fierce anger of the LORD will not return until He has done it, And until He has performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days you will consider it.

 

So Britain, and all nations that are named after Jacob, roughly the Anglo-Saxons, shall come out of these difficult times and be blessed, and the Lord shall be their God again.  Except for one thing: this shall not happen in this world, or in this age, but in the age that comes after the Great Tribulation.  So few nations will survive that awesome devastation that they could all be accommodated in the Middle East.

God qualified this scenario with this sentence: “In the latter days you will consider it.”

Does anyone consider it and believe that we live “In the latter days”? If anyone believed it, we would not be alone in this work, and the world would not be taken by surprise by the Great Tribulation.   

 

 

A word to our Romanian friends

In our last edition, we pointed out that Romania was behind its smaller neighbours in terms of readership. A miracle occurred in the last few weeks of last year: the nation zoomed from the latter part of our graphs to number nine.  Was that a natural development or a forced statistic?  Either way, we are happy that some people in that country take note of our writings and do their best to help the nation. God knows, the country needs all the help it can get. 

Readership alone, however, means nothing unless accompanied by good acts, and by prayer, fasting, and worship of the true God.  We have to emphasize ‘the true God’ because the priests that have brought the nation to its present sorry state have created an obsession among the people about their idolatrous Orthodox religion. Anyone who departs from this ‘original Church’ is a traitor to the nation. It was a mantra widely used in communist times.  The question is, why are its priests still using it these days?

Well, if the Romanian media is to be believed, every priest of the Orthodox Church and the preachers of smaller denominations were recruited and worked as informers for the Securitate.  Since that odious institution is still pulling the strings of Romania life, should we be surprised that its acolytes continue to employ its methods?     

In few other countries has religion so betrayed its people as it did in Romania.  The stain of betrayal will remain forever inscribed in the country’s annals.  During the Revolution of 1989, it closed its church doors to the people who sought to escape the Securitate bullets. 

As for its claim to be the ‘original faith of the Apostles’, we have proven more than once that there is nothing ‘original’ about the Orthodox Church, that far from tracing its roots to the original Churches of God, it is as idolatrous as the Catholic Church from which it split about a thousand years ago. 

For mainstream traditional Churches – Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, etc. – tradition is more important than the Law of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is why if salvation is to come from anywhere for these nations, it cannot come from priests, but from unaffected ordinary people who turn to the true God. We trust that many of our readers would fall into this category and do just that, for this is what tradition did to Israel, and what it will do to any nation that places tradition above the Law of God. 

 

Mat 15:1  Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,

Mat 15:2  "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread."

Mat 15:3  He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?

Mat 15:4  For God commanded, saying, 'Honor Your Father And Your Mother'; And, 'He Who Curses Father Or Mother, Let Him Be Put To Death.'

Mat 15:5  But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"—

Mat 15:6  then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

Mat 15:7  Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

Mat 15:8  'These People Draw Near To Me With Their Mouth, And Honor Me With Their Lips, But Their Heart Is Far From Me.

Mat 15:9  And In Vain They Worship Me, Teaching As Doctrines The Commandments Of Men.' "

Mat 15:10  When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear and understand:

Mat 15:11  Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man."

Mat 15:12  Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?"

Mat 15:13  But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.

Mat 15:14  Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."

 

And here are some Scriptures which point out why people should turn to the true God.   

 

Jas 5:16  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

 

Pro 15:29  The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.

 

Isa 1:15  When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.

 

Pro 3:32  For the perverse person is an abomination to the LORD, But His secret counsel is with the upright.

 

Pro 15:8  The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.

Pro 15:9  The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But He loves him who follows righteousness.

 

Psa 34:15  The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.

Psa 34:16  The face of the LORD is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.

Psa 34:17  The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.

Psa 34:18  The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.

Psa 34:19  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.

Psa 34:20  He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.

Psa 34:21  Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.

Psa 34:22  The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.

 

Pro 3:33  The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the home of the just.

Pro 3:34  Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.

Pro 3:35  The wise shall inherit glory, But shame shall be the legacy of fools.

 

Righteousness, righteousness, righteousness!  No one will ever come near God who has not repented of his evil deeds and turned to righteousness.  

Whatever the wicked does, even his prayer, is an abomination in the eyes of God.  Nothing wipes out the blood from their hands, not even a billion dollar Cathedral. While the nation groans in poverty and epidemic diseases (AIDS, tuberculosis, etc.), the Orthodox Church is building a billion dollar Cathedral in Romania.  Its prelates have the temerity to claim that they have the money and do not need help from the state or anyone else.  Where did they get that money from?  And if they have so much money, shouldn’t they put it to better use in these troubled times?  They fool themselves if they think that buildings for God would wipe out their sins and are more important than lawful behavior, righteousness and repentance.  

Late last year, Internet Explorer cut out our link automatically while we were browsing the online version of the newspaper Adevarul (The Truth).  We were told that they did so because we were under attack; some people were trying to get into our computer.  Do we blame the Orthodox Church for that?  No, but since that Church is a virtual branch of the Securitate, we are not surprised that their ilk would want to damage this work.

Twice before we ended up with viruses in our computer, and while we suspected that they came from the same site, one could never be quite sure, for the internet is huge and we do a lot of internet work. This time, however, there was no longer any doubt.  It’s a pity, for some of their journalists are quite good at what they do.  Do they know that, perhaps behind their back, their site is being used for nefarious purposes?   That’s The Truth, the Romanian version of it anyway.

If I did not know that their days were numbered, I would take Romania to the International Court of Justice for the murder of my mother, for two attempts on my own life, for granting me a three months entry visa even though I am a citizen of the country, for preventing me from getting my family estate, and for seeking to destroy this work.  I might still do it one day, for all these things are easily documented.

They have been doing their best to lure me back into the country since I fled Romania in a hurry after my last visit.  It seems that that they’d love to get their hands on me again.  Perhaps they will do one day, in due time.  Or perhaps I will lay my hands on them.  We shall wait and see. 

What Jesus Christ said of Himself, is true of His disciples too.

 

Mat 21:42  Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

Mat 21:43  This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes' ? "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

Mat 21:44  And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

Mat 21:45  Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them.  But when they sought to lay hands on Him,

Mat 21:46  they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

 

Joh 16:1  "These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

Joh 16:2  They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

Joh 16:3  And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

Joh 16:4  But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. "And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

Joh 16:20  Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.

 

How wonderfully Jesus’ predictions have come true down through the centuries.  And who were the perpetrators who killed His disciples and thought they offered God service?  For a short while it was the Jews, the old “chosen people”, but then this baton was passed on to the new “chosen people”, the Catholic Church.  Yes, for more than a millennium, in the Roman world the mere possession of a Bible was enough to burn one at stake.  God dealt with the Jews as only He could, and will surely deal with the new hypocrites as only He knows how. 

 

Rev 17:1  Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,

Rev 17:2  with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication."

Rev 17:3  So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

Rev 17:4  The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.

Rev 17:5  And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Rev 17:6  I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.

Rev 17:7  But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.

Rev 17:8  The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

 

Those who dwell on earth do not marvel at the Gospel that we are witnessing to the world, but at the idolatrous paraphernalia that MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS, has deceived them with.  And by association, what is true of the Catholic Church is true of the Orthodox, the Protestant, and all other traditionalist Churches.

 

 

A word to our American friends

For many years, America has led the way in terms of readership and downloading of our materials.  What puzzles us though is what they are doing with it, for we see no signs of improvement in the spiritual condition of that nation.  If anything, things are getting worse; much worse, and starting at the very top. 

Some people may think that it is preposterous of us to think that a nation would change just because a few of its citizens are reading our publications.  Well, preposterous or not, the fact is that unless America changes it has no future.  Second, it is not just a few people that are reading our publications, but quite a lot of them.  If we were to count all the people who have availed themselves of our services since we began this work , their number would certainly reach into the millions.  Not only that but the nature of our work ensures that most of our readers would be highly qualified, well above the average. 

The White House has placed us on the list of those who receive their briefings, and we appreciate that. However, we are far from impressed with what is going on at the White House. From God’s point of view, Barak Obama is turning out to be a major problem for the nation.   In his second inauguration speech, he placed an unusual weight on the notion of freedom and equality.  He went on to say:  Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

No, man, what your “gay brothers and sisters” practice is not “love” but an abomination in the eyes of both God and decent men. 

Has it never occurred to you that when the American Fathers inscribed in the Constitution the notions of freedom and equality, they meant freedom from oppression and equality of opportunity, not freedom to debase oneself as he wished and defile himself and the nation, nor equality between sinners and the righteous.  This is evident from the fact that they upheld the Law of God, as they understood it then, not the law of Satan that you are now seeking to bequest to the American people. 

During his first term in office there was still hope that Obama might do the right thing for the nation and turn to God, but instead he has turned to Satan.  In so doing he has put himself and the nation on the wrong side of God. 

With one stroke, he erased all the lessons of the Bible.  God will erase him with one stroke too.  Unfortunately, the nation will pay heavily for the actions of its leader, as will all nations that elect unworthy leaders.  The problem in America was that in the recent election, American electors had a choice between Barak Obama and a believer of the unfathomable Mormon religion; a choice between jumping in a boiling pot or in the fire.  Either way they could not win.

We have doubts that America, and the world for that matter, will survive intact Obama’s second term in office.  Dark clouds are fast rising over the horizon.  

Your input, dear friends, has never been more important and needed than now. Never forget that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”.  Remember the example of Abraham, who came close to saving Sodom and Gomorrah. Barak Obama should never have forgotten that lesson either.  

 

Gen 18:20  And the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great,

Gen 18:21  and because their sin is very grave,  I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know."

Gen 18:22  Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.  And Abraham came near and said,

Gen 18:23  "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

Gen 18:24  Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?

Gen 18:25  Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

Gen 18:26  So the LORD said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes."

Gen 18:27  Then Abraham answered and said, "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:

Gen 18:28  Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?" So He said, "If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it."

Gen 18:29  And he spoke to Him yet again and said, "Suppose there should be forty found there?" So He said, "I will not do it for the sake of forty."

Gen 18:30  Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."

Gen 18:31  And he said, "Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty."

Gen 18:32  Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten."

Gen 18:33  So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.

 

The LORD could not find even ten righteous men in those cities. When Lot and his family were taken out, there was no one else worthy of saving.  Abraham must have had in mind his nephew Lot and his family, whom he knew were living in the area, when he asked God to spare those cities.  Knowing what was in his mind, God fulfilled his wish but could not save anyone else, for they had all given themselves over to, or approved of, the abominable sin of homosexuality that is now rampant in the world, and especially in the Western world.

God does not change (Mal.3:6). What He abhorred in ancient times, He abhors now.  This is why this world is in such a grave peril now. So, do your duty, dear readers, for your nation desperately needs you.

If God were to ask us to name ten righteous people in America we could not do it. All we have heard from and dealt with so far are the scum of that nation. They came to us not to enlighten themselves on spiritual matters, but to confront and contend with us.  If they knew the danger that stalks their nation and themselves they would never get up from their kneeling prayer. 

Never forget this parable of Jesus Christ for it conveys truths that could never be altered. 

 

Mat 13:19  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

Mat 13:20  But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;

Mat 13:21  yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

Mat 13:22  Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Mat 13:23  But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

 

Understanding the word of God and bearing fruit mean above all turning to righteousness, to prayer, to meditation and to worship of the true God.  And the true God cannot be found in just any church or religion, but only in the right place, for God is not divided. 

If anyone does not know where the right place is these days he will never know it.

 

 

 

A word to our Australian friends

 

It is an extraordinary fact that while other countries have been surging ahead in leaps and bounds, one unexpected country has been going backwards in the last couple of years or so.  You guessed it, it is my adopted country Australia, which is now behind not only other English speaking countries, but behind many smaller and non-English speaking countries.     

Aha, someone may say, he is now going to point out the fires and floods that have devastated the country because of that.  Well, yes, friends, facts are facts, and they must be told.  This country has had a long history of floods and fires, but nothing like it has had in the last few years.  And the ones this year, have beaten all records since these were recorded.   

As I am writing this, the northern part of Australia is wallowing under water, while the southern part is burning in uncontrolled fires. 

 

“Floods, fires hold states under siege”

“Floods in Brisbane, storms in Sydney, fires in Victoria and WA”

“QUEENSLAND could face another cyclone in 30 to 60 days as part of the monsoon cycle.

ABOUT 1500 Bundaberg residents will awaken in evacuation centres.

QLD Premier Campbell Newman says army is on stand by and Bundaberg should prepare for worse flooding than 2010-2011

As the impact of the massive storm spreads from Queensland, more than 1500 people have been told to evacuate their homes in Lismore, Ulmarra, Cowper and Brushgrove in northern NSW, with warnings of flooding as rivers peak throughout today.

The NSW State Emergency Service says the focus will be on the south of the state today, with a severe weather warning issued for Sydney, the Hunter and Central Coast, Illawarra and the south coast.

In Queensland, four people have been killed by the floods, including a three-year-old boy who was hit by a falling tree in Brisbane's north on Monday, while thousands around the state have been forced to evacuate their homes.  The others were a motorcyclist whose body was pulled from a creek south of Brisbane, an 81-year-old man whose body was found near Bundaberg, and a 27-year-old man who tried to cross a flooded creek near Gympie. [Two more bodies were found a day later – a 25 year and a 35 year old who were swept in a swollen river]. 

Police confirm a person is missing in waters of flooded Kedron Brook in Brisbane's north.

More than 2000 homes are underwater in the worst-affected city, Bundaberg, where the Burnett River is expected to hit its peak tonight.  About 167,000 homes are currently still without power in the southeast of the state after 50,000 properties were reconnected overnight. Four hundred Energex crews will work through Tuesday to restore more homes and are hopeful improved weather conditions will assist their efforts. The Brisbane River was expected to peak at 2.5 metres.

In Bundaberg, authorities are preparing to evacuate scores of hospital patients, where 2000 properties have flooded. Ten high-care patients have already been moved, with about 190 others to follow today, Queensland disaster managers say.  The defence force and the Royal Flying Doctor Service will be involved in the operation, with patients to be sent to Brisbane hospitals.

The Burnett River is raging amid a record flood, and is expected to climb to 10 metres over the next few days. That's about two metres higher than the 2010/11 flood.

The widespread disaster, triggered by heavy rainfall and wind from ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, comes two years after floods devastated much of the same areas of Queensland, resulting in 35 deaths.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has attempted to reassure residents of the affected areas that the overall flooding won't be as severe as in 2011, but concedes that local flooding is worse in some parts of the state.  But with the disaster affecting most of central and southeast Queensland, he said the government had to be careful where it placed emergency resources.

"Once again, sadly Queensland is facing a major disaster crisis," the premier said.

"(But) this state and its people will rise to the challenge. Together we will get through this."

Opposition leader Tony Abbott was impressed with efforts made in the Queensland floods.

 

Floods cause havoc across NSW

 SOUTHERN NSW is being told to prepare for driving rain and 100km winds as ex-tropical cyclone Oswald sparks evacuations in the state's north and continues to isolate more than 2000 others and devastate Queensland.

The flood crisis has extended into northern NSW as the state feels effects of ex-cyclone Oswald.

There has already been flooding in some low-lying suburbs in Sydney and that's expected to worsen as the morning rolls on.  The Manly ferries had a hard time seeing the swells in the Sydney Harbour.

Meanwhile in Grafton in northern NSW, parts of the town was issued an evacuation warning overnight with the Clarence River expected to cause major flooding when it peaks near eight metres at around 9am today.  Massive ocean waves crash over the rock wall at Coffs Harbour marina.  

''The Clarence River flood peak at Lilydale was 20.94 metres at midnight. This is close to the 1954 flood peak of 21 metres,'' the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) said.

The Pacific Highway in NSW is now closed between Grafton and Ballina due to flooding, the Transport Management Centre said in a statement today.

Motorists are being advised to delay all non-essential travel between Queensland and New South Wales, with the Bruxner Highway expected to close later in the day.

 

Julia Gillard tours fire ravaged Gippsland, in Victoria

Prime Minister Julia Gillard warns that fire threats are still a real possibility and for people to take care in flood waters across Queensland.

A watch-and-act warning remains in place for a 1600-hectare fire burning on the southern side of Violet Town, about 170 kilometres north of Melbourne.

A state control centre spokesman said milder weather had reduced the fire and allowed firefighters to work on creating containment lines, with no immediate threat to towns.

"The fire condition has reduced due to moderate conditions," the spokesman said.

Shepparton Incident Control Centre public information officer Alex Caughey said six aircraft, 255 firefighters and 60 vehicles were working on the blaze in difficult terrain.

Firefighters were also working on two controlled fires at Harrietville near Mount Feathertop in the northeast, and another fire in Gippsland, to the southeast, that has already destroyed homes while burning through almost 70,000 hectares.

"We're trying to rest crews where we can with these milder conditions but still work on those containment lines to consolidate them," the state control centre spokesman said.

Ms Gillard and Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu on Monday visited the towns of Seaton and Heyfield, where the Gippsland bushfire destroyed more than 20 homes and claimed the life of an 84-year-old man earlier this month.

Ms Gillard urged communities to be prepared and vigilant.

"I've also been here, too, to say to this community that we are thinking of them," Ms Gillard told reporters. "We are yet to face what could be the worst of the bushfire season. Often in Victoria the weather in February is at its hottest and most dangerous," she said.

Ms Gillard said the fire was not out but only contained.

"I'd be asking people here in Victoria and around the nation to recognise that the bushfire risk is not over and people do need to be prepared and need to be very careful."

Premier Ted Baillieu thanked the volunteers and firefighters for their hard work.

"This fire has a long way to go. We have some dangerous weeks in front of us, and we will maintain all the effort we possibly can," he said.

 

IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA, a bushfire threatening homes had been contained last night, but firefighters warned it was not yet under control.

It had burned out 40 hectares in the southern part of Ambergate, in the city of Busselton, with authorities saying the cause of the blaze was suspicious.

DFES says the fire was contained but there was the potential for it to jump containment lines and affect nearby properties. It was moving slowly in a northwesterly direction towards the intersection of Ambergate Road and Edwards Road.

In a separate blaze, homes and plantations are being threatened by a bushfire burning about 900 kilometres north of Perth.

A watch and act alert has been issued for people in Miaboolya Road, Bibbawarra Road, North River Road and surrounding areas in the northeastern part of Carnarvon, on the state's north coast.

DFES said the fire, which started on Monday morning, could affect plantations along North River Road.  Residents were advised to put their bushfire survival plan into action.”  (Nathan Paull, Miranda Forster, AAP/Herald Sun, January 29, 2013)  

 

It all started with unprecedented fires in Tasmania earlier in the month.  You may have seen them, for they had been on television screens all over the world.    

After Tasmania, fires flared in all states in temperatures that reached C46 degrees in Sydney and even higher in other parts of the country.  They burned out of control for weeks from the Northern Territory to South Australia, and from NSW to Western Australia. The whole continent was alight in a scene that must have been visible from out of space.  Then the Queensland fires were replaced by catastrophic floods.  

It would be remiss of us if we did not point out some of the reasons for heaven’s wrath.  For God not only knows of what is happening down here on earth, but sanctions these things too.  

 

Amo 3:6  If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?

Amo 3:7  Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.

 

Where are the prophets to whom the LORD has revealed His secrets?  When the LORD reveals His secrets, He does not expect them to keep them in their bosoms, but to cry aloud the sins of their people so that they may be spared painful consequences.

 

Isa 58:1  "Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins.

Isa 58:2  Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God.

Isa 58:3  'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?' "In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers.

Isa 58:4  Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high.

Isa 58:5  Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the LORD?

Isa 58:6  "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?

Isa 58:7  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Isa 58:8  Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Isa 58:9  Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' "If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

Isa 58:10  If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday.

Isa 58:11  The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Isa 58:12  Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.

Isa 58:13  "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words,

Isa 58:14  Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken."

 

For years we have drawn attention to our leaders that they were going in the wrong direction, and while the Prime Minister took note and stood firm on the one issue that has preoccupied the media and the political class recently, refusing to change the definition of marriage, her fellow Labor premiers in Queensland and Tasmania succumbed to the pressure and passed legislation approving “homosexual marriages”.     

We have nothing more to say; the facts speak for themselves, except to point out that people pay for the sins of their leaders as much as for their own sins and the sins of other people.

 

 

 

 

How Christmas sneaked into becoming a Holy Day

 

Every year, the western world celebrates Christmas with great pomp and expenditure, a Holy Day which has now entered the consciousness of the entire world. 

Much has been said and written about Christmas, and we’ve had a good share of it, but the fact that it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ does not seem to bother its traditional supporters. 

The Bible deliberately obscures the day and date of Jesus’ birth, indicating that it has no importance to the Gospel of salvation.  Jesus Christ Himself never mentioned or celebrated it, His apostles never celebrated it, and the early Churches of God never celebrated it either. 

What Jesus Christ emphasized instead, and what His Apostles commemorated, was not the day of His birth, but the day of His death.  This is how Jesus Christ said they should observe it. 

 

Mat 26:26  And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."   Then He took the cup,

Mat 26:27  and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.

Mat 26:28  For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Mat 26:29  But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom."

Mat 26:30  And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

 

And here is how the Apostles and the early Churches of God commemorated it.  

 

1Co 11:1  Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.

1Co 11:17  Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.

1Co 11:18  For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.  For there must also be factions among you,

1Co 11:19  that those who are approved may be recognized among you.

1Co 11:20  Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord's Supper.

1Co 11:21  For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.

1Co 11:22  What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this?

1Co 11:23  I do not praise you. For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;

1Co 11:24  and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

1Co 11:25  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often

1Co 11:26  as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.

1Co 11:27  Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

1Co 11:28  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.

1Co 11:29  For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

1Co 11:30  For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

1Co 11:31  For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

1Co 11:32  But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

1Co 11:33  Therefore, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.

1Co 11:34  But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest you come together for judgment. And the rest I will set in order when I come.

 

They observed the Passover at the time and manner in which Jesus Christ commanded them. 

The Passover was one of seven Holy Days that God gave to Moses.  The others are: the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Day of Atonement, Feast of Trumpets, Feast of Tabernacles; and of course, the weekly Sabbath.  Jesus Christ did not change these Holy Days.   The Apostles and the early Churches of God simply continued the tradition of the Old Testament, but without animal sacrifices.  

All of God’s Holy Days are important, and they all have their special meaning, but the Passover stands out above them all.  For the Israel of old, it was the day of their freedom from Egyptian slavery.  It was right for them to call it a celebration.  The Passover of the New Testament, however, has a different meaning: it signifies our freedom from sin, and Jesus Christ wanted us to remember how we obtained it.  We commemorate this event, not celebrate it, an event of solemn occasion in which we emotionally relive the trauma of crucifixion that Jesus Christ endured for us.  This is why we observe the Passover somewhat differently than the Jews.

Jesus’ crucifixion occurred in the year 33 AD.  The Synoptic Gospels are eye witnesses’ accounts of that event.  The Gospel of Luke, however, was written about two and a half decades later. Now let us compare Mathew’s account, which we quoted above, with that of Luke.     

 

Luk 22:14  When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.

Luk 22:15  Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;

Luk 22:16  for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."

Luk 22:17  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, "Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you,

Luk 22:18  I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

Luk 22:19  And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me."

Luk 22:20  Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

Luk 22:21  But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table.

Luk 22:22  And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!"

   

Now although these accounts were written decades apart, and the authors probably never met each other, you can see how similar they are.  Why is this important? Because it shows that the Passover was part of the vernacular and tradition of the early Churches of God. 

Why is this not part of the vernacular and tradition of today’s Christendom?

The book of Revelation, which speaks of seven Churches of God and their trials and tribulations, was given to Apostle John, the youngest of the Apostles, in about the year 90 AD.  He was an old man by then, and none of the other Apostles were around anymore. 

Now why did Jesus Christ withhold the Revelation from His other Apostles?  Because if they had seen what would happen to the Churches which they had established they would have been mortified.

Remarkably, neither the Church in Jerusalem nor the one in Rome are mentioned among the seven Churches of God.  Instead, seven little towns or localities are mentioned: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, which you would have a hard time locating on today’s maps. 

It would be good if we could give you the details and descriptions of all Churches, but you can read them in the Bible for yourselves, as space is always at a premium with us.  We will give you just two of them, The Churches in Ephesus and Pergamos. There is a good reason for that; pay careful attention to their details.

 

Rev 2:1  "To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, 'These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands:

Rev 2:2  "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars;

Rev 2:3  and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have

Rev 2:4  not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

Rev 2:5  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.

Rev 2:6  But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Rev 2:7  "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God." '

 

Rev 2:12  "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, 'These things says He who has the sharp

Rev 2:13  two-edged sword: "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.

Rev 2:14  But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus,

Rev 2:15 you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

Rev 2:16  Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of

Rev 2:17  My mouth.  "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it." '

 

The two Churches have something in common – the presence of the Nicolaitans in their midst. 

And who were the Nicolaitans?  You will not find them anywhere else in the Bible, or indeed in the history book of that time.  And yet, they were widespread in the Middle East and in the Roman world.  They were not called Nicolaitans, but practitioners of the mysteries of Mithras and Sol Invictus.  Here is a quote from the Wikipedia.

 

“All Roman religions, including the Mithraic Mysteries, were non-exclusive. That is, none belonged exclusively to a one cult alone. Rather, the Roman attitude to religion was intensely pragmatic; in the belief that what was good for others could also be good for oneself, almost everyone belonged to multiple cults. This was also the case for the Mithraic Mysteries, and Mithraic temples are replete with references and dedications to other Roman gods. The Mithraic mysteries was in essence an astrological cult, and accordingly the most common are the other Roman gods that appear in Mithraic iconography are those associated with astronomical bodies: the Sun (Sol/Helios) and the Moon (Luna/Selene) which appear on numerous Mithraic altar pieces. Not as commonly, but still frequent, are the appearances of Mercury, Venus, Mars, various Jupiters, Uranus, and Saturn. Non-astrological Roman figures that often appear in Mithraic contexts are Oceanus, Tellus, and Juno. Besides Mithras, two other names originally from Zoroastrianism also appear: Arimanius (via Middle Iranian Ahriman from Avestan Angra Mainyu) appears four times, and Oromasdes (via Middle Iranian Ormazd from Avestan Ahura Mazda) appears once. As is also the case for Mithras, there is not enough evidence from which to infer the characteristics of the figures behind the adopted names (that Arimanius is a deus in the Mithraic inscriptions should not be construed to imply that Arimanius was a god in the modern sense. In Roman religion every supernatural entity – both good and evil – is a deus).  (. . .)

“One of the reasons why the Mithraic mysteries is mistakenly assumed to have been important is the early/mid-19th century confusion of Mithras with Sol Invictus, who is a different Roman god. Although Mithras does carry the epithet "Sol Invictus" (meaning "invincible sun") in many 3rd and 4th century inscriptions, the god Sol Invictus is a figure in his own right, a figure of classical Roman religion, with whom many other gods (including Mithras) were associated. There is no reason whatsoever to identify Sol Invictus as Mithras; in Mithraic art they are two distinct figures. Also contributing to the error is a mid-19th century remark by Ernest Renan, in which the French philosopher supposed that the world would have been Mithraic if Christianity had not prevailed. This gross exaggeration excited the public fancy, which henceforth began to attribute all sorts of "borrowings" in Christianity to the Mithraic Mysteries. Among the most commonplace is the notion that Christmas was originally a Mithraic festival of Mithras. But there is no evidence whatsoever for any kind of festival of Mithras, leave alone a public one that supposedly occurred at the end of December. The origin of the idea that Mithras might have something to do with the Winter Solstice (21 December in the modern Gregorian calendar, 25 December in the Roman calendar) likewise derives from the confusion with Sol Invictus; it is Sol Invictus, not Mithras, whose public festival was celebrated on 25 December.”  (Wikipedia - Mithras Mythoogy)

 

This would also explain why the Romans imposed Sunday as a day of worship instead of the Sabbath.

 Now whether it was Mithras or Sol Invictus (the invincible Sun) that were celebrated on December 25, the fact remains that this was not a Christian Holy Day. History is not clear when December 25 became associated with St Nicholas and Christmas, but since Jesus Christ mentioned the Nicolaitans so early in the History of His Churches tells us that it became a problem as early as the end of the first century AD, almost immediately after the demise of the original Apostles.  What we know for sure is that by the beginning of the fourth century AD, the Roman pagan celebrations had been transferred wholesale onto the Christianity which was imposed upon the Roman Empire.

Here are some excerpts from an article titled, “Passover versus Easter, Sabbath versus Sunday” that we published in The Christian Herald No 16.   

       

“It is at the Council of Nicaea in 325 that these questions were decided in favour of Easter and Sunday.  This is how the Orthodox Church justifies that decision. It is a lengthy quote, but an important one, for it shows how similar the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are on this matter.  It also shows us how faulty their reasoning is.

 

 “The First Ecumenical Synod and the Feast of Pascha “...not with the Jews” by Archimandrite Sergius”

 

“THE VERY REVEREND SERGIUS, former Assistant Professor at the Theological Acadaemy in Sofia, Bulgaria, is the spiritual Father of the Russian Convent of the Holy Protection in Sofia, which is under the Omophorion of Bishop Photii of Triaditza, the sole Hierarch of the True (Old Calendar) Orthodox Church of Bulgaria and himself a former Assistant Professor at the University of Sofia. Father Sergius was dismissed from his academic post when he refused to accept the revised New, or Papal, Calendar, on the occasion of its introduction into the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. He is rightly considered a confessor of the Faith by traditionalist Bulgarian believers.

“OF LATE, a number of Orthodox theologians and clergymen have contended that the proscription against celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord, Pascha (known in the Western world by the pagan term “Easter”), “with the Jews” is unknown and not, indeed, as the Orthodox Church has always taught, an actual decree of the First Ecumenical Synod convened in Nicaea in 325 A.D. This innovative claim is based on the argument that the Acts of this council have not been preserved and that the twenty extant Canons of the Synod do not mention the celebration of Pascha. In fact, however, in both the epistle of St. Constantine the Great to those Bishops who were unable to attend the Synod, as well as the letter sent by the Synod to the Church of Alexandria, there are relevant—albeit, indirect—data to be found in the specific agreements between the Synod and the Christians of the Eastern domains with regard to the common celebration of Pascha by all Christians. 

“Unfortunately, theologians of an ecumenical bent have precipitated from the evidence offered by these sources a simple affirmation that all Christians must celebrate Pascha at the same time, ignoring the question of a specific day. Likewise, they intentionally distort the explicit prohibition of the first Canon of the Synod held in Antioch in 341—that is, that the Christian Pascha must not be celebrated at the same time as the Jewish Passover.   * * *

 

“Volume XIV, Numbers 2 & 3 3   ***  In essence, St. Ambrose confirms the correctness of the basic condition set by the “Alexandrian Paschalion” and universally accepted by the Synod in Nicaea: that the Pascha of Christ must never coincide with the Jewish Passover and that it must not only follow the Jewish Passover, but be celebrated on Sunday, at that.  In view of this clear statement by St. Ambrose in support of the nine-teen-year Paschal cycle devised by the Holy Fathers at Nicaea, it is difficult to understand why Archbishop Peter, who also cites the foregoing passage from St. Ambrose’s twenty-third epistle, who acknowledges that the Saint “thought in this way,” and who even admits that “the Alexandrian cycle was used in Milan and in the Churches administered by that city,” nonetheless later writes, wholly inconsistently, that “the idea that the nineteen-year long Alexandrian cycle was confessed by the Fathers in Nicaea was only bit by bit introduced” (ibid., p. 75).  * * *

 

“The late date of Pascha in 387 prompted St. John Chrysostomos, while he was still a Presbyter in Antioch, to deliver three sermons “Against the Jews” in the autumn of 386. Out of ignorance, many Christians in that city celebrated Pascha simultaneously with the Jewish Passover. On this account, they began Great Lent earlier than the correctly appointed time. In order to correct them, St. John Chrysostomos invokes the decree issued by the Synod in Nicaea in this regard: “More than three hundred Fathers, assembled in the land of Bythinia (at Nicaea), decreed this [that is, that Pascha must not be celebrated simultaneously with the Jewish Passover—author’s note], and you dishonor them in this way. You convict them either of ignorance, as if they were unaware of what they were appointing, or of cowardice, as if they knew the truth, but only by pretense, and betrayed it. This is the implication, if you do not respect their decree. Great wisdom and manliness are evidenced in all of the Acts of the Synod.... Beware, then, of what you do, for you are bringing accusation against a great many wise and manly Fathers. If Christ is found among the two or three [St. Matthew 18:20], all the more was He found among the more than three hundred, when they determined and established all of these things. Furthermore, you accuse not only them, but the whole ecumene, for it approved their decree. Do you consider the Jews more intelligent than the Fathers who were assembled from every part of the inhabited world?”

 

“How forceful, indeed, are the words that St. John Chrysostomos uses to chastise the Christian “Judaizers,” and this not only for celebrating Pascha simultaneously with the Jewish Passover, but for “fasting with the Jews”—an infraction, incidentally, also explicitly forbidden by the seventieth Apostolic canon: “Whosoever fasts with the Jews or celebrates with them...should be excommunicated!” (Third Sermon Against the Jews, Migne, Patrologia Grae-ca, Vol. XLVIII, col. 865).

 

This text is in the original.  Only the underlining is ours. We have to specify this because there are many inserts which are said to be by the author – the author of the article who used ancient sources to prove his point, not us.  

Now, neither this author, nor those of the ancient texts have realized that in taking issue with the Jews they had taken issue with the Bible – the very Word of God.  It was not the Jews’ Bible, but God’s Bible.  The Jews were merely His messengers.  The fact that they have proved unworthy of their mission does not change this fact.  Apostle Paul, who in other respects was very critical of the Jews, acknowledged them as the official carriers of God’s “oracles” (Rom.3:2).        

Now did you notice how often those so-called ‘Church Fathers’ referred to the Bible when they discussed the important topic of Pascha [the Passover]?  None!  Their critics however, referred to it twice.  Yet the Passover is the most important Holy Day in both the Jewish AND the Christian calendars. 

 

Now who do present day spiritual leaders of Christianity obey, Jesus Christ and His Apostles, or the ‘Church Fathers’ who committed the ultimate betrayal of turning their backs on the Bible? 

They imposed pagan beliefs and pagan Holy Days upon ‘Christianity’ which had nothing to do with Jesus Christ, and forbade the observance of the true Holy Days which Christians had been observing until the Romans forbade it.     

The Passover is by far the most important Christian Holy Day, the one which Jesus Christ gave specific instructions on how to be observed, yet most Christians have never even heard of it, let alone observe it correctly and at the right time. 

There is Scriptural evidence that all of God’s Holy Days – all the ‘oracles’ that God gave to Moses – are essential Holy Days for Christians. (See The Christian Heralds Nos 4, 11 and 16 for a detailed analysis of this topic).   Let us now summarize what happened at the Council of Nicaea.  

 

1)           Christians were forbidden from Judaizing – keeping God’s Holy Days with the Jews: the Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Day of Atonement, Feast of Trumpets, Feast of Tabernacles and the Sabbaths. Instead, they were made to observe the Day of the Sun, Christmas, Easter, Halloween, various saint days, birthdays, national days, etc, which are not mentioned in the Bible, and which have nothing to do with Jesus Christ.

Christ was not born at Christmas, and was not resurrected at Easter.  Easter comes from Ishtar, a pagan goddess.  The Romans, and the Middle Eastern peoples, had been observing her day for millennia before Christianity.

Even if Jesus Christ was born at Christmas and resurrected at Easter, these would not be true Holy Days for the simple reason that God has never changed His Holy Days and never will.  He has not given human beings the prerogatives to choose for themselves what Holy Days they observe.

God’s Holy Days are set in stone and will be observed in the Millennium Kingdom and the Kingdom of God forever.  Observing them is a matter of discipline and obedience to God and His Word.  And remember, Jesus Christ was the Word of God at the moment of creation.

 

Joh 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Joh 1:2  He was in the beginning with God.

Joh 1:3  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Joh 1:4  In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

Joh 1:5  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

 

God’s Holy Days show Him who are His people and who are not, for the Sabbaths are the signs that distinguish the true believers from the rest of humanity.  The enemies of God changed Sabbath observance with Sunday observance, thus separating the elect of God from their heavenly Father.  

2)           Mainstream Christianity calls the gathering of bishops in 325, ‘the Apostolic Council of Nicaea’.  It was nothing of a kind.  The Apostles of Jesus Christ were long since dead, and no other people could be appointed to similar positions.  Those who acquired such titles afterwards did it on spurious grounds. 

3)           What happened at the Council of Nicaea was not that Christianity was imposed upon the Roman Empire, but that pagan doctrines and pagan holy days were imposed upon Christianity. The effect was that true Christianity was forced to go underground, from where it resurfaced more than twelve hundred years later, after the Protestant Reformation.  Whenever true Christians tried to do so during the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church burned them, chopped their heads, and martyred them, forcing the rest to take refuge again underground.  This is what the Bible says of the sacrifices the people of God had to make for their beliefs.  

 

Heb 11:13  These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims

Heb 11:14  on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.

Heb 11:15  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.

Heb 11:16  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

 

Heb 11:35  Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.

Heb 11:36  Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment.

Heb 11:37  They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the

Heb 11:38  world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

Heb 11:39  And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise,

Heb 11:40  God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

 

These days true Christians have to contend with a triple whammy: trials at the hands of mainstream churches who stick to the old pagan holy days, trials at the hands of fundamentalist churches who observe Holy Days not as the early Christians did but as the Jews do these days, and trials at the hands of other religions who are hostile to them in many places around the world.  

How much proof must one bring to show that Christmas and Easter are not true Christian Holy Days, and that observing them brings people not blessings but the wrath of God?  Statistics show that at Christmas time there is a spike in all sorts of crimes around the world. What better message from God than that is not a Holy Day sanctioned by Him?

 

It so happens that a close scrutiny of the Scriptures gives us a fairly accurate time of Jesus’ birth, and that did not happen in December.  Pay close attention to the following passage from the Gospel of Luke.   

 

Luk 1:24  Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying,

Luk 1:25  "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people."

Luk 1:26  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

Luk 1:27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

Luk 1:28  And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"

Luk 1:29  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.

Luk 1:30  Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Luk 1:31  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.

Luk 1:32  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.

Luk 1:33  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."

Luk 1:34  Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"

Luk 1:35  And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

Luk 1:36  Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.

Luk 1:37  For with God nothing will be impossible."

Luk 1:38  Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

Luk 1:39  Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah,

Luk 1:40  and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.

Luk 1:41  And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Luk 1:42  Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!

Luk 1:43  But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Luk 1:44  For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

 

  Three verses, which we highlighted, from Luke’s Gospel give us the time of the birth of both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.  Here they are again.

 

Luk 1:26  Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,

Luk 1:27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

Luk 1:36  Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.

 

So in the sixth month, Elisabeth was six months pregnant with the boy who would be known as John the Baptist when Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  The sixth month in the Jewish lunar calendar is Elul, or August in the solar Roman calendar.   

Now if Jesus Christ was conceived in the month of August, could He have been born in December?  From August to December are only four months.  Human pregnancy lasts nine months, and nine months from August brings us to the spring month of May, in most likelihood to the days of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. (Notes on the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were provided by C. Fedbag of Perfect Calendar Living).  

So then if Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, what has it to do with?  Let us hear Cardinal Pell on this matter.   

 

“OVER the years Christmas celebrations in Australia have changed less than in many other countries.  Catholic Mass attendance has dropped spectacularly during my lifetime from about 50 per cent each Sunday in the 1950s to 16-18 per cent in Sydney these days. This pattern is not repeated at Christmas when congregations are often two or three times their usual size as the "C and E" (Christmas and Easter) Catholics regain their traditional practices. Many will attend Mass at Christmas, even more than at Easter.

While the modern Santa Claus was rolled out by Coca-Cola in the 1930s, he is loosely based on St Nicholas, a fourth- or fifth-century bishop who paid a dowry of three bags of gold to save three women from prostitution. For Australian Anglos, most Christmas celebrations are a continuation of what was done in England, but the Christmas tree is a German custom taken to Britain by Prince Albert in the late 19th century . . .

Has Christmas become more commercialised? Living standards are higher, reflected in the presents. Such gifts remind us to be generous and of God's goodness to us.” (Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, The Sunday Telegraph, December 23, 2012)

 

Not only does this high Catholic prelate, who may become Pope one day, admit that Christmas has nothing to do with the birth Jesus Christ, but like all the preachers of his ilk, bemoans the fact that this ‘Holy Day’ has been commercialized.

And if this is a late invention, why do Catholics mount repulsive idolatrous cribs in front of their Churches around the world in December, supposedly depicting Virgin Mary and the newly born Babe?

As we’ve said before: there is nothing like the Catholic ‘truth’.  

 

 

                         Sunday is not a Sabbath of God

 

In the book of Leviticus, God gave Moses the seven Holy Days, or Feasts, which He expects His people to observe, “throughout their generations”. 

 

Lev 23:1  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

Lev 23:2  "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.

Lev 23:3  'Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.

 

So the first Holy Day is the weekly Sabbath.  God put it at the head of His list of Holy Days.  The New Testament is full of references to the Sabbath as a day of worship. Then God went on.  

 

Lev 23:4  'These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.

Lev 23:5  On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD's Passover.

Lev 23:6  And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.

Lev 23:7  On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.

Lev 23:8  But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.' "

 

The Israelites were to make offerings by fire during these Feasts, but in the New Testament we no longer need to do that.  Jesus Christ offered Himself for the world and instituted new ‘offerings’ – prayer, fasting, meditation and genuine worship of the true God.    

 

Psa 40:6  Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.

Psa 40:7  Then I said, "Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me.

 

Heb 10:1  For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.

Heb 10:2  For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.

Heb 10:3  But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.

Heb 10:4  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.

Heb 10:5  Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.

Heb 10:6  In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.

Heb 10:7  Then I said, 'Behold, I have come— in the volume of the book it is written of Me— to do Your will, O God.' "

Heb 10:8  Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law),

Heb 10:9  Then he said, "behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second.

Heb 10:10  By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Heb 10:11  And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

Heb 10:12  But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,

Heb 10:13  from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

Heb 10:14  For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Heb 10:15  But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,

Heb 10:16  "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,"

heb 10:17  Then he adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

Heb 10:18  Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

Heb 10:19  Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,

Heb 10:20  by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,

Heb 10:21  and having a High Priest over the house of God,

Heb 10:22  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Heb 10:23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Heb 10:24  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,

Heb 10:25  not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Heb 10:26  For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, [Talking of animal sacrifices in the New Testament is a willful sin].

Heb 10:27  but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

Heb 10:28  Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Heb 10:29  Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

 

Our celebrations and commemorations are vastly different from those of the Jews, though we observe them at the same time.   Apostle Paul approved of them, observed them, and sent his followers to the Jews to know the time of their observance.  

 

Rom 3:1  What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?

Rom 3:2  Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.

 

Now back to Leviticus.

 

Lev 23:5  On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the LORD's Passover.

Lev 23:6  And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.

Lev 23:7  On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.

Lev 23:8  But you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days. The seventh day shall be a holy convocation; you shall do no customary work on it.' "

 

Here we have two distinct Holy Days, each observed in its own way, but which are intrinsically linked – the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

 

Lev 23:9  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

Lev 23:10  "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.

Lev 23:11  He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.

 

Lev 23:15  'And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed.

Lev 23:16  Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.

Lev 23:21  And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.

 

This is the Pentecost, the Holy Day in which the disciples of Jesus Christ received the Holy Spirit.  

 

Act 2:1  When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Act 2:2  And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Act 2:3  Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.

Act 2:4  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Act 2:5  And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven.

Act 2:6  And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language.

Act 2:7  Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, "Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?

Act 2:8  And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?

Act 2:9  Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,

Act 2:10  Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,

Act 2:11  Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."

Act 2:12  So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?"

 

What did it mean? It meant that they needed to speak the language of the people to which they would go to preach the Gospel of salvation.  We do not need to speak multiple languages.  We have witnessed the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world in English.  The fact that we have had visitors to our web site from 130 countries tells us that English is now a universal language and enough for this purpose.   

The disciples of Jesus Christ are the first fruits to God, just as the first produce of the land were offered on the Temple altar of the Old Testament.    

 

Lev 23:23  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

Lev 23:24  "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a Sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.

Lev 23:25  You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.' "

 

This Holy Day is the Feast of Trumpets.

 

Lev 23:26  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "Also the tenth day of this seventh month

Lev 23:27  shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.

Lev 23:28  And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God.

Lev 23:29  For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people.

Lev 23:30  And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people.

Lev 23:31  You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Lev 23:32  It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath."

 

Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets, is the Day of Atonement – a day in which all people are required to fast for 24 hours.   Five days later comes the last Holy Day of the year: the Feast of Tabernacles which lasts for eight days. It is a time of celebration and gratitude to God for the harvest of the year.      

 

Lev 23:33  Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,

Lev 23:34  "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD.

Lev 23:35  On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it.

Lev 23:36  For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.

Lev 23:37  'These are the feasts of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day—

Lev 23:38  besides the Sabbaths of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD.

Lev 23:39  'Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a Sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a Sabbath-rest.

These then are the seven Holy Days that God said would remain “forever, throughout your generations”. (Lev. 23;21).

 

The Sabbaths, Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus Christ kept them, the Apostles kept them, and the early Churches of God kept them.

When did Christianity switch from these Holy Days to Sunday, Easter, Christmas, and whatever other holy days they are observing these days?  Today’s preachers will have much to answer to Jesus Christ when He returns to this earth.  He left no doubt how He will deal with them.

 

Mat 7:21  "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

Mat 7:22  Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'

Mat 7:23  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

 

And what is the will of the Father?  Here it is again so you won’t forget it.

 

Lev 23:37  'These are the feasts of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations . . . 

Lev 23:38  besides the Sabbaths of the LORD . . .

Lev 23:31  . . . [They] shall be a statute forever throughout your generations.  

 

 

 

 

 

No “Alternative Explanations” to the Bible

 

A few years ago, as I was witnessing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and delivering God’s prophetic messages to the world, I came across a “Church of God” that gave itself the epithet “Born to Win”.  I soon discovered that this was one of the Churches that had sprung up from the collapse of the Worldwide Church of God after the death of its founder - H W Armstrong.  

Throughout the time that he led that Church, H W Armstrong claimed that he had restored the “true Gospel of the Kingdom of God”, a Gospel which, according to him, had disappeared from the world for no less than nineteen hundred years. If he were right, it would mean that no Church of God existed in the world from the time of the Apostles until he appeared on the scene and established, or re-established, the “one and only true Church of God in the world”. 

No one seems to have taken him to task about that claim or prove otherwise, which should not have been too hard considering that he changed every major doctrine of the New Testament, and contradicted even Jesus Christ who said that He would never leave nor forsake His Church.

 

Heb 13:5  Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Heb 13:6 So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

Heb 13:7  Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.

Heb 13:8  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

 

In the early chapters of Revelation, which the glorified Christ gave to Apostle John, we find the story of seven Churches of God.  From the context of their settings, descriptions, and problems they faced in the world, it is clear that they transcend their geographical location and represent seven stages or eras in the life of God’s Churches.  Conveniently H W Armstrong ignored six of these Churches and settled for one that looked the most advantageous; the one that he thought would give him the best opportunities.  That was the Philadelphia Church of God (Rev. 3:7-13), which he said was none other than his Worldwide Church of God.    

Some four and a half decades ago, not long after I escaped from the Iron Curtain of the communist world, I was captivated by his claims and became an enthusiastic member of his Church.         

It was my fortune, or misfortune depending on which way one looks at it, to have an inquisitive mind and a great desire for knowledge.  From my early years I loved books, but none captivated me as much as the Bible. I took to it as ducks to water as the proverb goes. Not surprisingly, the deeper I looked into it the more discrepancies I found between what H W Armstrong was preaching and what the Apostles of Jesus Christ believed and preached.  The difference between his Church and the Churches of God of the Apostles was as much as heaven is from earth. The result was inevitable: I did not last long in that Church.

I won’t dwell on the circumstances under which I parted company with the WCG, as I have written about it before, but what I will say here is that true to form, like all fundamentalist Churches, when one leaves their fold they inflict on him or her the worst possible pain and inconvenience.  They say that since they are no longer part of God’s “elect”, and had gone after Satan, they deserve everything they get.  They do that also as an example to others who might think of following suit.  What happened to me at that time reminded me of Job’s predicament: 

 

Job 1:21  "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."

 

Gone was the injunction of the apostles that people who err must be treated not as enemies but as brethren in need of correction and be brought back into the fold as soon as possible.

 

2Co 2:6  This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man,

2Co 2:7  so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow.

2Co 2:8  Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.

 

Or the statement of Jesus Christ that one must be given opportunity to answer for himself before the elders and before the Church.

 

Mat 18:10  "Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

Mat 18:11  For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.

Mat 18:12  "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?

Mat 18:13  And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.

Mat 18:14  Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Mat 18:15  "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

Mat 18:16  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'

Mat 18:17  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

 

If they had done that the congregation would have heard of their false doctrines, so they isolated those who were disfellowshipped as quickly as possible. But what did Jesus Christ say? 

 

Mat 5:10  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Mat 5:11  "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

Mat 5:12  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

And the apostles:  

 

Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

1Co 2:9  But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those  who love Him."

 

At that time I could not see how being expelled from the Church, robbed of everything, thrown out of my own flat, and left destitute in the street in the cold of Canadian winter would work out for my good, but their heartlessness and disregard for the Scriptures reinforced my belief that far from being “the one and only true Church of God in the world”, that was anything but a Church of God.  That realization saved me from becoming embittered, as was the case with a number of people who contacted me shortly afterwards who had heard of my case.  I was living in Toronto, Canada, in those days, and was pleasantly surprised when someone from Vancouver, on the other side of the country, contacted me and asked me to join them.  He was part of a network of support of disaffiliated members.  However, when he started ranting not against the hypocrites of the WCG but against the Bible, telling me that it was a collection of uninspired books, I decided to have nothing to do with him and his associates. It became evident to me that he deserved to be put out of that Church, or any Church.  He could not see the difference between the hypocrites who preached the Bible for gain, and the genuine servants of God who do an honest job.  As Apostle Paul said:

 

Php 1:15  Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:

Php 1:16  The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;

Php 1:17  but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.

Php 1:18  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

 

At no time did I lose faith in God and in His Word, not the least because I had done nothing that could remotely be considered a sin in the eyes of God.  Drawing attention to doctrinal errors was not a sin, or even a minor mistake; if anything this is a duty of all believing people.

 

Jas 5:19  Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,

Jas 5:20  let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

 

If you know of someone who had wandered from the truth and you do not tell him about it, it becomes a sin for you.  And that is true even of members of your own family.

 

Eze 3:17  "Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

Eze 3:18  When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.

Eze 3:19  Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

Eze 3:20  "Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.

Eze 3:21  Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul."

 

Eze 18:1  The word of the LORD came to me again, saying,

Eze 18:2  "What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge'?

Eze 18:3  "As I live," says the Lord GOD, "you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.

Eze 18:4  "Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.

Eze 18:5  But if a man is just And does what is lawful and right;

Eze 18:6  If he has not eaten on the mountains, Nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, Nor defiled his neighbor's wife, Nor approached a woman during her impurity;

Eze 18:7  If he has not oppressed anyone, But has restored to the debtor his pledge; Has robbed no one by violence, But has given his bread to the hungry And covered the naked with clothing;

Eze 18:8  If he has not exacted usury Nor taken any increase, But has withdrawn his hand from iniquity And executed true judgment between man and man;

Eze 18:9  If he has walked in My statutes— And kept My judgments faithfully— He is just; He shall surely live!" Says the Lord GOD.

Eze 18:10  "If he begets a son who is a robber Or a shedder of blood, Who does any of these things

Eze 18:11  And does none of those duties, But has eaten on the mountains Or defiled his neighbor's wife;

Eze 18:12  If he has oppressed the poor and needy, Robbed by violence, Not restored the pledge, Lifted his eyes to the idols, Or committed abomination;

Eze 18:13  If he has exacted usury Or taken increase— Shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, He shall surely die; His blood shall be upon him.

Eze 18:14  "If, however, he begets a son Who sees all the sins which his father has done, And considers but does not do likewise;

Eze 18:15  Who has not eaten on the mountains, Nor lifted his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, Nor defiled his neighbor's wife;

Eze 18:16  Has not oppressed anyone, Nor withheld a pledge, Nor robbed by violence, But has given his bread to the hungry And covered the naked with clothing;

Eze 18:17  Who has withdrawn his hand from the poor And not received usury or increase, But has executed My judgments And walked in My statutes He shall not die for the iniquity of his father; He shall surely live!

Eze 18:18  "As for his father, Because he cruelly oppressed, Robbed his brother by violence, And did what is not good among his people, Behold, he shall die for his iniquity.

Eze 18:19  "Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?' Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live.

Eze 18:20  The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Eze 18:21  "But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

Eze 18:22  None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.

Eze 18:23  Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?

Eze 18:24  "But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.

 

As time passed, and I continued with my Bible study, I came to the realization that Herbert W Armstrong was right when he said that he had resurrected a Gospel that was missing from the world for nineteen hundred years, and that his Church was indeed the Philadelphia Church of God.   The implications were enormous.  I realized then that I was involved in a battle that transcended the mere expulsion of one man from a local Church; I was involved in an end time cosmic battle that pitted the forces of good against the forces of evil, and I was a pawn in that battle.  No one had noticed, or sought an explanation, of what appears to be a conundrum in the description of the Philadelphia Church of God.  Let us have a look at it. 

 

Rev 3:7  "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens":

Rev 3:8  "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

Rev 3:9  Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

Rev 3:10  Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

Rev 3:11  Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

Rev 3:12  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Rev 3:13  "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." '

 

There is much that can be said about this passage, but we will concentrate on just two points.

 

1.       Who are those who say they are Jews and are not, but lie, and are in fact a ‘synagogue of Satan’ inside the Philadelphia Church? (Bear in mind that Jesus Christ called His followers ‘Jews’ not Christians.  For Him the true Jews were those of faith not of blood).

2.      And who is he on whom Jesus Christ will write the name of the Father, His own name, and the name of the New Jerusalem? (The New Jerusalem being His Church and bride).

 

When Jesus Christ was in the world, He accused the Jews of His day of being children of the Devil. Notice how the desire to kill and lack of faith turns people into children of the Devil.   
 

Joh 8:37  "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.

Joh 8:38  I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father."

Joh 8:39  They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.

Joh 8:40  But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this.

Joh 8:41  You do the deeds of your father." Then they said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God."

Joh 8:42  Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.

Joh 8:43  Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.

Joh 8:44  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.

Joh 8:45  But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.

 

Now just so that there is no misunderstanding, not all Jews were children of the Devil.  Jesus had twelve apostles and hundreds of disciples from among the Jews.  Later, thousands more converted to His religion. 

 

  Act 2:36  "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

Act 2:37  Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"

Act 2:38  Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Act 2:39  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call."

Act 2:40  And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation."

Act 2:41  Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

 

What changed people from being hostile to Jesus into fervent followers?  The Holy Spirit! 

 

Act 1:4  And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me;

Act 1:5  for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

Act 1:6  Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?"

Act 1:7  And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

Act 1:8  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Act 1:9  Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.

 

Without the Holy Spirit no one could come to Him.

 

Joh 6:44  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Rom 8:8  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Rom 8:9  But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.

 

As soon as the Holy Spirit became available to the world, Jews and Gentiles converted to Jesus Christ and to the New Testament by the thousands.  When the Holy Spirit arrives it enables humans to keep the Commandments of God and to believe the Scriptures.

 

Joh 14:15  "If you love Me, keep My commandments.

Joh 14:16  And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—

Joh 14:17  the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

Joh 14:18  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

 

Joh 14:22  Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?"

Joh 14:23  Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

Joh 14:24  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me.

Joh 14:25  "These things I have spoken to you while being present with you.

Joh 14:26  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.

Joh 14:27  Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  

Joh 14:28  You have heard Me say to you, 'I am going away and coming back to you.' If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said, 'I am going to the Father,' for My Father is greater than I.

Joh 14:29  "And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe.

Joh 14:30  I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

Joh 14:31  But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do.

 

Joh 16:1  "These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.

Joh 16:2  They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

Joh 16:3  And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me.

Joh 16:4  But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. "And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

Joh 16:5  "But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?'

Joh 16:6  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

Joh 16:7  Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

Joh 16:8  And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

Joh 16:9  of sin, because they do not believe in Me;

Joh 16:10  of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;

Joh 16:11  of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Joh 16:12  "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

Joh 16:13  However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

Joh 16:14  He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

Joh 16:15  All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

 

Coming back to the question of the synagogue of Satan in the Philadelphia Church of God, Apostle Paul gave us more details of what turns people into children of the Devil and thus makes them a synagogue of Satan.    

 

1Ti 4:1  Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,

1Ti 4:2  speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron,

1Ti 4:3  forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

1Ti 4:4  For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving;

1Ti 4:5  for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

1Ti 4:6  If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.

 

In the latter times, people will turn from the true Gospel to a false one that includes restrictions on interracial marriages and dietary laws which had become redundant in the New Testament.  Another practice that turns people into false Christians is the doctrine of circumcision.  Jesus’ Apostles had to contend with Pharisaical Jews who went among the Gentiles trying to establish a following for themselves by preaching circumcision and the Law of Moses.

 

Act 15:1  And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved."

Act 15:2  Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

Act 15:3  So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.

Act 15:4  And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.

Act 15:5  But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses."

Act 15:6  Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.

Act 15:7  And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 

Act 15:8  So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He

Act 15:9  did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

Act 15:10  Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

Act 15:11  But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they."

Act 15:12  Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.

Act 15:13  And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, "Men and brethren, listen to me:

Act 15:14  Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.

Act 15:15  And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

Act 15:16  'After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up;

Act 15:17  so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who does all these things.'

Act 15:18  "Known to God from eternity are all His works.

Act 15:19  Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God,

Act 15:20  but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.

Act 15:21  For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath."

Act 15:22  Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

Act 15:23  They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.

Act 15:24  Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and keep the law"—to whom we gave no such commandment

Act 15:25  it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

Act 15:26  men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Act 15:27  We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.

Act 15:28  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:

Act 15:29  that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.

 

This is the gospel that H W Armstrong resurrected after nineteen hundred years. Not the Gospel of the New Testament, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of His Apostles, but the Gospel of the Old Testament, cloaked in the colors of the New Testament.  A Gospel the Apostles had fought against.  One that included interdiction on interracial marriages, dietary laws, circumcision, tithing, keeping the Holy Days in the manner of the Jews, and other aspects of the Law of Moses. 

What the Pharisees could not achieve in their time, Herbert W Armstrong achieved in our time.  He did it because there were no longer any Apostles or people imbued with the Holy Spirit to stand up to him and expose his false premises, false preaching and false doctrines.

In his hay day, he used to travel the world visiting leaders with expensive gifts, behaving more like a King than a preacher. I once sent him a letter, advising him that it would be more appropriate for him to take a Bible under arms and preach from it rather than just make courtesy visits with expensive gifts. I hoped that as a servant of Jesus Christ, which I thought he was, he would take my advice in the Spirit in which it was intended and accept my correction with humility and kindness. But instead, his hirelings expelled me from the Church very unceremoniously at their first opportunity.

Years later, when I drew their attention to the fact that they were not following the Scriptures by treating people who were expelled as enemies and not as brethren that needed correction, they sent out letters inviting them all back; they never sent me one.  

To this day, Armstrong’s disciples are still making a great virtue of his visits to world leaders, claiming that they show what a great man he was.  And who are the ‘great’ men that he visited?  Minor figures or petty dictators such as Marcos of the Philippines, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt, Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, Ceausescu of Romania, and I don’t know if he visited any other, but these are the ones that had been touted by his disciples. What no one seems to have noticed is that all those leaders died unnatural violent deaths shortly afterwards.  God was telling the world: beware of this man for he brings you nothing but devastation.    

Everything H W Armstrong preached and stood for identified him as the ‘worthless shepherd” of the prophet Zechariah, ("Woe to the worthless shepherd, who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye; his arm shall completely wither, and his right eye shall be totally blinded" Zec 11:17), and his Church as the ‘synagogue of Satan’ within the Philadelphia Church of God.  

In light of this discovery, my expulsion from the WCG took on an entirely new meaning. I then understood that this was a blessing I disguise and that in truth, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).  

Had I remained in that Church, and accepted their preaching unhesitatingly and unquestioningly, I would have been like all their other brainwashed members, but being freed from the doctrines and strictures of that ‘synagogue of Satan’, my mind opened up to an extraordinary array of new revelations.

I was greatly puzzled at first, for I did not know what to do with them, or what God expected of me. 

Now even though nearly two decades had passed since I parted company with the WCG, my heart was still on that Church, hoping beyond hope that somehow they would come to their senses, acknowledge their errors, and be willing to listen to my insights. But it was not to be; they just would not change. 

I could not think of any other Church that could possibly accept my preaching and help me deliver God’s prophetic messages to the world.  And since the matter was getting rather urgent, and I could see the world unmistakably heading towards catastrophe, I decided to go about it alone.  And alone I have been ever since, except with my partner who supported me.  And so, in 1990 the first edition of The Christian Herald made its appearance. What happened to me and my family after that, I wrote in other editions and I will not go over it again here; sufficient to say that for the next seven years things were rather easier, for I had a job and an income, but when a car accident forced me into an early retirement things became very difficult.  Nevertheless, this work could not remain unfinished.  So I put my house on the market and kept going.  The advent of the internet helped us greatly.  Previously, it used to be very costly sending out large envelopes with Newsletters and The Christian Herald to all nations, but now we deal with them via the internet. 

The world will stand condemned one day that it was left to a man of ‘little strength’ and ‘clothed in sackcloth’, as the Scriptures put it, to save it from ‘utter destruction’.  And because it did not listen to him, but to the pompous creatures that go around the world with false gospels, it will face hard consequences. And I am not referring here to just H W Armstrong, but to a whole array of preachers, and to one who acquired God’s title of ‘Holy Father’ and mesmerized the world with his false preaching and idolatry.

 Those who think that God’s warnings of ‘utter destruction’ unless the world turns back from its current path are mere words, are gravely mistaken. This world is now at the very edge of a bottomless precipice.  Truly, the world has entered the early stages of the end-time Great Tribulation.

But, as Jesus said, those things will take the world by surprise, just as the Flood of Noah did; and not because people have not been told, but because they did not believe.  And they did not believe because they did not have the Holy Spirit.  And they did not have the Holy Spirit because they did not believed the one who could have facilitated them receiving Him, but believed the likes of H W Armstrong who committed the ultimate blasphemy by turning the Holy Spirit into an ‘it” (See TCH 5).

It astonishes us that the Satanists of the WCG and its remnant Churches, who know of these things, instead of repenting and turning around from their evil ways, had become our fiercest opponents, throwing enormous resources into combating us. It must rancor them that in spite of their efforts, this work is now advancing at a dizzying speed. 

Going back to the “Born to Win, Church of God” that I mentioned earlier, when we sent them our Newsletter, I added, ‘one could never win with the Devil’.  A lady replied and said, “What do you mean? Could you be more specific?”  I said, “You are preaching and practicing ‘doctrines of demons’”, and quoted the passage from Apostle Paul’s first epistle to Timothy (4:1-6).  She came back a few days later and said, “We are following an alternative explanation to that passage”.   

An ‘alternative explanation’!  What exactly does that mean – that the New Testament approves of ‘doctrines of demons’? Had they forgotten what happened when Adam and Eve accepted Satan’s ‘alternative explanation’ to the Word of God?  Or had they never read the Scriptures which tell us that there are no alternatives to the Bible?

 

Eph 4:4  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;

Eph 4:5  one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

Eph 4:6  one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

 

Or those passages that warn people never to tamper with the Bible or they will receive the worst of God’s punishments?

 

Rev 22:18  For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if

Rev 22:19  anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

 

Our messages are not ‘alternative explanations’ of the Bible, but the true Gospel of Jesus Christ obtained with the price of blood.  This is why when we quote the Bible we give entire passages not just the reference to them, so that even those who do not have a Bible, or are not in the position to open one, could see what God’s will is and the warnings He has inscribed in the Scriptures for this wayward world.

We have proven more than once that many of the references our competitors give are not true, are misleading or outright misquotations.  This is how false preachers have led the world astray and created a breach between God and His creation. 

Make no mistake about it: this world is in the hands of powerful hostile forces which are determined to annihilate it before it reaches the Millennium Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  And why would they want to do that?  Because they know that they will not be part of that Kingdom and if they are not part of it they don’t want anyone else to be part of it either.

Remember the warnings of the Apostles.  Virtually everyone who has contributed to the New Testament has had something to say about the enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is just an example from Apostle Paul.  

 

Php 3:17  Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a

Php 3:18  pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

Php 3:19  whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—

Php 3:20  who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Php 3:21  who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

 

Regarding the second point that we mentioned above, “who is he on whom Jesus Christ will write the name of the Father, His own name, and the name of the New Jerusalem on him?”, we think the answer should have become self-evident by now. We have nothing more to add to it. 

 

                                       ………………………..

 

 

                                         

 

 

 

Newsletter 25 (10/12)

 

Friends and Leaders Around the World: Greetings

 

It is that time of the year when we inform you of the publication of another edition of The Christian Herald on the worldwide web.  An increasing number of people, now from upwards of eighty countries, do not need this reminder; they come to our web site on their own volition by the thousands every month.

We must be doing something right and worthwhile to attract people from all corners of the earth.

The more they know us, the more faithfully they come to us and the more they want from us. 

You may have noticed that for the last few years we have been publishing two editions per annum instead of one.   We have been asked to write in larger fonts, and not to cram too much information in one edition.  Two editions per annum instead of one is our answer those requests.     

It has not escaped our readers that our predictions of the last two decades are now being fulfilled in front of their own eyes.  Does this make us happy?  It would if this matter was not so serious.  For nothing less is at stake now than the very survival of humanity.  Jesus Christ once said:

 

Mat 24:11  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

Mat 24:12  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

Mat 24:13  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

Mat 24:14  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

 

All these and more are much too obvious in the world at present, including the fact that the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached in all the world via The Christian Herald, even though the world is unaware of it or unwilling to acknowledge it.  And what are the consequences of this willing ignorance?   

 

Mat 24:21  For then there will be Great Tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.   And unless those days were shortened,

Mat 24:22  no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.

 

Mat 24:38  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came

Mat 24:39  and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

 

With the publication of every new edition, we bring a little more light on the implication of times in which we live, and the dire consequences of not paying attention to God’s messages.  Truly the world is on the verge of this worldwide catastrophe.  God is still speaking to this world through His people.  So don’t miss The Christian Herald No 26, now on line at this web site: www.thechristianherald.info

 

In the service of Jesus Christ,

 

Grigore Sbarcea

Coordinator A.O.C.F.     

 

 

     

 

Addendum (11/12)

 

About half way through the process of sending out our Newsletter 25 to the world, we are forced once again to write an addendum to it.  Channel Seven TV presented a program about the cult of Nabiru whose adherents are preparing for an Apocalyptic end to this world on December 21, 2012.  (Current Affairs, Oct. 21, 2012)

And on what did they base their belief?  On a Maya calendar that, supposedly, predicted this event hundreds or thousands of years ago.  Channel Seven went on to show underground caverns full of reserves of food, water and other life necessities for those who hope to survive the Apocalypse.  

In the end, Channel Seven concluded that there is nothing to worry about, that this is a myth like many others which have cropped up in the course of history.  But if that is the case, why give it such a widespread audience?   

A myth it is indeed, except that it comes at a time when the world is in danger of a Great Tribulation that threatens to wipe out all life on earth.  We do not preach that this will happen on December 21, 2012, for as Jesus Christ said, no one knows the day and hour of that calamity except God Himself.  What we do know is that it will take humanity by surprise, even though God’s people would have warned humanity about it loud and clear.  

Now why are television broadcasters so interested in fringe groups whose beliefs they consider myths, yet they would never touch a work like ours?  Well, for two reasons:

One: because these kinds of programs cater for a mass audience that thrives on short life stories which titillate rather than inform; programs which they then often repeat if they prove popular.

Two: because our predictions are fact not myth.  They cannot be dismissed lightly when they had proven true so many times.  Let us give you just a few examples. 

1)   At a time when the whole of the Christian fundamentalist world was looking to the Jews, urging them build a new Temple in Jerusalem in order for Jesus Christ to return to this world, we said that no such Temple will be built because no Temple is needed for that event to take place.  Two decades later, no new Temple had been built, and it is sure that before they even lay the corner stone, Jesus Christ will stand on the Mount of Olives. 

 

Zec 14:4  And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.

 

Jesus Christ will stand triumphantly on the Mount of Olives, where they crucified Him, not in any new Temple in Jerusalem.  Israel’s geography will be completely changed on that occasion and only then will a new Temple be built in Jerusalem, based on the plans that God gave to the prophet Ezekiel (Chapters 40-48).       

2)              Our nemeses of the Worldwide Church of God said that Germany would become such a great world power as to trample Brittan and America under feet, then take them captive and remove them to the Middle East, to their ancestral lands.  Incredibly, the Churches that arose from the disintegration of that Church still preach this fallacy. 

In the face of this falsehood, we told them that it is not Germany but Russia that will rise from the ashes of the USSR and play a major role in the end-time Great Tribulation.  We even predicted the man who would trigger that calamity before he even appeared on the scene.  We cannot go into those details now, the matter has become too delicate, but we have spelt it out clearly in the early editions of our magazines.  

3)              At a time when the Worldwide Church of God was abuzz with the notion that its two leaders Herbert W Armstrong and his son Garber Ted were the Two Witnesses of Revelation, I told them that that was not true. Their circumstances and preaching did not match those of the Two Witnesses.  The two men died in disgrace, at each other’s throats, but we are yet to receive an apology from their embittered disciples.  

These and many more of our predictions have come true; some are being fulfilled these days, but our nemeses do not accept these facts, do not understand and do not believe because:

 

Dan 12:4  "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase."

Dan 12:10  Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.

 

  This is what makes this work different from any other, and why people ought to take note of what we say, for truly this is not our work but a prophetic work of God. 

G.S.

                                                 ……………………..

 

 

 

THE CHRISTIAN HOLY DAYS FOR THE YEARS 2013 - 2015

 

 

 

2013

    2014  

     2015

The Passover  (Pesach – Nissan 14)

Unlike the Jews, who used to kill the Passover lamb “at the twilight” of Nissan 14 (meaning in the evening towards Nissan 15), we, Christians, observe the Passover when our “Lamb” – Jesus Christ – was sacrificed.  That happened on the afternoon of Nissan 14, before the twilight of Nissan 14, meaning that we keep it a little earlier than the Jews.  We commemorate His death, not His supper, which occurred the previous evening, as some churches do; the time when His body was broken, not when He broke the symbolic bread.

 

    

25 March

    

14 April

 

4 April   

   Days of Unleavened Bread (Nissan 15 – 21)

   On the first and seventh days there shall be holy convocations.  No customary work shall be done on these days.

 

 

   26 Mar. –

                1 April  

 

 15 April –

         21 April

 

 5April –   

        11April

   Pentecost    (Shavuot – Sivan  6)

 

 15 May    

4 June

 24 May     

   Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah – Tishri 1) 

 

  5 Sept.         

25 Sept.

 14 Sept.     

  Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur – Tishri 10)     

 

  14 Sept.

4 Oct

23 Sept.      

   Feast of Tabernacles (Succoth – Tishri 15 – 22) 

On the first and the eighth days there shall be holy convocations.  No customary work  shall  be  done  on  these  days.

 

 19 Oct. –

           26 Oct. 

  9 Oct. –

        16  Oct.

  28 Sept. –

            5 Oct.

 

         Yes, children should partake of the Lord’s Supper 

Among the myriad of contentious emails we have had to deal with, was one which purported to clarify the question of whether children should partake of the Lord’s Supper.  This is what they said: 

 

“Should children partake of the Lord’s Supper?  The Lord’s Supper is an act of remembering, a commemorative event.  Every time we take the Lord’s Supper we remember the price Jesus Christ paid for us on that cross.  He took upon Himself the judgment that God would have given us. He gave His body to be destroyed (the broken bread), and for the forgiveness of our sins He poured out His blood (the wine symbolizes this fact).  At the Lord’s Supper, we meditate over what happened at Golgotha, remembering that these events were experienced personally by Jesus Christ on our behalf, and in so doing He wiped out our guilt on that cross. Our attitude must be one of gratitude, the Holy Scriptures are warning us to beware not to take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, but to receive it with reverence and humility.  In this context, the term ‘unworthy’ means not to take the Supper unaware of its significance.  For this reason, people who have not been born again should not partake of this Super.”  (Received on Feb. 15, 2007) 

 

First of all, these people think that they have been ‘born again’ when every indication is that they do not have the Holy Spirit.  We have reason to believe that this is a Sunday observing church, and no such church could ever have the Holy Spirit.  Even many Sabbatarian churches do not have the Holy Spirit these days, let alone those who observe the Day of the Sun.  

Second, the Lord’s Supper, or Passover as it should be more correctly called, is one of seven biblical Holy Days.  You keep them all, or you keep none, which is what Sunday observing churches have been doing for millennia anyway.  

Third, the Passover must be observed once a year at the right time, not willy-nilly every time there is a gathering for a religious service. It loses its significance if you do it that way. Since Sunday observing churches know nothing of God’s calendar – a lunar calendar, as opposed to the Roman solar calendar – it means that whatever they observe cannot be the Passover.  

Fourth, the apostles made no distinction between people who were born again and those who were not born again.  They merely said that people must not receive the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. Some of those who claim to be born again are further away from God than many worldly people.  Why do you think Jesus Christ said that many are called but few are chosen? The chosen come from among the called out ones, those who think that they are born again.   

Human beings cannot know a worthy person from an unworthy one, unless he is obviously a boisterous drunkard or sinner. Only God knows that. If they know that they are unworthy, and still partake of the Lord’s Supper, let it be upon their own head.  Let them be responsible before Jesus Christ, and let not humans be judges of that.  If people want to partake of the Lord’s Supper, even strangers, they should not be prevented from doing so.  The only requirement being that they observe the solemnity of the occasion. And that goes for children too.   

What greater joy could parents have than to see their children quietly participate and take in the meaning of such an important memorial?  I can assure you that Jesus Christ would not turn children away from commemorating His sacrifice.  In fact, I would suggest that if you have relatives, friends, or neighbours whom you think are worthy of it, who may benefit from it, and might be willing to participate in it in the appropriate manner, invite them along.    And no, there is no washing of feet on that occasion. Those who know that they are going to have their feet washed, scrub them thoroughly before hand, so that exercise becomes nothing more than an exercise in futility. 

Jesus Christ gave us an example that we may live by it in the real world, not only when we commemorate His sacrifice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

fBottom of Form

State of the World (2013)

 

Society and Culture

 

Generation of children damned by false praise

ANYONE who happens to be a regular on the toddler party circuit can confirm that pass the parcel is not what it used to be. Contrary to the rules of old, where convention dictated that only a few - or perhaps merely one - of the paper layers unwrapped would unearth a prize, it has gradually been decreed that every single child must win a toy.

Leaving a friend's birthday celebration laden down with cake and a lolly bag is no longer enough with parents now pressured to comply with the ludicrous notion that no partygoer should emerge from a game empty-handed.

Who would have thought missing out on the acquirement of yet another soon-to-be-forgotten plastic trinket is grounds for sustaining childhood trauma? And so, desperately trying to uphold the mantra that "everyone's a winner!", the average three-year-old's birthday party now resembles behind the scenes at APEC, with organisers running around with reams of paper as they frantically co-ordinate proceedings.  Ensuring the music just happens to stop at precisely the right moment so as to pair suitable gifts to each and every one of the pint-sized guests at a co-ed gathering isn't a task for the faint of heart. That even the most innocuous of activities has been stripped of its sense of competition is an indication of the well-intentioned but absurd hypothesis that children must be shielded from disappointment of any kind. If we don't credit our children for having sufficient resilience to rebound from the short-lived anguish of a peer winning a friendly game, then how are we to equip them to cope with the genuine heartaches of life ahead?  To those about to start nodding in furious agreement that modern children have it far too good and tut-tutting how it's time to bring back corporal punishment, I'm afraid I must now disappoint you. Unlike the management of a certain Sydney shopping centre, I'm not advocating a return to the days of the archaic maxim that children be seen and not heard.  Needless meddling in party games aside, most of the changes that have occurred in parenting with each passing generation have been for the better. From the increased social acceptance of a father's involvement to opening lines of communication between parent and offspring, the constant revising of child-rearing practices should be applauded. 

Nurturing self-esteem in a child is vital, and shielding them from anger, violence and the other not-so-nice realities of the grown-up world where possible is admirable. But I can't be the only one who wonders why, as a society, we seems to lurch from one parenting extreme to the other. Surely there's a happy medium to be found between the view that children deserve a smack behind the ears for so much as raising their voice and the philosophy that every thing a child says and does must remain beyond reproach. Confidence is an indispensable trait and it is a lucky child who grows up in a home in which they are instilled with a sense of self-belief. But we have all encountered adults who might have been far better off if only they had been defeated at pass the parcel a little more often in their formative years. 

A failure to gently break it to a child sometime before they graduate high school that things will not always go their way only leads to delusions of grandeur and an unsustainable sense of self-entitlement.  So it's hardly surprising that a new study by American researchers has found parents who shower their children with self-esteem boosting commentary are doing them a disservice, with undeserved compliments preventing a child from accurately sizing up their capabilities.

Personally I have never subscribed to the simplistic yet popular cry of "I turned out fine" as a means of excusing a few of the more regrettable aspects of childhoods past.  There are certain traumatic experiences from which a child should, wherever possible, be spared. But of all the childhood scars there are, I am willing to wager not a single one can be traced to a failure to unwrap a small toy during a game of pass the parcel. (Sarrah Le Marquand, The Daily Telegraph, Feb. 21, 2013).

 

One real mum's guide to the Sydney Royal Easter Show

WITH three children under 12 and a husband-child who loves stunt cars, stunt motorbikes, stunt Robosauruses and stunt beer, I am an old hand at navigating my way around Sydney's Royal Easter Show.

Today's show outing is vastly different to the rarified adventures of my youth.  In the 1970s, my beloved aunt and uncle would pack a picnic and me into their immaculate Holden HR Premier for the two-hour drive from the south coast to the traditional showgrounds at Moore Park. Once at the show, the three of us would proceed to spend almost an entire day evaluating the girth and splendour of the magnificent Illawarra dairy cow. A couple of bob might be found for a chairlift ride over the cattle judging enclosure. We were a proud dairy clan, after all. A furtive glance at the beef cattle was permitted but not encouraged. We'd admire the milking equipment and produce exhibits, buy a few 5c or 10c showbags and go.

Today's Royal Easter Show is a marathon of spending, spooring, spinning and spewing. For a parent with young children, it's a day of sweat and tears in which ambitious goals are set, checkpoints established, hydration levels carefully monitored and victory ultimately measured by the size of the towering pile of showbags, unused coupons and overpriced toys and the severity of the heartburn, sunburn and blisters.  So exhausting is it, we go only every second year to guard against Easter Show fatigue and promote maximum excitement. So to have as much fun as I do, here are my top tips:

GO EARLY AND PARK ILLEGALLY

IF you can get there by the 9am opening time, park as close to the back entrance as possible for a fast getaway.

No one wants to schlep 4km to a parked car in a dark paddock at the back of Homebush at 9.30pm with three exhausted kids, 30 showbags, an arsenal of glow-in-the-dark princess swords and a goldfish in water in a bag. Believe me, I've done it.

STOP JUST SHORT OF TATTOOING PERSONAL DETAILS ON YOUR CHILDREN

IN fear of losing my kids, I write both mother and father's mobile phone numbers in large black permanent marker on all children's exposed arms (and hope show-loving paedophiles aren't following us writing down our details).

Then we have a little brainwashing session about what to do if one gets lost. It begins with: "I'll point out the Lost Persons and Police offices when we get there and these will be our rendezvous points if we become separated."  By 4pm it's: "If you can't find the Lost Persons office, go to the Beer and Wine Garden. I'll save you a stool."

DRESS COMFORTABLY CASUAL AND ADOPT ONE BRIGHT COLOUR AS YOUR STANDARD

EACH parent is to be equipped with a half-filled backpack, ensuring enough room for loot and treasure as well as packing a fully charged mobile phone.  Packs should contain: light, warm jackets for everyone; a camera so you don't end up spending $100 on photos of your children cuddling baby lambs; sunscreen, hats, Band-Aids, Panadol, pre-moistened hand wipes and just one bottle of water. You'll accumulate drinks all day long. Don't take food. Everything is there. If you have a child in nappies, leave them at home. It's hard work finding a change table at the show and there are enough flies and animal waste there already. No need to take your own.

HIT THE FIRST COUPON BOOTH YOU SEE AND BUY TWICE AS MANY RIDE COUPONS AS YOU THINK YOU'LL NEED WITH three kids, 50 coupons can last about 30 minutes (three for the Big Slide, seven for the Rock Star).

Truly, $95 for 110 vouchers is not excessive for a family of thrill-seekers.

GO HARD FROM 9AM TO 11AM ON RIDES   

THE place is virtually empty during these hours. By 11am the queues are building and you'll be ready for a sit down.

SUGAR BABIES  By 11am, you're searching for shade and coffee for the grown-ups, and food for the kids. Don't loiter. The objective now is to get into the pavilions before noon, when shade is in high demand. Head to the back corner of the show site and hit the baby animal pavilions for the next hour before the critters have started calling their lawyers and filing abuse claims.

HERE PIGGY PIGGY  WHILE there are stunning nutritional options at the show these days - sushi, buttered corn on the cob, Asian cuisine, gozleme, sandwiches, wraps - it's wondrous fatty treats that capture kids' imaginations and why not? I tend to steer the kids towards the healthy food options at this sitting - pizza, tacos and pies acceptable - and tell them to hold out for the Chip on a Stick at 4pm. Fat tops sugar on show day - less sticky on the outside, sets like concrete on the inside.

Worth considering on rides.

LUNCH IN THE SHADE   CLAIM a seat out of the sun to eat lunch. The rodeo arena or woodchopping pavilion are perfect. Alternatively, go and watch the Flying Pigs or the Flyball Super Challenge and resist your children's pleas to buy a border collie. They're not all geniuses. Certainly my border-poodle's only known talents lie in scaling fences, chewing the edges of brand-new towels, eating seatbelts in cars, hiding the cat's bowl and barking from midnight to 2am. Even the dog trainer despairs.

Get a goldfish in a bag instead - see point one.

SPLIT UP

BY now the littlest members of the family are starting to show the strain while older kids are looking for thrills. An eternally youthful husband is a plus at this time as Dad volunteers to take the bigger kids to the Coca-Cola Carnival, leaving Mum free to take the under-fives to the younger Kids Carnival area, located on the opposite side of the showground.

THE MUM RIDE

BY 5pm it's time for a parental break. It's taken me 25 years to find the Sydney Royal Beer and Wine Garden at the show (also the De Costi Oyster and Wine Bar and the humble Saloon), but once found, these fine exhibits will never be neglected again. Add a Chip on A Stick or high-fat treat for the kids from a nearby vendor. Everyone wins and, if lucky, you'll be serenaded by a genuine C&W singer with a devastating life-story told in ballad.

TIME TO CALL IT

BY 5pm, with the light starting to fade, it's time for a final once-around the pavilions (cattle, horses, district produce) before heading to the showbags and home.  The brave will push on to the 9pm fireworks something my family has managed only once.

More rides will help lift flagging kids' energy and the best part of an hour can be wasted in the showbag pavilion getting the kids to make sensible choices with their spending budgets.

THE LAST HOORAH

NIGHTFALL brings the fatigue that can lead to bad choices. Don't waste $18 on a high-quality helium balloon now as it will invariably later escape your clutches in the dark when you're packing the exhausted and distraught four-year-old and her loot into the car. My daughter still asks about the Nemo balloon she lost five years ago. One more push? Hit the 8pm arena spectacular for pyrotechnics and show Darcy's Quest. Then flee.  (Annette Sharp,  The Sunday Telegraph, March 31, 2013)

 

Jury system is great but needs an overhaul

I'M a jury duty dodger. I'm not particularly proud of side-stepping my civic duty, but I was excused by the sheriff three times last year.  There, I said it.  I'm not particularly proud of side-stepping my civic duty, but I was excused by the sheriff three times last year. It wasn't that I couldn't be bothered or that I didn't get a perverse thrill out of the notion of standing in judgment over someone else. In fact, I kind of liked the idea. Bring on a prison sentence, I say (if they were guilty of course). But the timing just wasn't right. On each occasion, I asked to be excused for legitimate reasons - at least I think they were. I was called at an extremely busy time for News Ltd and, as editor, I couldn't afford to be away. I also felt uncomfortable - and still do - sitting on a jury in a court case being covered by a reporter who reports to me.

Added to that is the very real likelihood of having some prior and prejudicial knowledge of a case that had already received media attention. My explanations were accepted but what I learned last year was that sitting on a jury may be your civic duty but it can take its toll. One of the summons I received was for a 26-week trial. Another, 18 weeks. There are well-documented cases of jury members who lost their jobs, fell into financial difficulty or suffered family problems because they were sitting on long trials. One female juror tells us she was on a three-month armed hold-up trial and during that time she went to work from 5am to 9am, went to jury duty and then went back to work between 5pm and 9pm. Her employer, a major retailer had no other employees to fill the gap. Many small traders in particular are not designed to cope with the disappearance of a key staff member, especially for long periods of time. The end result, of course, is that juries are populated by people who have more time and that can taint the sample in a process that is built on the expectation that a cross-section of fair-minded people will make the call on another's guilt or innocence.  There are key areas that need to be addressed in finding a solution to the problem; the burden of meeting the expenses of the jury system has to be shifted from the employer and employee, the courts have to be less tied up in red tape which slows down justice and lawyers must end delaying tactics that unnecessarily drag out trials. Juries remain the fairest system of delivering justice but unless the process is not streamlined to cater for a broader selection of working people it remains open to criticism. (Mick Carroll (Editor), The Sunday Telegraph, March 03, 2013)

 

Girls out-smart boys   MOVE over geek boys, time-poor women are embracing technology ahead of their male counterparts for everyday tasks from maintaining the family's social network to online banking.  Researchers found that today's women were three times more likely than men to use a smartphone as a way to bank online. The national survey of 1500 people conducted by Westpac found that nearly half of women said they could not do without social media while only about 22 per cent of men felt the same way.  More than three out of four women said technology had made it easier to save time and money, manage finances and connect with others.  Nearly a third of women under 30 used their smartphone for online banking compared with 5 per cent of women aged 40 or older, while 86 per cent of working women used a smartphone compared with 58 per cent of stay-at-home women.  Social analyst Mark McCrindle said the results supported previous research that found communication through social media was a key driver in the love affair women have with technology. "It's no surprise that women are early adopters of these apps and excited users of them because women are juggling more roles than men generally speaking," he said. "Their minds are more networked, rather than the structural compartmentalisation of the male brain."  Hairdresser Lyndle Bryan said she's become so reliant on her smartphone for work and catching up with friends, she feels lost when she doesn't have her mobile within easy reach. "I have major separation anxiety," she said. "I think about all the things I could be doing on it." Ms Bryan, owner of Hair On the Move 2U, uses her smartphone dozens of times a day to take calls from clients, book appointments, send and receive emails, check her business' Facebook profile and manage her banking.  Rod Chester and Laura Speranza, The Sunday Telegraph, March 03, 2013)

 

No control as kids go feral at school

CHILDREN as young as five are bringing drugs to class and attacking fellow pupils with make-shift weapons as they run wild in primary schools across the state.  Police were called to NSW primary schools on more than 40 occasions for violent or dangerous behaviour during term three last year - with many more incidents being dealt with by teachers.

According to a detailed 310-page report, Incident Reporting in Schools, primary teachers also logged 116 incidents with the Department of Education's School Safety and Response Hotline in the first three terms of 2012.

In some of the worst incidents, primary students were caught with prescription drugs and cannabis, stealing, mak- ing bomb threats and assaulting teachers. Most of the reported incidents took place in western Sydney, followed by the Hunter/Central Coast region and Sydney's southwest. In one of the most concerning incidents, a Year 2 student from a Central Coast primary school took a large knife out of his bag in August, claiming his sister was going to use it to "fix someone up with it".

In another event in the New England area, a Year 3 male held a pair of scissors to the throat of another Year 3 boy, while a Year 2 student on the mid north coast held scissors to his teacher's throat and threatened to kill her. And a Year 6 male from a Dubbo school allegedly held a replica pistol to the head of another student in August and threatened to kill her, while in western Sydney, a Year 6 male was suspended after he took to the PA system to announce that he had a bomb in his pants.

The department took action on all the incidents by either issuing short and long suspensions, contacting the police or developing intervention plans.  "NSW public schools are overwhelmingly safe places for the students and the staff who work and learn in them," a departmental spokesman said.  "Violence and anti-social behaviour are not tolerated at school. Any student involved in violence, in bringing a weapon or illegal drugs to school, or who engages in criminal behaviour at school is suspended and their parents are notified. "Following an incident, the principal notifies the NSW Police Force and the School Safety and Response Hotline so that support and advice can be provided to assist the school with the management of the incident."  Public Schools Principals Forum chairwoman Cheryl McBride said the spate of aggressive and bad behaviour was a concern, but maintained it was only a very small number of children who engaged in such activities. "It may be a minority but even 60 schools per term sounds like a lot," Ms McBride said. She said it was important for teachers to differentiate between innocent and serious incidents before lodging complaints with the department.  (Briana Domjen,  The Sunday Telegraph, March 03, 2013)

 

Poor Hilary has royal message lost in rush to shout her down

If you didn't know who Hilary Mantel was before now, all you need to know is that she's a big, fat, barren, feminist turncoat. That is, if you believe what you read in the tabloids. Mantel's sin was to give a speech about the British monarchy at the British Museum in which she made mention of Our Kate - or is it Their Catherine - Middleton.

''Aren't they nice to look at?'' Mantel said about the monarchy. ''Some people find them endearing; some pity them for their precarious situation; everybody stares at them, and however airy the enclosure they inhabit, it's still a cage . . . I'm asking us to back off and not be brutes.''  The speech, published in the London Review of Books, provided a cogent and beautifully expressed analysis of the way the media, the public and the royal family both objectifies and crucifies its members - particularly those with vaginas. (Yes, she dares to imply that royal women have vaginas.)  Never ones for restraint and civility, the British press transformed her speech into a girl-on-girl catfight between the ugly, barren Mantel and the beautiful, pregnant Duchess of Cambridge.  The Daily Mail, for example, likened Mantel's speech to a ''boxing match setting Muhammad Ali at the height of his powers against Victoria Beckham at her most undernourished''. Note the dog whistle about beauty and weight.

Even the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, bought tickets to the bitch-slapping showdown by calling Mantel's comments ''completely misguided and completely wrong''.  Hardly a shining example of the media's research and investigative skills, this storm in a teacup was caused by a mere 600 or so words out of a 5600-word speech.

''I saw Kate becoming a jointed doll on which certain rags are hung,'' the Booker Prize-winning author Mantel said. ''In those days she was a shop-window mannequin, with no personality of her own, entirely defined by what she wore. These days she is a mother-to-be, and draped in another set of threadbare attributions.''

This is not an attack on the duchess but rather a criticism of the role which we have all squeezed her into. In fact, if we weren't all addicted to the salacious royal gossip, the media may in fact have realised that Mantel is defending and protecting Kate - suggesting that she is capable of more than sweet smiles, deference and providing womb services.  In 2013 it is scandalous that we are all apparently fine with a tertiary-educated, worldly and mature duchess with no power to express herself other than via her choice of fashion. It is curious how people have so spectacularly missed the point of Mantel's speech.

The issue here is not about ''poor Kate'' at all. Just as Mantel criticises commentary about the monarchy for being ''empty of content, mouthed rather than spoken'', the same criticism can be levelled at the reporting of debates between women.  In the era of ''go-girl'' feminism the act of one woman disagreeing with another becomes the story. If one woman is older and fatter, then so much the better. Then we can reduce the exchange of ideas to a jealous row between Snow White and her ugly stepmother.  Forcing all women to ''play nice and get along'' and crucifying them for their non-compliance discredits their ideas by way of distraction. Just like Kate, it turns us all into jointed dolls with plastic smiles. (Kasey Edwards, The  Telegraph, Feb. 21, 2013)

 

Get rid of swearing for a buck

There is no such thing as bad language any more. In a film now in our cinemas, the wonderful Maggie Smith, playing the part of an ultimate paragon of ladyness, tells three of her co-actors to f--- off. The effect on one of those so addressed, Billy Connolly, was not noticeable, but Tom Courtenay raised an ironic eyebrow while Pauline Collins reeled in horror; in the polite Manuka cinema, which does not show films that attract anyone under 50, there was a noticeable intake of breath, including my own.  But the sad truth is that, if one excepts those who watch afternoon films at Manuka, most people are no longer shocked by bad language. Psychologists have even suggested that it can be beneficial: if you bang your head when you are under the house, for example, they tell us that an expletive helps to relieve stress. This shows how out of touch psychologists are because the reason you banged your head was because someone - mentioning no names - had left the laundry hanging there to dry.

It is true that when you finally get to within 10 metres of the green, only to top your little pitch-and-run, it may help to say a rude word under your breath. However, in this case, a word beginning with 's' is more appropriate, what we call the s-word. At the Murrumbidgee course, where they have ducks to provide large black quantities of the material suggested by the s-word, it comes readily to mind. The f-word should not be so used because it has no relevance to golf if one can forget about the former world No. 1.  It is true that the s-word lacks the sophistication and the multilingual etymology of the f-word, which has the added advantage that it can be employed as verb, past participle (-ed), present participle (-ing), noun, interjection or several other parts of speech. Nowadays, however, it tends to be used mostly as a filler by people with limited vocabulary and in books written by Roddy Doyle.  There is a word that is sometimes confused with the f-word, in which the broad 'u' is replaced by the slender 'e' and has a different meaning altogether. It is much used by Irish people and as such I feel qualified to write about it. It means to steal or to nick and should be regarded almost respectable like bloody or bastard in this country. By the way, the eloquent Irish, always sensitive to onomatopoeia, add an extra 'e' to the s-word, which makes it more expressive, properly evocative of wet farmyards in winter.  I believe that much bad language is due to laziness, an inability to think up a good insult. When someone cuts in front of you to take your parking spot, you should not drive around the parking lot fuming in sentences full of f and s-words. Instead you should calm down and ask yourself what Winston Churchill or Paul Keating would say. You could even combine the two of them: ''Madam, I may be drunk, but you are all tip and no iceberg.''

There is now an iPhone app that provides Keating mal mots to suit every occasion. Instead of referring to the full-back of your local team as a f---ing waste of space, how much more interesting to describe him as a ''dessicated coconut'' or compare him to ''a lizard on a rock - alive but looking dead''. It may be difficult to think up one on the spur of the moment, safely surrounded by hundreds of supporters who agree with you, so the app could be very useful. It should be pointed out that the app uses an algorithm that searches through various Keatingisms and combines them in a way that it - the algorithm - thinks works well. The result can be off-putting and may not always be as intended. The former prime minister once described the opposition leader as ''a gutless spiv, an intellectual rust bucket''. Try as you may to combine those words in a different way to form some other meaning, it would be difficult to imagine an improvement on the Keating original. The same applies to his retort to an honourable member from Western Australia: ''You boxhead, you are flat out counting past 10.''  I imagine the algorithm might come up with something like ''you gutless boxhead, you flat-out spiv counting past rust buckets'' but that hardly improves on PJK. Still, at 99c, you can't say it is daylight robbery, and to return to my original complaint about bad language, it might even replace the f and s-words, with or without an 'e'.  (Frank O'Shea, Canberra Times, Jan. 16, 2013)

 

British council rules toilets gender-neutral

LONDON: A city council in England plans to scrap male and female public toilets in favour of ''gender neutral'' facilities so as not to alienate the transgender community.  Toilets in Brighton will be designed to be shared by adults and children and will not feature the words ''Men'' or ''Ladies'' but instead will show symbols indicating they can be used by people of any sex or age. The move was described as ''political correctness gone barmy'' by opponents, who said the vast majority of residents would prefer single-sex toilets.  Brighton and Hove city council disclosed in emails that it wished to promote the term ''gender neutral'' and build facilities that were open to all, regardless of gender. It believes such facilities will be more accessible for those who do not identify with the ''male-female binary''. Work is due to start this week on a block that will include four new toilets and a cafe. Images depicting a man, a woman and a child will be fitted to the toilet doors.

''This does seem to be a case of unnecessary bureaucracy and political correctness,'' said Lynda Hyde, a Tory councillor in the ward in which the block is being built. ''Local residents, particularly women with children, would much prefer to use separate facilities as, apart from anything else, it is safer.  ''If male/female symbols rather than text are used on the toilet then this avoids any confusion, so why is the council muddying the waters by insisting they are called 'gender neutral', which will mean nothing to most people?''  The £140,000 ($210,000) refurbishment of the toilets on Rottingdean seafront is being funded jointly by Rottingdean parish council and the city council.

Cr Hyde said she understood the city council planned to gradually phase out all male and female toilets in order to cater for the minority group.  The move follows the establishment of a working group to examine problems faced by transgender residents. Last year, the Trans Equality Scrutiny Panel recommended that titles such as Mr, Mrs, Miss and Ms be banned so as not to offend the community.  The Green Party deputy leader, Phelim MacCafferty, backed the proposal, saying: ''Trans people aren't necessarily male or female and sometimes they don't want to be defined by their gender.''  The lesbian, gay and transgender population in Brighton is estimated to be about 40,000. (Victoria Ward, Telegraph (London), Feb. 19, 2013)

 

Why the Golden Globes lack gloss

Johnny Depp with host Ricky Gervais at the 2011 Golden Globes. Picture: Paul Drinkwater/AP Source: AP

In Hollywood, nothing is as it seems. Style triumphs over substance. Fantasy becomes reality. And even its most lauded institutions are built on a house of cards. Of this, there is no better example than the Golden Globes.

On January 13, the world's biggest stars will flounce down the red carpet at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The acclaimed nominees (Helen Mirren, Daniel Day-Lewis) will rub shoulders with the popular ones (Jon Hamm, Tina Fey), and their peers will earnestly applaud, congratulate and pay tribute, whether they mean it or not.

Here in Australia, audiences will be gunning for Naomi Watts, nominated for a best actress (drama) Globe for her role in The Impossible. Yet what Hollywood insiders know, but pretend they don't, is that in movie land, the Golden Globes are considered something of a joke.  They may be part of the holy trinity of Hollywood awards nights with the Academy and SAG (Screen Actors Guild) awards, but even in the smoke-and-mirrors world of Tinsel Town, the Globes lack credibility.

About 5000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture and Arts and Science vote for the Oscars, and 2100 members of the Screen Actors Guild vote for the SAGs. They are all movie-industry professionals. In contrast, just 92 mostly freelance journalists vote for the Globes. They are all members of the tight-knit Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), but none is employed by a major foreign newspaper or magazine. Although the Academy ensures its awards are beyond reproach _ not even a quote from a critic is allowed to accompany a screening DVD sent to a voter _  the HFPA is reportedly nowhere near as rigorous.

In fact, over the past few decades members of the press association have been beset by allegations of accepting, and even demanding, studio largesse, and have occasionally been accused of letting the largesse influence their voting.

In 1981, actress Pia Zadora won New Star of the Year, despite her performance in Butterfly being panned, amid allegations her casino-owner husband invited HFPA members to Las Vegas for a weekend before the award was handed out.  Then, the association denied members were flown to Las Vegas and said the allegations were drummed up by a jealous domestic press.

In 1999, foreign press members were sent Cartier watches by Sharon Stone, but returned them.

Studios often have two marketing junkets for press, one for HFPA members, and one for everyone else. The HFPA will be treated to cocktail parties with the big names, while other journalists attend press conferences.

David Poland, from Hollywood website Movie City News, says actors are well aware of their role in courting the HFPA. But awards and globally televised publicity are worth the effort. "They are selling their brand to a group that takes it all very personally," he says. "I have never spoken to a single person, and I talk on and off the record, to hundreds of actors and directors every year, who doesn't joke about the crazy demands of the HFPA. "But it's seen as a stepping stone, and they are pros."

In 2011, a joke made by Globes host Ricky Gervais went over the heads of many watching the telecast but would have been clearly understood by every member of the audience, especially the HFPA. He was referring to the nomination of The Tourist for best picture, musical or comedy, after it was given the thumbs down by many critics.  "I'd like to crush this ridiculous rumour that the only reason The Tourist was nominated was so that the foreign press could hang out with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie," Gervais said. "That was not the only reason; they also accepted bribes."

That year, the HFPA was sued by its former PR man, Michael Russell, for lost salary. In his suit, he accused the organisation of fraud and corrupt practices. The allegations included accepting money, holidays and gifts from studios in exchange for nominating their films; selling media credentials and red carpet space; and attempting to bury stories critical of the HFPA. The HFPA counter-sued, saying Russell's comments were wrong, saying: "Without a shred of evidence, (Russell) manufactured a fanciful tale of Hollywood intrigue that harkens back to the early days of rock 'n' roll radio, with its colourful reference to payola."

The HFPA and its two Australian members failed to respond to Insider's requests for comment.  Despite the allegations, the Globes remain a big deal in Hollywood given they are held before the Academy Awards and marketed as a bellwether, even though critics question their success rate. "Because the Golden Globes give out two best film awards (one for drama and one for musical or comedy), they double their chances of being a predictor," said Tim Gray from Variety magazine.

"(Since 2004), one of their films has gone on to win the Oscar 33 per cent of the time."  Most films nominated at the Globes these days have been critically acclaimed and go on to do well at the Oscars, even if they don't always win statuettes. The other factor that turned the Globes into an event Hollywood takes seriously was a television deal with NBC, of which Gray says: "The studios supply the stars to the Golden Globes, and because the stars are there, it gains credibility, and because it has credibility, studios supply the stars. It's a cycle of Hollywood self-love." (Jordan Baker, The Sunday Telegraph, Jan. 6, 2013)  

 

Indian rape victim's boyfriend speaks about attack, trauma

THE boyfriend of a 23-year-old woman who died after a brutal gang rape on a New Delhi bus has spoken out for the first time about the savage attack that has sparked protests across the country and his own trauma over his inability to save her.

The 28-year-old man, who suffered a fractured leg and other injuries in the attack, has been deeply traumatised and is at his parents' home in rural northern India where he is taking time out from his job at a software firm in New Delhi.

"What can I say? The cruelty I saw should not be seen ever. I tried to fight against the men but later I begged them again and again to leave her," he told AFP in an interview by phone from Gorakhpur, a town in Uttar Pradesh state.  On December 16, the couple had been out to watch a movie and decided to get into a private bus when several rickshaws had refused to drive them back to the victim's home in a New Delhi suburb. Once in the bus, he was attacked and his girlfriend was gang-raped by six allegedly drunk men, including the driver, who also violated her with an iron bar causing immense internal damage that would lead to her death last weekend.

The horrifying crime has appalled India and brought simmering anger about widespread crime against women to the boil amid angry calls for better protection by police and changed social attitudes.  The boyfriend, who asked not to be named, also recounted how passers-by had failed to come to their rescue after they were thrown out of the moving vehicle at the end of their nearly hour-long ordeal.  He was also critical of police for failing to be sensitive to his and his girlfriend's mental condition and also raised questions about the emergency care given in the public hospital where she was admitted.  "A passer-by found us (after the attack), but he did not even give my friend his jacket. We waited for the police to come and save us," he said.

The police have since arrested six suspects for the crime – five men and a minor believed to be aged 17 -- who were charged with murder, rape and kidnapping in a city court on Thursday.  "I was not very confident about getting into the bus but my friend was running late, so we got into it. This was the biggest mistake I made and after that everything went out of control," he said. The driver of the bus then made lewd remarks and his accomplices joined him "to taunt" the couple, the boyfriend said.  He said he told the driver to stop the bus, but by then his accomplices had locked the two doors.

"They hit me with a small stick and dragged my friend to a seat near the driver's cabin," he said.  After that the "driver and the other men raped my friend and hit her in the worst possible ways in the most private parts of her body". "I cannot tell you what I feel when I think of it. I shiver in pain," he said.  He said the police who came to their rescue took his girlfriend to a government hospital, but failed to take into account his injuries and mental trauma. 

"I was treated like an object by the police....they wanted all the help to solve the case even before getting me the right treatment. Nobody witnessed the trauma I suffered," he said. (Sunday Telegraph, Jan. 6, 2013)

 

Victims in Delhi rape case are to blame, defendants' lawyer says

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Lawyer claims police manipulating rape case. Indian lawyer Mohan Lal Sharma says the proceedings in the Indian rape case are being manipulated by police. Five accused of gang rape in Dehli were read charges as lawyers bickered and media were sent out of the court room.  Autoplay OnOff

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The lawyer representing three of the men charged with the gang rape and murder of a medical student aboard a moving bus in New Delhi has blamed the victims for the assault, saying he has never heard of a "respected lady" being raped in India. Manohar Lal Sharma said his clients will plead not guilty to all charges tomorrow when they make their next court appearance. His comments come as Indians have reacted with outrage to the opinions of politicians and a religious preacher who have accused westernized women of inviting sexual assaults. Sharma said the male companion of the murdered 23-year-old was "wholly responsible" for the incident as the unmarried couple should not have been on the streets at night.

"Until today I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady," Sharma said in an interview at a cafe outside the Supreme Court in India's capital. "Even an underworld don would not like to touch a girl with respect."

Sharma's comments highlight frequently aired attitudes toward women in India. Activists say reporting of sex crimes and police investigations of rape are hindered by a tendency to blame the victim for not following the traditional, conservative social roles ascribed to women. "This is the mentality which most Indian men are suffering from unfortunately," said Ranjana Kumari, director for the New Delhi-based Centre for Social Research. "That is the mindset that has been perpetrating this crime because they justify it indirectly, you asked for it so it is your responsibility."

'Chant God's Name'

A spiritual guru, Asharam, sparked an outcry earlier this week when he said the New Delhi victim was equally responsible and should have "chanted God's name and fallen at the feet of the attackers" to stop the assault. Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the pro-Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that underpins the country's main opposition political party, said rapes only occur in Indian cities, not in its villages, because women there adopt western lifestyles. Sharma said the man and woman should not have been traveling back late in the evening and making their journey on public transport. He also it was the man's responsibility to protect the woman and that he had failed in his duty. "The man has broken the faith of the woman," Sharma said. "If a man fails to protect the woman, or she has a single doubt about his failure to protect her, the woman will never go with that man."

Sharma, 56, a Supreme Court lawyer for the last two decades, says that his clients are innocent.

Courtroom Chaos

"This is a very complicated case and the matter has not been solved yet," he said. Police have said they have DNA evidence linking all six to the crime. Ram Singh, the driver of the bus and the alleged ringleader, is struggling to communicate and fluctuating between crying and laughing, Sharma said. Sharma, who has also been appointed to represent Singh's brother Mukesh and Akshay Kumar Singh, who is unrelated, plans to challenge police over their handling of the evidence.

Sharma's appointment comes after chaotic scenes on Jan. 7 that forced the magistrate to order a private hearing over concerns for the safety of the accused. Sharma was one of two lawyers denounced by other advocates for volunteering to represent the defendants. Arguments and scuffles over his offer led the magistrate to order the court room be cleared and future sessions to be held behind closed doors. The gang rape of the woman on Dec. 16 provoked a sustained and charged debate about the safety of women in the world's biggest democracy. The brutality of the crime and allegations by a male friend of the victim that it took police 45 minutes to respond to calls outraged the nation.

Three Illiterate

The attack on the woman and her friend, which led to her death almost two weeks later, forced the government to address demands for swifter justice, safer streets and heavier sentences in rape cases. India's top court on Jan. 4 began considering demands for faster trials and the suspension of lawmakers accused of sex crimes. Sharma said he met the defendants for the first time on Jan. 7 for 15 minutes and was due to talk with them again today. The three defendants he is representing put their thumb prints on forms appointing Sharma as their lawyer because they are illiterate, according to a copy of the documents given to Bloomberg News. Five of the six accused will be tried for abduction, rape and murder, among other charges, government prosecutor Rajiv Mohan said Jan. 6. The other, said to be a juvenile, has been appearing before a separate judicial panel.

The male friend of the woman who was repeatedly raped and brutalized aboard the bus last month has recounted the two-hour attack which ended with the couple being thrown on to the roadside, ignored by passersby and argued over by police.

Rape Trap

In a Jan. 4 interview with the Zee News television channel, the man, who along with the rape victim hasn't been officially identified, described how they were lured on to the bus operating illegally on the night of Dec. 16 as they returned home from a movie theater in a southern neighborhood of the Indian capital.  The six men aboard the bus, "which had tinted windows and curtains, had laid a trap for us," he told the channel. "They beat us up, hit us with an iron rod, snatched our clothes and belongings and threw us off the bus on a deserted stretch." The woman, who was flown to Singapore for medical treatment, died in the hospital Dec. 29.  Sharma says there are number of discrepancies in the police's version of the events, which he will reveal in court. The only example he was willing to give is the failure of the police almost three weeks after the attack to determine whether one of the accused is a juvenile. Sharma criticized the lawyers of a local district association who have said no advocates should represent the accused. "These people are just seeking revenge," Sharma said. "They are not seeking justice. A defendant has a right to a lawyer, this is a basic principle of a modern society."  (Bloomberg/SMH, Jan. 10, 2013)

 

Race to the Bottom

When Ireland’s Food Standards Authority announced that it had found beef products sold by popular food brands contaminated with horsemeat, it was the start of a scandal that spread around Europe and to parts of Asia.

“We found with one product that about one third horse DNA in it which was just, you know an incredible finding. And we double checked and we triple checked because we understood that if we were to go out public with such a story, it was going to have quite an effect.” Alan Reilly, CEO, Food Standards Authority.

Many Europeans are happy to eat horse and in some countries it’s considered a bit of delicacy, but consumers in the UK and Ireland were upset and angry.  What many didn’t realise, though, is where a lot of the horsemeat was coming from, and why.

“Nobody cared and that’s the bottom line in this whole story, nobody cared. Nobody bothered asking the question, where are all the Irish horses going?” Stephen Philpott, Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 

One man, animal rights activist Stephen Philpott knew the answer because for the previous couple of years he’d been running a surveillance operation on gangs smuggling thousands of unwanted Irish horses across the border for illegal slaughter.  He’s uncovered a criminal conspiracy that’s netted millions, and seriously undermined consumer confidence in processed food. 

Tragically, the abandoned horses are an unexpected and little reported consequence of the global financial crisis. As Campbell finds, when Ireland’s economy was booming and the housing bubble was at its biggest, every Irish builder bought a horse and joined a racing syndicate.  When the bubble burst, the animals were the first thing to go – dumped and left to fend for themselves in parks, fields and by the side of the road.  It wasn’t long before criminal gangs got in on the action. One whistleblower who is now in fear of his life tells Campbell horses too weak to travel were routinely drugged to make sure they arrived at the abattoir still alive – where they were then killed and their meat illegally entered the food chain.  (Eric Campbell, ABC Foreign Correspondent, Broadcast: March 26, 2013) 

 

Courting Cowardice [on gay marriage]

As the arguments unfurled in Tuesday’s case on same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court justices sounded more and more cranky. Things were moving too fast for them.   How could the nine, cloistered behind velvety rose curtains, marble pillars and archaic customs, possibly assess the potential effects of gay marriage? They’re not psychics, after all.

“Same-sex marriage is very new,” Justice Samuel Alito whinged, noting that “it may turn out to be a good thing; it may turn out not to be a good thing.” If the standard is that marriage always has to be “a good thing,” would heterosexuals pass?

“But you want us to step in and render a decision,” Alito continued, “based on an assessment of the effects of this institution, which is newer than cellphones or the Internet? I mean, we do not have the ability to see the future.”  Swing Justice Anthony Kennedy grumbled about “uncharted waters,” and the fuddy-duddies seemed to be looking for excuses not to make a sweeping ruling. Their questions reflected a unanimous craven impulse: How do we get out of this? This court is plenty bold imposing bad decisions on the country, like anointing W. president or allowing unlimited money to flow covertly into campaigns. But given a chance to make a bold decision putting them on the right, and popular, side of history, they squirm.

“Same-sex couples have every other right,” Chief Justice John Roberts said, sounding inane for a big brain. “It’s just about the label in this case.” He continued, “If you tell a child that somebody has to be their friend, I suppose you can force the child to say, ‘This is my friend,’ but it changes the definition of what it means to be a friend.”

Donald Verrilli Jr., the U.S. solicitor general arguing on the side of same-sex marriage, told the justices, “There is a cost to waiting.” He recalled that the argument by opponents of interracial marriage in Loving v. Virginia in 1967 was to delay because “the social science is still uncertain about how biracial children will fare in this world.”   The wisdom of the Warren court is reflected two miles away, where a biracial child is faring pretty well in his second term in the Oval Office.

The American Academy of Pediatrics last week announced its support for same-sex marriage, citing evidence that children of gays and lesbians do better when the couples marry. It may take another case, even another court, to legitimize same-sex marriage nationally, but the country has moved on. An ABC/Washington Post poll showed that 81 percent of Americans under 30 approve of gay marriage. Every time you blink, another lawmaker comes out of the closet on supporting the issue.

Charles Cooper, the lawyer for the proponents of Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California, was tied in knots, failing to articulate any harm that could come from gay marriage and admitting that no other form of discrimination against gay people was justified. His argument, that marriage should be reserved for those who procreate, is ludicrous. Sonia Sotomayor was married and didn’t have kids. Clarence and Ginny Thomas did not have kids. Chief Justice Roberts’s two kids are adopted. Should their marriages have been banned? What about George and Martha Washington? They only procreated a country.

As Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out to Cooper, “Couples that aren’t gay but can’t have children get married all the time.”

Justice Elena Kagan wondered if Cooper thought couples over the age of 55 wanting to get married should be refused licenses. Straining to amuse, Justice Antonin Scalia chimed in: “I suppose we could have a questionnaire at the marriage desk when people come in to get the marriage — you know, ‘Are you fertile or are you not fertile?’ ”

Scalia didn’t elaborate on his comment in December at Princeton: “If we cannot have moral feeling against homosexuality, can we have it against murder?”  Cooper replied that a 55-year-old man would still be fertile, which was a non sequitur, given that he hails marriage as a bulwark against “irresponsible procreative conduct outside of marriage.”

He said that California should “hit the pause button” while “the experiment” of gay marriage matures. And he urged that we not refocus “the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults.” Did he miss the last few Me Decades?  The fusty legal discussion inside was a vivid contrast with the lusty rally outside. There were some offensive signs directed at gays, but the vibrant crowd was overwhelmingly pro same-sex marriage. One woman summed it up nicely in a placard reading “Gays have the right to be as miserable as I make my husband.” The only emotional moment in court was when Justice Kennedy brought up the possible “legal injury” to 40,000 children in California who live with same-sex parents. “They want their parents to have full recognition and full status,” he told Cooper. “The voice of those children is important in this case, don’t you think?”  While Justice Alito can’t see into the future, most Americans can. If this court doesn’t reject bigotry, history will reject this court. (Maureen Dowd, International Herald Tribune,  March 26, 2013)

 

Our Comment:

 

It is extraordinary how the gay marriage juggernaut has silenced the millions of Americans who call themselves Christians.   This would have been the time for them, and especially for their leaders, to stand up and speak out against this abominable sin that has brought annihilation to cities and nations in the past.  But not a voice was heard from any of them.  They left this agenda to the homosexual lobby who berated the judges for dragging their feet in legalizing their “right” to “gay marriage”.  

America is facing extreme danger after embracing a president who called gay people his “brothers and sisters”, and has a spiritual master who calls on God to “damn America”.  And damn He will.

Americans cannot blame anyone else for what is coming their way. They elected their leaders. 

Here is a reminder of the Scriptures that their leaders had forgotten.   

 

2Pe 2:4  For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;

2Pe 2:5  and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly;

2Pe 2:6  and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;

2Pe 2:7  and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked

2Pe 2:8  (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)—

2Pe 2:9  then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment.

 

 

Science and the Environment

 

Breaking Free of the Cellphone Carrier Conspiracy

Would you speak up if you were overbilled for a meal? Would you complain if you paid for a book from Amazon.com that never arrived? Or what if you had to keep making monthly mortgage payments even after your loan was fully repaid?

Well, guess what? If you’re like most people, you’re participating in exactly that kind of rip-off right now. It’s the Great Cellphone Subsidy Con.   When you buy a cellphone — an iPhone or Android phone, let’s say — you pay $200. Now, the real price for that sophisticated piece of electronics is around $600. But Verizon, AT&T and Sprint are very thoughtful. They subsidize the phone. Your $200 is a down payment. You pay off the remaining $400 over the course of your two-year contract.

It’s just like buying a house or a car: you put some cash down and pay the rest in installments. Right?

Wrong. Here’s the difference: Once you’ve finished paying off your handset, your monthly bill doesn’t go down. You keep reimbursing the cellphone company as though you still owed it. Forever.   And speaking of the two-year contract, why aren’t you outraged about that? What other service in modern life locks you in for two years? Home phone service? Cable TV service? Internet? Magazine subscriptions? Baby sitter? Lawn maintenance? In any other industry, you can switch to a rival if you ever become unhappy. Companies have to work for your loyalty.  But not in the cellphone industry. If you try to leave your cellphone carrier before two years are up, you’re slapped with a penalty of hundreds of dollars.

If you’re not outraged by those rip-offs, maybe it’s because you think you’re helpless. All of the Big Four carriers follow the same rules, so, you know — what are you gonna do?  Last week, the landscape changed. T-Mobile violated the unwritten conspiracy code of cellphone carriers. It admitted that the emperors have no clothes. John J. Legere, T-Mobile’s chief executive, took to the stage not only to expose the usurious schemes, but to announce that it wouldn’t be playing those games anymore.

It was a Steve Jobs moment: when somebody got so fed up with the shoddy way some business is being run (say, phone design or selling music) that he reinvented it, disruptively.  At the new T-Mobile, the Great Cellphone Subsidy Con is over. You can buy your phone outright, if you like — an iPhone 5 is $580, a Samsung Galaxy S III is $550. Or you can treat it like a car or a house: pay $100 for the phone now, and pay off the rest over time, $20 a month.  That may sound like the existing phone subsidy con, but it’s different in a few big ways. You pay only what the phone really costs. You don’t pay interest, and you stop paying when you’ve paid for the phone; in other words, your monthly bill will drop by $20 a month, just as it should. (You can also pay it off sooner, if you like. If you have a good month and want to put, say, $70 toward your phone payoff, that’s fine.)

T-Mobile doesn’t care what phone you use, either; if it works on T-Mobile’s network, you can use it. And why not? Why shouldn’t you buy one phone you really love, and use it freely as you hop from carrier to carrier? Would you buy a car that uses only one brand of gas? Yet another radical change: There are no more yearly contracts at T-Mobile. You can leave at any time. “If we suck this month, drop us,” said Mr. Legere. “Go somewhere else.”   In the new T-Mobile world, there are only three plans.

All come with unlimited phone calls, unlimited texts, free tethering (which allows your laptop to get online via your phone) and unlimited Internet. The only difference among the plans is how much high-speed wireless Internet you get each month: 500 megabytes ($50 a month), 2 gigabytes ($60) or unlimited ($70).  After you’ve burned through that much data, your Internet speed drops to 2G speeds for the rest of the month — suitable for e-mail or pulling up a Web page, but much too slow for video. You can upgrade your plan for a given month, if you like, but the point is, you’ll never be penalized. In other words, T-Mobile’s new program has also eliminated the overage charge.  Over time, these plans can save you a huge amount of money compared with T-Mobile’s larger rivals. For a plan that matches T-Mobile’s $60 plan, Verizon would charge you $100 a month. Over two years, you’d pay $960 more.  For a plan that matches T-Mobile’s $70 plan, Sprint would charge you $110 a month. Over two years, once again, you’d pay $960 more.

AT&T doesn’t have any plans that match T-Mobile’s exactly, but you get the idea. AT&T’s $85 plan gives you 1 gigabyte of data a month — half what you get with T-Mobile’s $60 plan.  Furthermore, Verizon and AT&T don’t offer the “unlimited slower Internet” option after you’ve eaten up your monthly data allotment. Instead, they just slap you with a steep per-gigabyte overage fee ($15 a gigabyte).  Weirdly, T-Mobile’s press announcement left out what may be the biggest, best news of all: T-Mobile is the first major carrier to eliminate the ridiculous, unnecessary, airtime-eating, 15 seconds of prerecorded instructions that you hear when you want to leave a message. (“To page this person, press 5 ... When you have finished recording, you may hang up.”) When you call a T-Mobile customer, you go right to the beep. Someone should organize a parade.

This all sounds wonderful. But sooner or later, we have to acknowledge the elephant in the room: T-Mobile can afford to be the disrupter because it’s in last place. It has the fewest customers and the smallest network coverage of any of the Big Four in the United States. It can take risks because it has nothing to lose.  Part of T-Mobile’s problem is that it’s famous for not offering the iPhone and not offering the fastest kind of Internet network, known as 4G LTE.  Fortunately, the company is tackling both of those drawbacks. On April 12, it will offer the iPhone 5 — with a feature nobody else has, in fact, called HD Voice. It offers supersharp voice quality when you’re calling another phone that has HD Voice.  The company has also managed to buy, merge and lobby its way into ownership of more spectrum — expensive, very limited cellular frequencies — that will allow it to install LTE networks at last. The company says that it will have 100 million Americans covered by LTE signal by summer, and 200 million covered by year’s end.  As long as T-Mobile had a sad little network running no-name phones, it wouldn’t matter what its policies were.  But once T-Mobile’s network and phones become contenders, its much more fair, transparent, logical policies will suddenly matter. Those practices will have teeth. The other carriers will have to start paying attention.  And they should. The Great Cellphone Subsidy Con is indefensible no matter how you slice it — why should you keep paying the carrier for the price of a phone you’ve fully repaid? — and the two-year contract is an anticompetitive, anti-innovation greed machine. Those practices should stomp right across your outrage threshold.  If T-Mobile’s crazy, way-out plan succeeds, those practices may just go away. And that’s why, even if you have no intention of becoming a T-Mobile customer — maybe there’s no coverage where you live, or maybe you’re already locked into a two-year contract — you should pay attention. One of the four emperors has now put on real clothes. The question is, will the others follow suit.   (David Pogue, New York Times,  April 3, 2013)

 

For the sake of your health, go with the majority view

I'm not a climate scientist per se, but I am a senior Australian scientist (biologist) with interests and expertise in environmental science. Reading Miranda Devine's piece ( ''Bring it on, Labor, pull that trigger'', August 15-16), it occurred to me that in the climate change debate there are serious misconceptions about the way science actually works. So let's shift the context from climate change to medicine.  Your health declines. You see 10 specialists and nine tell you that you have a serious, complex medical condition that requires surgery.  The 10th says you are fine and there is no need to do anything. You follow the advice of the 10th and do nothing for a year. Your health does not improve. You go back to see the specialists, and nine tell you that the condition is worse and you need the surgery urgently. The 10th still says you don't need to do anything and in fact argues that the condition is not real. What would you do?

This is exactly the state of play in climate science. The vast majority of specialists in the field say we have a major problem, that it is caused by humans, and it is probably getting worse. This is not the same as ''proof''. It is difficult if not impossible to ''prove'' complex environmental (or many other) scientific theories. Climate change science is not a high school geometry problem.  Instead what happens is that evidence is gathered that supports a theory, alternative explanations are considered and discounted on the evidence, and a consensus view emerges. As a consequence of this process the overall consensus on human-induced climate change is now quite strong among experts in the field. Thus comments by Senator Fielding or others of like mind who deny climate change, or the need for us to act, on the basis that ''the science is unproven'' or ''science does not work by consensus'' are misleading. They do not reflect how most science actually works.

I suspect my comments may actually be used to argue against the reality of climate change (''Senior scientist says climate change not proven!''). In response I go back to my parable. Your health or even your life is on the line and nine of 10 specialists propose a diagnosis and subsequent course of action. What would you do? (Professor Peter Steinberg, SMH, August 17, 2009)

 

It's happening - just like climate scientists said it would

We should use our UN position to press for urgent global action: 'Science is telling us that extreme weather events now happen more often.'   In South Australia for a summer break, I saw an advertised opportunity for a game of golf at the famous Royal Adelaide Golf Club. So I put my name down to play on Monday, January 7.

In hindsight, it was probably not a smart move; the temperature in the shade reached 41 degrees as I finished my round in the blazing Adelaide sun. Wary of the risks of dehydration, I had consumed four litres of water and sports drinks on the course. I was still able to empty two of the largest glasses the clubhouse bar could provide as I recovered from the experience.  Of course, it has always been hot in Adelaide in summer. There have been days over 40 degrees every year since we abandoned the old Fahrenheit scale that gave us more impressive readings of over 100 degrees. Tasmania is recovering from dreadful fires and the heatwave in New South Wales is producing bushfire conditions described as catastrophic. Again, there have been bad bushfire seasons in the past. No one extreme event is by itself an indication of climate change. However, we should recognise that the overall pattern of more frequent and more severe extreme events is exactly what climate scientists have been warning about for 25 years.  When I wrote Living in the Hothouse in 2005, the publisher put a striking picture of the 2003 Canberra fires on the cover. He explained his thinking to me. The science is telling us that such events, historically happening once in 100 years, would now happen much more often. That is what global warming is doing. It is increasing the probability of extreme events such as the 2009 Victorian Black Saturday fires or the current conditions in NSW.  For decades now, the insurance industry has recognised the reality of climate change and its costs. As one executive told me at the 1997 Kyoto conference: ''We see the evidence in the red ink on our balance sheet, the result of rapidly increasing property insurance payouts.''  In 1997, most commercial sectors were in denial about climate change, as the fossil fuel industries and their political supporters still are. But those who collect hard data on the consequences of extreme events already knew what was happening.

As Australia recovers from the events of last week, we face a future of increasing average temperatures and more severe extreme events: heatwaves, bushfires, cyclones, floods. It is getting harder to accept the obfuscation and delaying tactics of the fossil fuel interests and their supporters. Some are still saying they doubt the science, even though it has been correctly predicting what would happen for 25 years.  It is a question of risk. Even if we thought there was still some doubt about the science, how much should we be prepared to gamble on the hope that it might be wrong? Nobody would get into a car if they knew there was a 90 per cent chance its brakes or steering would fail and risk their life. Few would be prepared to accept a 10 per cent chance. Even the prime minister warned people in Tasmania of the likely consequences of failing to take concerted action to slow climate change. But we don't yet have a policy response that reflects the urgency of the situation.

We now have a modest price on releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, but it should be increased to a level that would drive investment into clean energy supply technologies. We have a target of getting 20 per cent of our electricity from renewables by 2020, but we could do much more with policies to support solar and wind energy. We aim to reduce our national greenhouse gas pollution by a totally inadequate 5 per cent by 2020, whereas we should have a target that reflects the urgency of the situation. We are still exporting hundreds of millions of tonnes of coal and planning to open new large export coal mines, as if we just didn't know that the coal will be burnt and accelerate climate change. A visitor from another galaxy would conclude that we just did not understand the risks we are taking, as if we were all too stupid to have listened to our best atmospheric scientists. We are now on the UN Security Council, an opportunity to influence global events. As well as getting our own house in order, we should be urging the world to respond. We face a bleak future otherwise.  (Ian Lowe, SMH/National Times, January 14, 2013).   Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe is president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

 

Climate Commission Summary Statement: The Earth continues to warm (Feb. 25, 2013)

Key points: (1) The Earth continues to warm strongly. Scientists assess this based on long term observations of the heat content of the ocean, the air temperature (an indicator of the heat content of the atmosphere), and the amount of heat absorbed by the land, glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice.

(2) Understanding changes in climate requires data over long time periods, at least 30 years and preferably much longer.

(3) The best measure of global warming is ocean heat content as it absorbs nearly 90% of additional heat trapped by greenhouse gases. Global ocean heat content has increased substantially over the last 40 years, and the strongly upward trend has continued through the most recent decade up to the present.

(4) Singling out short term trends in air temperature to imply that global warming is not occurring is incorrect and misleading.  There has been significant confusion in the press in recent months about whether the Earth is continuing to warm. In late 2012 the UK Met Office, which is similar to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, released updated data regarding the shortterm forecast of global air temperature. It found that: “Global average temperature is expected to remain between 0.28 °C and 0.59 °C (90% confidence range) above the longterm (19712000) average during the period 20132017, with values most likely to be about 0.43 °C higher than average.”  This prompted some commentators to report that global warming had stopped. This seriously misrepresents both what the Met Office found and what is actually happening.

This briefing corrects the confusion and confirms that the Earth is continuing to warm at an alarming rate.

 

1. How do we know the Earth is warming?

Global average air temperature near the surface is only one of many indicators that climate scientists use to determine the state of the Earth’s climate system. A good analogy is your family doctor, who uses a wide range of measurements – not just your temperature – to determine the state of your health.  While surface air temperature is the indicator that we experience in our day to day lives, climate scientists use a wide range of other indicators that also show the state of the climate system. These include:

Ocean heat content (see Figure 2 below); Sea surface temperature; Sealevel rise; Sea ice cover; Global snow cover; Mass of landbased glaciers; Mass of polar ice sheets; Species migrations; Treeline changes.   All of these factors must be considered over a long time frame, usually over 30 years (and preferably much longer), to accurately assess the longterm change in climate, as distinct from natural variability. While all of these indicators show their own modes of variability and regional variations, taken together at the global scale, they paint a clear picture of a strongly warming Earth, with a trend that continues to the present.

 

2. What is the most important indicator that the Earth is warming?

Greenhouse gases act as a blanket trapping additional heat energy at the Earth’s surface and in the lower atmosphere. This is a natural phenomenon, and the physics are very well understood. As human activities add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, more heat is being trapped at the Earth’s surface. The first step in understanding climate change is to understand where this additional heat goes. The vast majority of the extra heat does not go into the atmosphere and thus raise the air

temperature but rather into the ocean. Here is the budget for where the extra heat goes (Table 1):

Table 1: Where the extra heat goes. (Source: IPCC 2007).  Compartment of the Earth’s surface Percentage:  Oceans: 89.3;  Atmosphere: 3.1; Land: 4.8: Glaciers/ice caps (continental): 1.4; Greenland ice sheet: 0.1; Antarctic ice sheets: 0.4; Arctic sea ice: 0.9;  Total 100.0.   As shown in Table 1, the single best measure of whether the Earth is warming is the change in heat content of the ocean. This is shown in Figure 1, which is the latest available analysis taking the long term trend up to 2009. Note that over the last 40 years the heat content of the ocean has increased substantially, and the strongly upward trend has continued through to the most recently available data.  Figure 1: The increase in total ocean heat content from the surface to 2000 m, based on running five year analyses, from 1957 to 2009. Reference period is 1955–2006. Vertical bars represent +/–2 standard deviations about the fiveyear estimate. Caption refers to red line only.  Source: Levitus, S., Yarosh, E. S., Zweng, M. M., Antonov, J. I., Boyer, T. P., Baranova, O. K., Garcia, H. E., et al. (2012). World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0–2000), 1955–2010. Geophysical Research Letters, m. doi:10.1029/2012GL051106

 

3. What does the air temperature record actually show?

The air absorbs approximately 3% of the additional heat trapped by greenhouse gases.  Over the last 50 years global air temperature has been increasing. Some years are cooler and some  years are hotter than others, however, the long term trend is up. Over the last 50 years every decade has been warmer than the one before it, including the 20002009 decade. In fact, 20002009 was the hottest decade since records began and stands out on the temperature record. Air temperature is influenced by climate change, as well as by natural factors such as changes in incoming solar radiation, volcanoes and patterns of variability such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). On shorter time frames – annually, a few years, or up to a decade or two, these natural factors are important influences on the global average temperature and can mask the underlying, longterm trend due to the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. ENSO is one of the most important of these. El Niño years are warmer than average while La Niña years are cooler. This is why climate scientists take a long “time series” – spanning many decades – to examine the underlying trend in temperature and separate out the variability “noise” from the longer term trend (the signal”).  The Met Office temperature prediction for 20132017 is essentially a prediction of the short term effects of natural factors and has little to do with the longerterm temperature trend.

Scientists look to see whether the underlying warming trend reappears when the masking effects of natural factors are accounted for. The adjusted temperature record is shown in Figure 2.  The answer is obvious. When the masking effects of natural factors are removed, the underlying trend of rising air temperature comes through loud and clear right up to the present.

Figure 2: Global average temperature record adjusted for changes in incoming solar radiation, aerosols from large volcanoes, and the warming/cooling from ENSO events. Source: Foster, G., & Rahmstorf, S. (2011). Global temperature evolution 1979– 2010. Environmental Research Letters, 6(4),  044022. Retrieved from http://stacks.iop.org/1748–9326/6/i=4/a=044022

 

4. What is the long term future trend in global air temperature?

There may be periods of years up to a decade or two where the longterm trend is masked by natural factors, but the long term trend will continue to be rising air temperature, along with rising ocean heat content, and further loss of snow and ice. The extent of this warming of the planet will depend,  for a large part, on the further amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere  from human activities.

References:  Foster, G., & Rahmstorf, S. (2011). Global temperature evolution 1979– 2010. Environmental  Research Letters, 6(4), 044022. Retrieved from http://stacks.iop.org/1748–9326/6/i=4/a=044022.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on  Climate Change. (Eds: Solomon S., Qin, D., Manning, M., Chen, Z., Marquis, M., Averyt, K., Tignor,  M.M.B., Miller, H.L. Jr and Chen, Z.) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY,  USA. 996 pp.  Levitus, S., Yarosh, E. S., Zweng, M. M., Antonov, J. I., Boyer, T. P., Baranova, O. K., Garcia, H. E., et al.  (2012). World ocean heat content and thermosteric sea level change (0–2000), 1955–2010.  Geophysical Research Letters, m. doi:10.1029/2012GL051106.  World Meteorological Organization (2012). Provisional statement on the status of the global climate.  2011: world’s 10th warmest year, warmest year with La Niña on record, secondlowest Arctic sea ice extent . www.wmo.int/pages/mediacentre/press _ releases/gcs _ 2011 _ en.html

 

The Myth of “Saudi America”  Straight talk from geologists about our new era of oil abundance.  Like swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, every December some 20,000 geoscientists flock to San Francisco for the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Slate readers have already heard about a presentation with a particularly eye-catching title, but for me some of the most thought-provoking news came in a prestigious all-Union session with the rather dry heading “Fossil Fuel Production, Economic Growth, and Climate Change.” (Search for it here.) This session dealt, in a hard-headed, geological, show-me-the-numbers way, with the claim that we are at the brink of a new era of oil and natural gas abundance.  The popularity of the abundance narrative waxes and wanes, and its current ascendance comes primarily on the heels of a report by Leonardo Maugeri, a former oil-industry chief and currently a fellow at Harvard's Belfer Center. When his cornucopian fantasy came out, I smelled a rat (or at least a not-too-deeply buried fish). But the International Energy Agency jumped on the bandwagon with breathless, and equally fishy, forecasts of the coming “Saudi America.” Most of the media swallowed the story hook, line, and sinker, with even the usually sober Economist rising to the bait.  So what's wrong with this story? Maugeri's problems begin but don't end with an arithmetic blunder so dumb (he compounded a percentage decline incorrectly) it would make even Steve Levitt blush. The geeky geological stuff discussed at the AGU session is more interesting and ultimately more damning. The geological considerations expose a number of common threads of faulty reasoning that pervade the current crop of starry-eyed projections of endless oil abundance.

There are certainly huge amounts of oil locked up in shale formations worldwide. In the United States alone, the Bakken and Eagle Ford shales contain up to 700 billion barrels, and the Green River shale under Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah has a whopping 2 trillion barrels. However, only a tiny fraction of this total is recoverable. For Bakken (in Montana and North Dakota) and Eagle Ford (in Texas), which account for most of the current surge in U.S. oil production, the estimated recoverable fraction ranges from 1 to 2 percent. Though all of these deposits are loosely referred to as “shale oil,” Bakken and Eagle Ford oil is more precisely called “tight oil,” because it is actual, fluid oil that is trapped in the pores of shale, and it can be liberated by fracturing the rock to allow the oil to flow. In contrast, the hydrocarbon in the Green River shale is not really oil at all but a waxy substance that must be cooked at around 500 degrees Celsius to turn it into flowing oil. The technology for extracting oil from deposits like the Green River shale is far more challenging than what is required to tap into tight oil, and it has never been profitably implemented at any significant scale. There is thus no credible estimate of how much oil can be recovered from the Green River formation.  At the high end of the estimates, predicted production from Bakken and Eagle Ford together amounts to perhaps a two-year oil supply for the United States at 2011 consumption rates. That's significant but not a game-changer. Even if it were to prove possible to achieve production rates comparable to those of Saudi Arabia, that would only mean that we would deplete the resource faster and bring on an oil crash sooner.

What would it take to ramp up production to such high levels? Technological developments have made it possible to tap into tight oil, but these are not the same kinds of technological developments that have given us ever more powerful computers and cellphones at ever declining prices. Oil production technology is giving us ever more expensive oil with ever diminishing returns for the ever increasing effort that needs to be invested. According to the statistics presented by J. David Hughes at the AGU session, we are now drilling 25,000 wells per year just to bring production back to the levels of the year 2000, when we were drilling only 5,000 wells per year. Worse, the days are long gone when you could stick a pitchfork in the ground and get a gusher that would produce for years. The new wells are expensive (on the order of $10 million each in the Bakken) but give out rapidly, as shown in the following figure from Hughes' talk illustrating the typical production curve.

Tight oil is headed for a Red Queen's race, where you have to keep drilling and drilling and drilling just to keep your production in the same place. At several million dollars a pop, that adds up to a big annual investment, and eventually you run out of places to put new wells. The following figure, also from Hughes' talk, shows that if you try to increase production by drilling wells faster, you just wind up running out of oil sooner.

Current total U.S. oil production is about 6 million barrels per day. By way of comparison, Saudi production is currently running at 9.5 million barrels per day. To exceed Saudi production, new oil from tight-oil sources would have to more than offset declining production from existing wells. It is clear that even if we do manage somehow to temporarily exceed Saudi production rates, the party is not going to last very long.  High oil prices may make it profitable to recover more oil from unconventional deposits, but ultimately physics rules. In his talk at the AGU session, Charles A.S. Hall pointed out that the energy return on investment—the amount of energy you get out of a well vs. the energy needed to produce the oil—has been getting steadily worse over time. As long as there is some net energy gain and some profit to be made, drilling may go ahead, but the benefits to the energy supply deteriorate at the same time as the collateral damage to climate (in the form of increased carbon dioxide emissions per barrel of oil produced) goes up.  The market is not laying the foundations for an era of unending oil-based prosperity. The market is pushing inexorably toward investment in expensive technologies to extract the last drop of profit through faster depletion of a resource that's guaranteed to run out. If we're going to invest in expensive energy technologies, it would be better to pick long-term winners rather than guaranteed losers.

The flaws in the abundance narrative for fracked natural gas are much the same as for tight oil, so I won't belabor the point. Certainly, the current natural gas glut has played a welcome role in the reduced growth rate of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, and the climate benefits of switching from coal to natural gas are abundantly clear. But gas, too, is in a Red Queen's race, and it can't be counted on to last out the next few decades, let alone the century of abundance predicted by some boosters. Temporarily cheap and abundant gas buys us some respite—which we should be using to put decarbonized energy systems in place. It will only do us good if we use this transitional period wisely. We won't be much better off in the long run if cheap gas only succeeds in killing off the nascent renewables industry and the development of next-generation nuclear power.

Does all the new American oil give us yet another way to fry ourselves? At 0.1159 metric tons of carbon per barrel of oil, the oil in Bakken and Eagle Ford amounts to a carbon pool of 81 gigatons, and the Green River shale adds up to 232 gigatons. Given that burning an additional 500 gigatons of fossil fuel carbon is sufficient to commit the Earth to a practically irreversible warming of 2 degrees Celsius, these are scary numbers. However, if oil analysts such as those speaking at the American Geophysical Union are right, almost all of this oil will remain inaccessible. In that case, coal—which certainly contains enough carbon to bring us to the danger level and probably much beyond—remains the clear and present threat to the climate, and the fight to leave as much coal as possible in the ground remains the front line in the battle to protect the climate. This does not mean the threat posed by the carbon pool in unconventional oil can be completely ignored. The case against oil abundance seems persuasive, but I'd hate to bet the planet against the ingenuity of future oil engineers, which is why I feel that some rearguard actions that inhibit development of unconventional oil are warranted, notably in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline, which taps into Canada's Athabasca oil sands.  False hopes for an unending age of oil abundance provide an excuse to put off the hard decisions we need to make in order to smooth the road to a sustainable energy future. If oil cornucopians like Leonardo Maugeri are wrong, then the end of oil and gas is not many decades off (a few would say this is true for coal as well), and so even without bringing climate change into the picture, it is necessary to begin planning for new energy sources. Economists offer up a rosy picture in which gradually rising prices call into being some combination of increased production and resource substitution, but the resource depletion endgame does not always work this way. The story of Wisconsin white pine timber depletion, recounted in William Cronan's book  Nature's Metropolis, should give us pause:

The manufacturer's acute seasonal need for short-term credit drove them to the one market where they knew they could get quick cash, even if it meant that they were forever selling lumber at lower prices than they liked. Under such circumstances, the only way they could keep up with costs was to cut more trees, contributing still further to the overproduction and saturated markets that had created low prices in the first place. Chicago thus became the focal point of a vicious circle: Undercapitalization caused overproduction, which in turn kept prices low and accelerated the destruction of the northern forest. The Lumberman summed up the problem by attributing it to “so many men … striving to carry on a larger business than their capital will warrant” and, as a result, having to turn natural capital into liquid capital merely to survive. “The only reasonable explanation of this paradoxical state of affairs,” the Lumberman's editors wrote, “is that the mill men … are using up their capital, as it exists in the form of stumpage, for no other end than simply keep themselves in business.”  This description is eerily similar to the last-gasp scenario described in Chris Nelder's article on the oil endgame, “The Last Sip.” Whales were driven to the brink of extinction before petroleum replaced whale oil, and we may well fry our planet—and bankrupt ourselves while doing so—before we're finally forced to kick the fossil fuel habit. It will be hard to muster the resources to develop replacements for fossil fuel energy if we wait until both the economy and climate are in ruins. We are in for a hard landing if we don't use our current prosperity to pave the way for a secure energy and climate future. (Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, Slate.com, Feb. 6, 2013)

 

Snow falls in the Middle East as at least eight killed by fierce winter storms

THE fiercest winter storm to hit the Mideast in years has brought a rare 30cms of snow to Jordan, caused fatal accidents in Lebanon and the West Bank, and disrupted traffic on the Suez Canal in Egypt. At least eight people have died across the region.  In Lebanon, the Red Cross said storm-related accidents killed six people over the past two days. Several drowned after slipping into rivers from flooded roads, one person froze to death and another died after his car went off a slippery road, according to George Kettaneh, Operations Director for the Lebanese Red Cross.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, a Palestinian official said two West Bank women drowned after their car was caught in a flash flood on Tuesday. Nablus Deputy Governor Annan Atirah said the women abandoned their vehicle after it got stuck on a flooded road, and their bodies were apparently swept away by surging waters. Their driver was hospitalised in critical condition.  In the Gaza Strip, civil defence spokesman Mohammed al-Haj Yousef said storms cut electricity to thousands of Palestinian homes and rescuers were sent to evacuate dozens of people.

Parts of Israel were bracing for snow a day after the military was forced to send helicopters and rubber dinghies to rescue residents stranded by floodwaters. In Jerusalem, streets were mostly empty as light snow began to stick on Wednesday night. School was cancelled for the next day because of the weather, which Israeli meteorologists said was the stormiest in a decade.

The unusual weather over the past few days hit vulnerable Syrian refugees living in tent camps very hard, particularly some 50,000 sheltering in the Zaatari camp in Jordan's northern desert. Torrential rains over four days have flooded some 200 tents and forced women and infants to evacuate in temperatures that dipped below freezing at night, whipping wind and lashing rain.  "It's been freezing cold and constant rain for the past four days," lamented Ahmad Tobara, 44, who evacuated his tent when its shafts submerged in flood water in Zaatari.  A camp spokesman said that by Wednesday, some 1500 refugees had been displaced within the camp and were now living in mobile homes normally used for schools. Weather officials said winds exceeded 70km/h and the rain left 70cm of water on the streets. The storm dumped at least 30cm of snow on many parts of Jordan and was accompanied by lashing wind, lightning and thunder. It shut schools, stranded motorists and delayed international flights, Jordanian weatherman Mohammed Samawi said. The unusually heavy snowfall blocked streets in the capital Amman and isolated remote villages, prompting warnings from authorities for people to stay home as snow plows tried to reopen clogged roads. It forced at least 400 families to evacuate their homes and move to government shelters overnight.  Samawi called it the "fiercest storm to hit the Mideast in the month of January in at least 30 years." The snowstorm followed four days of torrential rain, which caused flooding in many areas across the country.

In Lebanon, several days of winds and heavy rain along the coast and record snow in the mountains caused power outages across the country, blocked traffic and shut down mountain passes. Later Wednesday, snow is forecast at altitudes higher than 200 metres, while rain that has already flooded suburbs of the capital, Beirut, should continue.

In Egypt, rare downpours, strong winds and low visibility disrupted Suez Canal operations over the past three days and also led to the closure of several ports. The number of ships moving through the Suez Canal had fallen by half because of poor visibility, the official MENA news agency reported. A canal official said that by Wednesday, operations had returned to normal. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief reporters.

MENA also reported 10 fishermen went missing after their boat capsized near Marsa Matrouh on the Mediterranean.

Stormy weather sparked widespread flooding, prompting chaos on the roads and a nationwide school closure in Lebanon.

In Syria, where a civil war is raging, snow was piling up in and around the capital, Damascus. Officials said many villages in central Homs province and along the southern border with Israel have been cut off after heavy snowfall. Torrential rains are expected over the next three days with temperatures around freezing.  Some 2.5 million people within Syria have been displaced in fighting that has stretched on for nearly two years now.  From: AP / The Telegraph, Jan. 10, 2013)

 

Anger as pollution levels soar and toxic fog blankets China's capital

BEIJING:  The Chinese government issues warnings advising people to stay indoors as pollution levels rise to dangerous levels.  A blanket of toxic air that has blocked out the sun across most of north China is dominating social media and looming as a serious political challenge. Visibility was reduced to a few hundred metres for much of the weekend in the Chinese capital and many of the city's 20 million went online to vent their fury about ''apocalyptic'' and ''post-apocalyptic'' conditions. The Beijing News covered the story with the headline ''Blown the Charts'', showing that several air monitoring stations were recording levels higher than their indexes could cope with.  Even the Communist Party's staid official mouthpiece, The People's Daily, headed a page four article on Sunday with ''What's Going on With the Air?'' Monitors at the United States embassy in the suburb of Liangmaqiao, in Beijing's inner east, said the concentration of airborne PM 2.5 particulates reached 886 micrograms per cubic metre at 8pm on Saturday, believed to be the highest since it began measuring in 2008. Readings above 300 are classed as ''hazardous'' by US environmental standards. These PM 2.5 particulates, 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller, are considered the most harmful to health because they can penetrate easily into human tissue.

''I can tell you the machine is working properly,'' US embassy spokesman Nolan Backhouse said. The US embassy pollution monitor is published on a Twitter feed, which is blocked by censors in China, but is picked up and placed on several popular Chinese websites and iPhone applications. Beijing temporarily boosted its air quality for the 2008 Olympics including by improving vehicle emissions standards, banning coal stoves and shifting heavy industry to poorer parts of the country. But many of those gains appear to have been offset by an explosion in the numbers of cars on the roads. Air pollution was the top-ranking story on the country's most popular news portals, and Chinese weather reports said cold, moist and windless atmospheric conditions could keep pollution at high levels until Tuesday.  (John Garnaut, SMH, January 14, 2013)

 

 

Economics

 

Great threat of China, economist John Hewson warns

ECONOMIST John Hewson, architect of the GST, has predicted the world faces economic gloom for possibly more than a decade. Dr Hewson, who led the federal Liberal Party in the 1990s after having worked as an economist for the Reserve Bank of Australia, the International Monetary Fund and Treasury, also warned that Australia's heavy reliance on the Chinese economy was unhealthy, reports the Herald Sun.  "It doesn't make good governance at all to be so deeply in debt to China," he said. "Our minerals boom can evaporate and in any case that boom is not of much benefit to the economy generally." Dr Hewson said "profits from mining are largely going offshore and are not staying onshore".  "One day, China will stop paying high prices for commodities, like Japan and Korea did before them."

He recommended Australia "diversify to other parts of the world, such as the Arab world".

On global economic volatility, Dr Hewson said he had never seen a "more uncertain set of factors before". "I believe we are in for a fairly difficult period for the next five or 10 or more years," he said at an Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry function in Melbourne last Friday night.  "The chances of a credit squeeze like the one in 2008 is not high, but there is a risk of one," Dr Hewson said, describing the current global volatility as worse than the Depression of the 1930s.

For Australia, he forecast "very flat economic growth for a decade or two" and a real chance that the European banking sector's problems could land Down Under.  "It's a systemic problem and it can spread internationally, and that is where Australian banks can hit the wall." He said the spiralling sovereign debt crisis had led to people losing confidence in governments' ability to deal with major issues.  "The failure of governments at all levels, whether it is the bureaucrats or politicians, has diminished their ability to govern in their own right," Dr Hewson said.

"That is why you see unity and coalition governments springing up everywhere, from the UK to Australia and this week in Greece, with Italy being next."  (Olga Galacho, Herald Sun, November 14, 2011)

 

Neoliberal disaster won't stop history repeating

How they must bleed for us. In 2012, the world's 100 richest people became $230 billion richer. They are now worth $1.8 trillion: just less than the entire output of Britain.  This is not the result of chance. The rise in their fortunes is the direct result of policies. Here are a few: the reduction of tax rates and tax enforcement; governments' refusal to recoup a decent share of revenues from minerals and land; the privatisation of public assets and the creation of a toll-booth economy; wage liberalisation and the destruction of collective bargaining.  The policies that made the global monarchs so rich are the policies squeezing everyone else. This is not what the theory predicted. Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and their disciples - in a thousand business schools, the International Monetary Fund , the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and just about every modern government - have argued that the less governments tax the rich, defend workers and redistribute wealth, the more prosperous everyone will be. Any attempt to reduce inequality would damage the efficiency of the market, impeding the rising tide that lifts all boats. The apostles have conducted a 30-year global experiment, and the results are now in. Total failure.  Before I go on, I should point out that I don't believe perpetual economic growth is either sustainable or desirable. But if growth is your aim - an aim to which every government claims to subscribe - you couldn't make a bigger mess of it than by releasing the super-rich from the constraints of democracy.  Last year's annual report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development should have been an obituary for the neoliberal model developed by Hayek and Friedman and their disciples. It shows unequivocally that their policies have created the opposite outcomes to those they predicted. As neoliberal policies (cutting taxes for the rich, privatising state assets, deregulating labour, reducing social security) began to bite from the 1980s onwards, growth rates started to fall and unemployment to rise.

The remarkable growth in the rich nations during the '50s, '60s and '70s was made possible by the destruction of the wealth and power of the elite, as a result of the 1930s Great Depression and World War II. Their embarrassment gave the other 99 per cent an unprecedented chance to demand redistribution, state spending and social security, all of which stimulated demand.  Neoliberalism was an attempt to turn back these reforms. Lavishly funded by millionaires, its advocates were amazingly successful - politically. Economically they flopped.  Throughout OECD countries, taxation has become more regressive: the rich pay less, the poor pay more. The result, the neoliberals claimed, would be that economic efficiency and investment would rise, enriching everyone. The opposite occurred. As taxes on the rich and on business diminished, the spending power of the state and poorer people fell, and demand contracted. Investment rates declined, in step with companies' expectations of growth.

The neoliberals also insisted unrestrained inequality in incomes and flexible wages would reduce unemployment. But throughout the rich world inequality and unemployment have soared. The recent jump in unemployment in most developed countries - worse than in any previous recession of the past three decades - was preceded by the lowest level of wages as a share of gross domestic product since World War II. Bang goes the theory. It failed for the same obvious reason; low wages suppress demand, which suppresses employment. As wages stagnated, people supplemented their income with debt. Rising debt fed the deregulated banks. We are all aware of the consequences. The greater inequality becomes, the UN report finds, the less stable the economy and the lower its rates of growth. The policies with which neoliberal governments seek to reduce their deficits and stimulate their economies are counter-productive. 

In Britain, where I live, the impending reduction of the top rate of income tax (from 50 per cent to 45 per cent) will not boost government revenue or private enterprise, but it will enrich the speculators who tanked the economy. Goldman Sachs and other banks are thinking of delaying bonus payments to take advantage of it. A welfare bill approved by Parliament last week will not help to clear the deficit or stimulate employment. It will reduce demand, suppressing economic recovery. The same goes for capping public sector pay. ''Relearning some old lessons about fairness and participation,'' the UN says, ''is the only way to eventually overcome the crisis and pursue a path of sustainable economic development.''

As I say, I have no dog in this race, except a belief that no one, in this sea of riches, should have to be poor. But staring dumbfounded at the lessons unlearned in the West, it strikes me that the entire structure of neoliberal thought is a fraud. The demands of the ultra-rich have been dressed up as sophisticated economic theory and applied regardless of the outcome. The complete failure of this world-scale experiment is no impediment to its repetition. This has nothing to do with economics. It has everything to do with power.  (George Monbiot, Guardian/The Canberra Times, Jan. 16, 2013)

 

US tyre boss punctures French workers' reputation for productivity

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US boss insults France's 'so-called workers' French workers have hit back at scathing comments made about them by Maurice Taylor, the CEO of US tyre company Titan International.

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PARIS: The head of the US tyre maker Titan International has fired a broadside at French ''so-called workers'', claiming they ''work only three hours a day'' and his company would be ''stupid'' to take over a factory in the country.

The letter from Titan's chairman and chief executive, Maurice Taylor, to France's Industry Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, reignited a heated debate over French productivity and waning competitiveness.

The letter in the financial daily newspaper Les Echos from ''The Grizz'', as Mr Taylor is known, is unabashed: ''The French workforce gets paid high wages but work only three hours. They get one hour for breaks and lunch, talk for three and work for three. I told the French union workers to their faces. They told me that's the French way!''

Titan Tire Corporation President Maury Taylor has written a stinging letter to the French government, blasting the French work ethic saying workers waste time talking.  Mr Montebourg had floated the idea that Titan, which makes agricultural tyres, might take over a Goodyear factory in Amiens, threatened with closure.  The communist-backed CGT union, France's largest, strongly opposed a Titan takeover last year. Mr Montebourg had hoped to rekindle the company's interest but admitted defeat this month.  ''Sir, your letter says you want Titan to start a discussion,'' Mr Taylor said. ''How stupid do you think we are? Titan is the one with the money and the talent to produce tyres. What does the crazy union have? It has the French government. The French farmer wants cheap tyres. He doesn't care if those tyres come from China or India or if those tyres are subsidised.

''Titan is going to buy Chinese or Indian tyres, pay less than €1 ($1.30) an hour to workers and export all the tyres that France needs,'' he said. ''In five years, Michelin won't be producing tyres in France. You can keep your so-called workers.''  (Henry Samuel, SMH, Feb. 22, 2013

 

 

National

 

Gang crime crackdown  ... Prime Minister plans to hunt down ganglords.

CRIMINALS face the seizure of luxury cars, houses and cash assets under a national blitz to fight gang-related crime.

Julia Gillard today announced a new taskforce to crack down on gangs as she searches for a political circuit-breaker.

The taskforce will tackle sophisticated gang operations involved in weapons trading and drug dealing, which has resulted in shootings in Melbourne and Sydney. ''It means that they are moving a lot of money around and it means that their activities span the borders of any one state,'' Ms Gillard said. Ms Gillard says it's modeled on the FBI's Violent Gangs Safe Street Taskforce, which has made 55,000 arrests in the US since 2001.

''These are new measures to try and make sure we are combating the gangs and guns on our streets,'' the PM said.

Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare and Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus lined up to confirm the new $64 million taskforce, including state and federal police.  The idea is the brainchild of the AFP Commissioner who advised the Gillard government the best way to fight gang-related crime was to ensure state and federal agencies were working more closely together.  Cyber investigators will be deployed to search Centrelink and Tax Office records of suspected criminals.

Strike teams will join the AFP's Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce to seize assets purchased with crime proceeds.

"Money creates power in the criminal underworld and if police have more power to seize assets it will shift that balance," Mr Clare told The Sunday Telegraph.  "The more power police have to seize their cars, their cash, their jet skis and their houses will make a real difference.  "People don't care which level of government is responsible for what - they just want this problem addressed."  Strike teams will be established in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with liaison officers also appointed in Adelaide, Darwin and Perth.  Based on the FBI's Violent Gang Safe Street Taskforce model that was responsible for 55,000 arrests in the US from 2001, it will include 70 members from the AFP, state police forces, the Australian Crime Commission, Customs, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Tax Office and Centrelink.

The decision follows a wave of gun-related crime across Australia, including shootings in suburban streets.

"People are very worried and with good reason. When there's a shooting in your street or in your neighbourhood people are very worried," Mr Clare said.  The Prime Minister called Premier Barry O'Farrell last night to inform him of the formation of the taskforce. Mr Clare, who holds the western Sydney seat of Blaxland on a margin of 12 per cent, said

Labor faced a tough challenge across Australia.  Last week, The Sunday Telegraph published secret union polling suggesting double-digit swings that would mean the previously safe seat of Werriwa falls to the Liberals on September 14.

A ReachTEL automated robot poll yesterday suggested a wipe-out in western Sydney with Werriwa, Chifley, Blaxland and Higher Education Minister Chris Bowen's seat of McMahon at risk unless the party switched to Kevin Rudd.

Mr Clare insisted the gang-related crime taskforce was not a political stunt but a recommendation of the AFP.

He said the next step would be national laws on unexplained wealth, a move that has run into political turbulence with state governments. And he pointed to last week's record seizure of 585kg of the drug ice, worth about $438 million, in an operation involving federal and NSW police as an example of what could be done.

Mr Clare said the strike teams would be supported by physical and technical surveillance teams in Sydney and Melbourne. They will collect and share intelligence on the activities of gang members.

NSW Police Minister Mike Gallacher said the state had been calling for federal assistance to tackle the problem of gangs and drugs for a long time and he was glad Canberra had acknowledged the issue. But he said there had been minimal consultation and the states remained in the dark about the details. ''I got a phone call last night ... my Queensland counterpart got a phone call very late last night. I don't think the Victorians even got a phone call,'' he said.

Mr Gallacher said $64 million wasn't a lot when spread among the states and territories over four years.

''If they're restricting it to just to a small number of states, then clearly we're going to have a problem, because if you're going to secure the nation you don't put a security door on your front door and leave the back door wide open,'' he said.

'If it's serious in terms of providing intel to the NSW police, then obviously we would welcome that. ''But the biggest gift the Federal Government can give to every state is reinvestment of money to customs to stop the drugs and guns getting into the country in the first place.'' Commissioners from the states and territories will discuss it at a meeting next week, he said.

The national taskforce will be based on the model used in Taskforce Polaris which was established in 2010 to the Federal Government established Taskforce Polaris to investigate organised crime on the waterfront in Sydney.  Involving officers from the AFP, the New South Wales Police Force as well as officers from Customs, the Australian Crime Commission and the New South Wales Crime Commission, it is the model for the new gang-related crime taskforce. investigations have already led to 34 arrests, 154 charges and the seizure of 12 tonnes of illicit substances seized.  (The Sunday Times, March 3, 2013)

 

Julia Gillard's private car caught 8 times in 6 months

PRIME Minister Julia Gillard's taxpayer-subsidised private car has been caught eight times in six months for traffic offences, but who was behind the wheel?

The offences were listed in official documents detailing MPs' expenses over a six-month period last year and tabled in Parliament. While other MPs say how the fines were incurred and by whom, Ms Gillard's office referred inquiries to Special Minister of State Gary Gray, whose office passed the matter to the Finance and Deregulation Department. The department has requested an application under Freedom of Information laws before it will reveal the details. Under parliamentary entitlement guidelines, MPs are entitled to a private vehicle in addition to use of a ComCar and hire cars.

The rules also allow nominated staff and family members to drive the cars.  The fines listed in the latest departmental expense documents - which lists MPs' claims to July, 2012 - show they were issued between December 2, 2011, and March 10 last year. MPs must pay the fines out of their own pocket, together with a $25 departmental processing fee per fine.

A spokeswoman for Ms Gillard said: "Where incurred, traffic infringement notices are paid by the person responsible with no cost to the taxpayer. The infringements have been paid in full."

Two years ago, Ms Gillard's private-plated, taxpayer-funded car was snapped twice in six months by police.

Ms Gillard said at the time that her partner Tim Mathieson had accepted responsibility for the infringements, which included speeding and going through a red light. But the Prime Minister was far from top of the list in the number of fines her office racked up. Former Labor attorney-general Robert McClelland copped 13 fines. He was unavailable for comment. Both Education Minister Peter Garrett and Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison were fined for failing to pay tolls. Both blamed faulty toll tags.  Opposition tourism spokesman Bob Baldwin blamed a staffer for collecting most of his five fines.

"I do over 80,000km a year in my car, but most of those were speeding fines from a staff member who kept getting pinged in the same spot," he said. "One speeding fine was probably mine." ( Linda Silmalis, Sunday Mail (SA), Jan.  5, 2013)

 

The ticking Budget debt bomb: Gillard's gift to Oz

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan / Pic: Ray Strange Source: The Daily Telegraph

ONE of the nation's top financiers yesterday joined the debate on the country's rising debt level - describing it as dangerously high. Government debt levels forecast to blow out by 80 per cent to $165 billion in this term alone - $14,000 for every working Australian.  "It just shouldn't be this high," said Mr Oliver, who said the government hadn't taken advantage of the decade-long resources boom.  "If you take Ireland for example, it has had a similar level of public debt to Australia in 2007 and only six years later, debt is over 100 per cent of GDP."  The Federal Government has deliberately stalled negotiations over school funding reform in order to win an "education election".

JULIA Gillard has failed to rule out if Labor will raid super funds in the May budget, while Tony Abbott has vowed to leave it untouched.  After The Daily Telegraph yesterday cited Bank of America Merrill Lynch research forecasting net debt would rise by $21 billion in the May Budget, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last night went on the attack: "My fear, and the growing fear of the Australian public, is that the government will try to solve its problems by increasing your problems.

"We have a prime minister that is mortgaging your future to secure her future."

A $21 billion hit to debt in the Budget would take total net debt to $164.3 billion, from $143.3 billion forecast in the mid-year budget review released in October - an increase of about 83 per cent from $89.5 billion since Labor retained office in 2010.  Market Economics managing director Stephen Koukoulas, a former adviser to Ms Gillard, last night said Labor had made the choice to support local jobs during the global financial crisis.  "The fact is Australia's net debt is dramatically lower than the net debt levels for every single major advanced economy," he said.

A spokesman for Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury last night described the BOA report as "misleading" because it didn't take into account the $160 billion hit to revenues during the 2008-09 GFC, when the government accrued debt to stop the economy going into recession.  Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey said Labor should be comparing its performance with those of developed, commodity-exporting countries with balance sheets in the black, such as Chile, Sweden, Finland and Norway.

 

Comment: Gillard leaves a legacy of debt

Australian taxpayers should be very afraid.  This fiscal inept federal Labor government is about to bring down its latest and hopefully last Budget by the “World’s Best Treasurer”.  Look forward to lots of big budget announcements, more middle-class welfare and big promises, but just remember we have recorded debt and promises that will be funded by borrowed money, accumulating record interest repayments, to be left for future generations to pay. What a legacy the Gillard government will leave, should they lose the next election.  (Janice Russell, Malua Bay)

 

Labor's class war is not so classy

THERE is nothing so dangerous as somebody with nothing to lose.

And so the nation should have a lot to fear from the Gillard government in its current kamikaze state.

All but the most deluded Labor MPs know that the party is heading for a landslide defeat of epic proportions.

It is the political equivalent of being hit by an asteroid.

Wayne Swan has one more budget before he and his colleagues are consigned to electoral oblivion. Already he has been forced to abandon his much vaunted surplus because of his botched mining tax - first going for a blatant cash grab to distract attention from the dumped ETS in 2010 and then swinging back so far the other way that the mining tax mach II has effectively failed to raise any revenue whatsoever.  And so having tried and failed to raid the cookie jar of the resources boom, the Treasurer has now turned his attention to Australians' superannuation savings. You can almost see the dollar signs in his eyes.

The fact that this move is even being contemplated is emblematic of all that is wrong with the Labor government and tells us why it has seen a mass exodus ahead of its inevitable plunge to the ocean floor.  Firstly, as rebel statesman Simon Crean told the Financial Review, it is a trashing of Labor's own legacy. The party that created Australia's landmark compulsory superannuation contribution scheme - the Snowy Hydro of its day - is now picking it apart one thread at a time.

The second problem is that, by targeting the contributions of higher income earners and then working down to whatever threshhold it needs to make ends meet - as the government is tipped to do - it sends a clear message that is is still fixated by the undergraduate "class war" mentality that has both failed to recapture its working class base while at the same time estranging middle-class and aspirational voters.  But then again, who cares? Not only will Ms Gillard lose government in September but Mr Swan will likely lose his seat. Their political careers are over and the flailing and backflipping all over Labor's core policy beliefs mean they do not even have a legacy to preserve.  In short, they have nothing to lose by raiding what's left of the Treasury coffers with the zeal of wanted bushrangers. Indeed, there will no doubt be a school of thought within the party that they should bleed the war chest dry so as to starve Tony Abbott of funds in his first years in office.  On that note we can offer them at least this consolation: So generous, vague and uncosted are the Opposition Leader's promises thus far - not least his pie in the sky maternity leave proposal - that he will have quite enough trouble funding them without Labor torching the village on the way out.  And so we urge the government to put the national interest ahead of its own political interests in framing next month's budget. Think of the long-term future of our country.  Yes, Labor is to be defeated but it can still be defeated with dignity and have history remember that it at least did one thing right.  (The Daily Telegraph, March 27, 2013)

 

Boats will blow out immigration budget

SRI Lanka's navy says it has seized a fishing trawler carrying at least 97 asylum seekers on their way to Australia.

A surge in boat arrivals will almost certainly blow out the immigration budget with a second rescue of asylum seekers on an overcrowded boat.  A pregnant asylum seeker deemed a security risk by ASIO was offered free domestic help and childcare while another detainee has had drooping eyelids fixed by taxpayers.  An array of non urgent medical treatment provided to detainees has been revealed including a suspected war criminal who had his impacted wisdom teeth removed at no cost to him.   Details of treatment were contained in Ombudsman's reports on long term detainees and come as the government announced the latest asylum boat detected yesterday had 147 passengers on board, the biggest arrival since October last year.

Most of the detainees who have been given everything from free glasses and orthotics to dietary counselling to combat high cholesterol, have been rejected as refugees and are exhausting appeals or have received a negative ASIO security assessment.   In August last year immigration official offered the pregnant 33-year-old, whose third son was born in January, free "domestic assistance, occasional childcare support and assistance with (her daily) routine" on the advice of an occupational therapist and a psychologist. The woman, who had attended ante-natal appointments at Fairfield Hospital while living in residential housing in the Villawood complex, rejected the offer. She and her two sons arrived by boat in May 2010 and were in community detention, where she married her husband in April last year, until her release was revoked in April after ASIO delivered an adverse security assessment.  A 27-year-old Tamil Tiger had his impacted wisdom teeth extracted in June at Whyalla in South Australia, two months after he complained of dental pain.  He has been in detention since arriving by boat in December 2009 and was rejected as a refugee after Department of Immigration officials found "serious reasons for considering (the man) had committed a war crime or a crime against humanity."

A Department spokesman declined to comment on the man's case.The 38-year-old with drooping eyelids overstayed a business visa before being rejected as a refugee, prompting attempts to remove him.  While he has been in detention in Sydney, the man has had three rounds of surgery between December 2009 and January 2011 to correct his eyelids.  A Department spokeswoman said surgery was never provided for "purely cosmetic reasons."   Other cases include a 35-year-old with two wives who has been treated for everything from hearing problems to reflux and insomnia since arriving by boat in 2009.   "These cases, especially that of that of a suspected war criminal will do more than test the patience of the Australian public," Opposition Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said. A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration said it had a "non delegable duty of care" to ensure the health and welfare of detainees and that care "is funded by the Australian Government."  She said treatment had to be clinically recommended by "health professionals such as GPs, dentists and medical specialists."  Meanwhile, the government is reportedly considering a plan to move families out of community detention onto bridging visas to save money in the May budget.  Families would be treated the same as single asylum seekers who receive about $440 a fortnight and some rent assistance to live in the community. Prime Minister Julia Gillard would only say yesterday that a decision had not been taken. (Gemma Jones, The Telegraph, March 28, 2013)

 

There's more to Ellen DeGeneres' popularity in Australia than our obsession with celebrity culture. 

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What is about Ellen? Stars can't get enough. From her contribution to the gay community, to her knack for getting hips shaking, Aussie stars on her Melbourne party red carpet had no shortage of reasons for loving Ellen DeGeneres.  Autoplay OnOff

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When American talk show host Ellen DeGeneres appeared in Sydney and Melbourne this week, she was greeted with scenes of mass hysteria.  Hundreds of fans camped overnight to get a good position. Thousands more queued for hours, undeterred by the baking heat. When DeGeneres stepped on stage, the crowd roared and waved and conveyed their adoration with enormous banners.  This would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Back then, public pandemonium was the preserve of teenage ABBA fans. Australians, as a general rule, did not lose their minds over daytime TV hosts. Only in America was such unabashed public fandom acceptable.  That notion was put to rest when Oprah Winfrey stood on set in 2010 and declared – in her shouty, vowel-heavy manner – "We're! Going! To! AUSTRALI-YAAAAAAAAAH!"

Her studio audience practically wet themselves with excitement. That was nothing, however, compared to the reaction on our shores. Grown-ups chucked sickies to scream at her in public. Local celebrities fell over themselves to be seen with her. Hugh Jackman even risked his life to make a memorable entrance.  But why? What is it about Ellen, Oprah and their peers that makes otherwise rational people behave like the front three rows at a One Direction concert?

The popularity of their TV programs doesn't fully explain it. Daytime TV, after all, has relatively small audiences. Local (evening) talk show host Rove McManus had more viewers than Winfrey and DeGeneres combined in his heyday, but would never have matched their huge public turnouts.

The fact these hosts are American plays a greater role. The Logie Awards, for instance, just wouldn't be the same without a bewildered US celebrity being couriered in to validate its existence. The Voice wouldn't be as popular without its international coaches. Indeed, we only bestow the honourable title "Our" on movie stars such as Nicole Kidman, who are successful enough to live somewhere else.  As celebrity culture becomes more pervasive, influencing even our political discourse, fame becomes an increasingly valuable currency. Simply having a high profile is something to strive for and applaud, regardless of how it's achieved.  At least, that's the view of older generations: those who look askance at the crowds Winfrey and DeGeneres attract, dismissing their noisy affection as brash, unseemly and vacuous in the extreme. It's also the view of self-consciously alternative types who reward their favourite artists with understated "respect". (Because displaying actual enthusiasm is lame.)

Except there's something off about both points of view. Older generations might not have screamed and waved at TV stars – but they were prone to over-the-top reactions to visiting royals and popes.  Personally, I'd rather salute a down-to-earth comedian who promotes social equality.  And it's refreshing to see DeGeneres win mainstream appeal. Twenty years ago, her popularity would have hinged on her physical appearance. Fifty years ago, it would have depended on her being stereotypically feminine and uncontroversial, giggling at men's jokes instead of cracking her own.  Instead, she's cultivated a wide fan base simply by being herself: a middle-aged, married gay woman who gets about in jeans and sneakers and makes people laugh. She does not obsess over her appearance or put herself down publicly. She treats her guests with irreverence and good humour. Sometimes, she's serious, such as when she fights for marriage equality. Sometimes, she's not, such as when she does her funny dance on TV. Her motto is "be kind to one another", a creed by which she seems to live.

People of all backgrounds – young and old, male and female, gay and straight – seem to like her. There's much to celebrate about this fact, without it being viewed as a harbinger of cultural decline.  Not everyone who turned out to see DeGeneres in Australia is a celebrity-worshipping daytime TV addict. For many, it was nothing more than a few hours of fun. Perhaps there's nothing more complicated to it than that. (Michael Lallo, SMH, March 28, 2013)

 

Houso rorters shown the door

PUBLIC housing freeloaders who "inherited" leases from their parents will be kicked out and forced to fork out for private rentals as part of a major state government shake-up of tenancy rules.  The move is aimed at addressing the state's public housing crisis by freeing up properties occupied by freeloaders to offer to some of the 55,479 people on the waiting list.

From the end of March, when a tenant has to leave their home, the children, younger spouses and other people approved to live in the home will no longer be able to inherit the public housing tenancy. The government hopes its tough new rules will break the cycle of public housing in some families by forcing offspring tenants to effectively re-qualify for a home.

Housing NSW believes there are hundreds of cases of children who have taken over a property by default despite being able-bodied and capable of earning an income. The government will introduce a tough new succession of tenancy policy to ensure only those in desperate need stay on.  The changes, to come into effect later this month, will not apply to residents over 55 or legal guardians of a minor. Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward said public housing was not a life long benefits that parents could pass on to their children.

"I have taken a close look at the practice of what is called succession of tenancy," she said. "Under this policy, currently when a parent has to leave their public housing home, for example to go into a nursing home, their able bodied children can take over the public housing lease and stay there for life. "Public housing is meant to be a hand up, not a life-long benefit which parents can pass to their children. "This is not fair."  The government last year cracked down on people on the waiting list, removing those who did not stay in touch, only to resurface back into their original position in the queue. It also released details of waiting lists times in others states and territories to allow those in need of housing to move interstate. The department has also identified 1300 people who have been living in public housing for free. They will soon be charged rent. A further 1600 who have been suspected of freeloading are under investigation. Ms Goward said tenants who inherited a property but no longer fit the criteria to stay on would be given six months to find a private rental.  (Linda Silmalis, The Sunday Telegraph, March 03, 2013)

 

No fair go for older workers

HUNDREDS of thousands of older Australians say they want to work and are actively looking for a job but are not being given a fair go by employers.   Mature-age applicants say companies and recruitment agencies are secretly implementing age limits on new employees and ignoring decades of work experience in favour of younger job seekers with university qualifications.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has been forced to intervene in 84 reported cases of age discrimination, with research revealing one third of workers aged 55-plus had been silent victims. An ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research report found there were approximately 320,000 unemployed Australians aged 55 and over who wanted a job but had been discouraged from applying by poor experiences during the application process.  The centre's senior research fellow Rafal Chomik said age discrimination by employers was a significant barrier to the retention and new employment of mature-age workers - and the economy was missing out on the benefits. An increase in mature-age participation rates by just 5 per cent would contribute about $30 billion to the economy every year, his study found. "The barriers that lead to their inactivity come at a high cost of foregone potential," Mr Chomik said.  "This is despite the value of older workers, their mature judgment, their reliability and loyalty and the fact that business can benefit from workers that resemble their client demographic.".

A survey by the Financial Services Council showed one in three older workers had experienced discrimination in the workplace at a time when they were finding it hard to build the superannuation they needed for retirement.  The council's chief executive John Brogden said attitudes towards older workers needed to change. "We need to end the concept of full-time work followed by full-time retirement," Mr Brogden said.  The Fair Work Ombudsman's most recent figures show there were 1040 discrimination complaints, including 84 relating to age discrimination, in the 2011-12 financial year.  The cases were deemed so serious they were escalated to a full investigation by Fair Work inspectors after an initial assessment. Out-of-work plumber Paul Green, 62, said he had discovered two large companies had a no-recruitment policy for people aged over 30 and 40 respectively during his two-year search for a job.  "The government should name and shame the companies who blatantly ignore the age discrimination laws," Mr Green said. "I was kidding myself into thinking with my experience and qualifications I would secure another job." Australian Bureau of Statistics report into unemployment numbers found one in four people aged 55 to 59 had faced difficulty applying for jobs but still had hopes of finding stable employment.  The figure rose to 46 per cent for people aged 60-64.  (Laura Speranza, The Sunday Telegraph, March 02, 2013)

 

'National interest' is in Labor's interest

Suggestions elsewhere in the media that Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's attitude to the print media resembles that of Josef Stalin serve as a memory jogger to the last time Labor confronted the newspapers in Australia. The year was 1944 and the Soviet Union, led by the totalitarian dictator Stalin, was an ally in the war against the Axis powers.

Quite a few members of the left do not much like the media and oppose a free press. Arthur Calwell, who was appointed information minister in John Curtin's Labor government in September 1943, was a life-long, left-wing media hater. He was wont to rail against what he termed ''the harlots of the press''.  By the time Calwell made it into the cabinet, the immediate threat to Australia had passed and both Japan and Germany were experiencing setbacks. Nevertheless, he saw this as a time to increase censorship of newspapers, then the principal means of communicating news. Calwell, and his departmental head Edmund Bonney, decided to exercise censorship not only with respect to military secrets but also concerning what they regarded as public morale.  The intrusion of censorship into the area of morale led inevitably to a situation when Calwell and Bonney were deciding on whether or not political news and comment could be published. The full story is told in Paul Hasluck's official history, The Government and the People: 1942-1945. The matter came to a head in April 1944 when Frank Packer's Daily Telegraph was suppressed for publishing blank columns where censored sections had been deleted. Packer was supported by Warwick Fairfax's Sydney Morning Herald. Both papers were suppressed on April 17, 1944.

Calwell's actions were taken to the High Court. Chief Justice Sir John Latham suggested a conference which could resolve the tension between the minister and the press. In May the Curtin government accepted that, in future, ''censorship shall be imposed exclusively for reasons of defence security''. Calwell and Bonney were thwarted in their effort to regulate the media for political reasons.  It is no secret that some members of the Rudd and Gillard governments regard some News Limited papers - particularly The Australian and The Daily Telegraph - as having been unfair in their political reporting. John Howard and some of his colleagues held a similar view about The Australian's handling of the AWB wheat-for-food controversy concerning Iraq. However, Howard did not see this as a reason to strike against News Limited. In any event, his government's decline was not due to criticism in the News Limited publications and he understood this.  Labor's recent problems are not due to News Limited. They turn essentially on its attempts to impose an unpopular emissions trading scheme, or carbon tax, and its policy approach to asylum seekers. However, Conroy and some of his colleagues are determined to punish News Limited. His proposed legislation has had the unintended consequence of rallying other media companies to oppose the governments' approach - since the proposed restrictions on press freedom affect virtually every business in the fold.  The legislation is complicated. Special attention has turned on Conroy's intention to appoint a public interest media advocate who would be chosen by the government and who would have substantial powers with respect to media ownership and media standards.  The concept of deciding the ''public interest'' in a democracy is all but impossible. The nature of representative government is that there are competing interests which are resolved in a non-violent manner.

It was much the same with the Prime Minister's interview published by Fairfax Media on Monday. Julia Gillard told journalist Michael Gordon on no fewer than three occasions that the government is serving ''the national interest''.

It is true that there are some matters which invariably equate with the national interest. Most notably, national security. However, the Prime Minister of a minority government has little standing to claim that her interpretation of the national interest is correct and rival interpretations are simply wrong.  In democratic politics, citizens genuinely disagree on what constitutes the national interest and/or the public interest with respect to political, economic and social matters. There are some Australians who agree that newspapers should be subjected to greater regulation by a government-appointed public interest media advocate. Others regard such an approach as involving excessive regulation at best and a degree of Stalinism at worst.  Labor's attempt at controlling the newspapers failed in the mid-1940s because, even in wartime, a majority of Australians wanted their political news as unfiltered as possible. Conroy's approach is not identical to Calwell's. What the two Labor politicians have in common is belief in regulation and a dislike of sections of the print media.  (Gerard Henderson, (executive director of The Sydney Institute), National Times, March 19, 2013)

 

A suburb that I used to know

Wilbur Street, Greenacre? I remember it well. I remember riding my bike around Wilbur Street, and when I ran away from home at 10 I hid in the corner telephone box. I used to catch the bus to Lakemba when I missed the one from Roberts Road. Never a soul to be seen.  Roberts Road. We (the neighbourhood kids from Wilbur Street to Chaseling Street) used to play tennis on Roberts Road. All our street games were played on Roberts Road. We grew up on Roberts Road. Now it's a six-lane highway of murderous intent.  Roberts Park? Sure. That's where I used to play rugby league football for St John's Lakemba under-10s.  Garry Hughes played five-eighth and I played on the wing and Grahame Hughes was ball boy. We always had runaway victories there and we won the premiership – that was 1962. I can't remember any shootings at the time, but I believe it was the scene of one or two recently.  Nouriel Park, Greenacre? Yes, that's where I played in the under-9s for the Greenacre Soccer Club and trained every Monday afternoon. We were undefeated champions and KO winners. The year was 1961. Can't remember any rapes happening there – only cut legs and the odd broken limb. I believe it was the scene of a horrific rape a few years ago.

Lakemba? Sure, that's where we went to the Saturday matinee at the Odeon every week and watched such pearls as the Three Stooges, Jerry Lewis and Ben Hur.  We always bought chips and scallops at the Greek fish and chips shop waiting for the bus, and a small Coke, if we could afford it. This was even before supermarkets, or traffic lights, on Punchbowl Road.

I remember Mr Hodgkins, the local produce store owner warning us of the terrors of the supermarkets while he neatly wrapped the quarter pound of butter he had just sliced. I worked for him for a while delivering his junk mail – sorry, advertising leaflets – and working for five shillings twice a week after school.  Greenacre was my home, but it has changed. Some say for the better. Multiculturalism was the justification of all things hard to accept. My parents reflected stereotypical attitudes of the time – all foreigners were "wogs", unless they were Asian. Asians were "dirty", they would say.  It's easy to say you grow out of such perverse racism, but not entirely. There are scars. Even as I tried to reason with my mother as a university student, I knew I was tainted, possibly forever.  When you see your homeland, which was what Greenacre was, turned into a minefield, or a battlefield, or a refuge of drug dealers, criminals, drive-by shooters and terror – you find yourself in a quandary. It's all part and parcel of the greater good, of the New Australia, of the emergence of alternative cultures – it's just a settling-in process.  Whatever the apologists say, it's traumatic to read about the new Greenacre where I had my roots. It's tragic to see things go so wrong.

The police are powerless. I've seen it first-hand. They are harassed and intimidated for simply doing their job. The Premier says we can have confidence in the police to apprehend the culprits of a recent murder in Wilbur Street. Even if they do, which is unlikely, as the local residents live in permanent fear of reprisals, can they stop the next shooting and the next?

Soon Greenacre/Lakemba will be an enclave of little Lebanon, with all the worst features transported from a failed country to a new one, one still proud of its tolerance. I am told time and again that tolerance is not weakness. A bit like saying appeasement is not weakness. But I'm growing more sceptical.  That was my home – the place where I simply couldn't imagine living anywhere else once – transformed to the place where I could never imagine living again. I suppose once my generation dies out, everything the place once was dies too. And good for that, some would say.  For me, I moved to a safe haven on the north side – looking back not in anger, but in disbelief. (Peter Roberts, SMH, March 18, 2013)

 

The suburbs I still know

Peter Roberts has written an article, for this paper, about a suburb he used to know. It's Greenacre, which he evokes in the wistful terms of the good old days, you know, before them pesky Arabs brought crime to Sydney, or as he puts it "...all the worst features transported from a failed country to a new one".  He refers to the transformation of his once peaceful suburb as a "battlefield", a soon-to-be Little Lebanon, if it isn't already. And there's the usual rhetoric about tolerance equalling weakness and past generations dying out.  Blah blah – we've all seen and heard it a thousand times before. Depressingly, articles of this nature are increasingly common, and distressingly, they're given further prominence on national stages such as The Sydney Morning Herald.  I have so many problems with this, I don't even know where to start. Maybe I should begin with the blatant blanket racism, or the implication that murder and rape are part and parcel of "other" cultures – we didn't have it before; it came in with them.   Or maybe I should call it out for the lazy thinking it exemplifies. I could even talk about the stunning lack of personal responsibility attributed to the criminal actions of ethnic or indigenous people. When we commit crimes, it's a horrible symbol of entrenched, cultural failures that all good people should fear. But when a white man commits a crime, he's alone, isolated in his faults. Not a sign of a broken system – how could he be? This is why Arabs are Islamic terrorists and Andrew Breivik is just a murderer.

But we've heard all of this before, too – the pendulum swinging between those lacking the capability for critical thought and preferring instead the certainty of absolutism, and the rebuttals from the leftist hippies crying out "No, we're all good, really, you're just racist". Which is to say that no one ever says anything that matters and the cycle continues. I'd talk about the people in the middle but I haven't heard from them, and you're not likely to either.  Which leaves you with me: I apologise in advance. Let's talk about my upbringing, shall we? Like Peter, I grew up in Sydney's West, albeit much further out. I grew up on the streets of Liverpool, in the suburbs of Casula, Lurnea and Prestons. For the first decade of my life, I lived with my aunty, and on her street alone, we had four Tongan kids, two Aboriginals, a couple of Greeks, a few Italians, us Lebs and several Aussies. In the surrounding streets, there were a few more of each, plus a couple of Asian and Samoan boys thrown in the mix.  Our group ranged between the ages of 6 and 12, since the majority were older brothers forced to have their younger brothers with them. We roamed the streets together. We played touch and tackle footy on the concrete together. We broke in to our school together, on weekends, and played tag on the roof, above the walkways. We were delinquents, the whole multicultural lot of us. No racial hostility or angst between us. In fact, I wasn't properly aware of racism until high school.  But my point is this: we came from a range of different cultures, nestled in the Great White Bosom of Australian culture, and we walked together as juvenile delinquents. It wasn't ever a question of race, of not being raised in the right way.  Rather, we were poor (mostly) or lower-middle class, and we were bored, uneducated louts. Socio-economic difficulties are at the heart of this issue, but that's such an unsexy thing to say. We're talking about disenfranchised youths who are seen as "other", who are pushed to the outer, and who struggle to stay engaged in school. These are the people that become enmeshed in the easy way out – in drugs, and bad behaviour. 

I speak from experience. Most of those lovely kids I knew? I don't know them any more. They've been in and out of jail, stabbed, punched, beaten down, put in comas, killed. Some of them had kids together while still teenagers. Some few, I'm sure – I hope – broke through. I certainly did, thanks to books, thanks to reading. My Aussie step-dad bet me $10 that I couldn't finish a book and I was determined to prove him wrong, so I read it.

It was King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green. I haven't stopped reading since.

Unlike Peter Roberts, I didn't just leave. I don't look back on it and sneer. I still go back to my aunty's house once a week (if I can). I still walk those streets and alleys. I catch the same bus and see the same hard-working bus drivers and store owners, the same neighbours still doing their thing. The problem isn't just the state of our public education; isn't just that our commitment to it needs to be reaffirmed – regardless of the financial cost – it's also a fundamental failure in community.

Not just on account of the white man pointing a finger at everyone else and saying "they're the problem", but also on account of the people that make it, the people like me, that leave and never look back. We need to approach our problems as one, recognising personal accountability and reaffirming our communal dedication to education, to moving forward.

I'm reminded of the Cronulla Riots, specifically the day after, when I stood in front of the school assembly with my best friend and school captain, Glenn, and we each said a few words about the problems we faced, about the community we had and wanted to retain.  It's too easy and too sensational to blanket-label one group, one culture, or a whole bunch of them. It's too easy to draw a dividing line in the sand and walk away. It's so much harder to stay, acknowledge the difficulties you face, and work together to fix them. The funny thing about Casula, about Lurnea and Prestons, and yes, even Greenacre, is that they still stand precisely because people – not statistics, not criminals – but people, live and work there. (Omar Sakr, March 19, 2013)

 

 

International

 

Khamenei: Iran Will 'Annihilate' Tel Aviv, Haifa

Iran will "annihilate" the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa if it comes under attack by the Jewish state, "supreme leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned on Thursday.

"Every now and then the leaders of the Zionist regime threaten Iran with a military attack," Khamenei said in a live televised speech from the northeastern city of Mashhad, referring to Israel.  "They should know that if they commit such a blunder, the Islamic republic will annihilate Tel Aviv and Haifa," he said, according to the AFP news agency. 

On Wednesday, Khamenei urged the Iranian people to stand up to mounting Western sanctions as the country marked the beginning of the Persian New Year.  If Iranians show more "readiness" to face Western pressure, the next 12 months will be a "political and economic epoch" for the country, Khamenei said in a recorded message on state television, according to AFP   The year will be filled with "development, activity and dexterity," he vowed in the message aired shortly after Iranians celebrated the Persian New Year, or Nowruz, marking the transition of winter to spring.  He warned, however, that "it does not mean that the enmity of enemies will subside," alluding to Western opposition to Iran's nuclear program and harsh sanctions against the economy of the Islamic republic.  The ailing economy, which has long struggled with high inflation and unemployment, was further buffeted in 2012 by increasingly severe US and EU sanctions targeting its vital oil and financial sectors.  Iran's currency, the rial, has lost nearly two thirds of its value since late 2011.  However, Khamenei claimed that such hindrances had enabled Iran to gain "dexterity" in battling the sanctions, maintaining the regime was making progress despite such woes.  (Rachel Hirshfeld, IsraelNationalNews.com, March, 21, 2013)

 

Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's incitement to genocide

OVER the years, Americans have come to discount statements on Israel and Zionism by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Repetition has rendered them unremarkable.

Israel must be "wiped off the map." Zionism is a "germ of corruption" that "will be wiped off the face of the earth." It is a "cancer cell" that must be "removed from the body." The Zionist regime is "heading toward annihilation." "They should know that they are nearing the last days of their lives." "Israel is destined for destruction and will soon disappear."

One is tempted to add: blah, blah, blah. It is easy to dismiss this rhetoric as being designed for domestic consumption. And soon after Iran's June election, Ahmadinejad will be out of a job - history's single most persuasive argument in favour of term limits.  But the problem is this: Ahmadinejad's language is not exceptional within the Iranian regime.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also referred to Israel as a "cancerous tumour." "The perpetual subject of Iran," he has explained, "is the elimination of Israel from the region." "There is only one solution to the Middle East problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Jewish state." In recent weeks, Khamenei has promised, if the Iranian nuclear program is attacked, to "level down Tel Aviv and Haifa."

Senior Iranian military leaders, presidential advisers and religious authorities can be quoted endlessly in a similar vein. Zionists are "microbes" and "bacteria" and a "cancerous growth." "Jews are very filthy people," who are responsible for spreading disease and drug abuse. There is a religious duty to "fight the Jews and vanquish them so that the conditions for the advent of the Hidden Imam will be met."  Such arguments are deeply embedded in the Iranian regime - as a statement of mission, an organising principle. This won't be changed by a single election.  It is possible to overplay such rhetoric. The Iranian government is not simply an irrational, apocalyptic cult. It may eventually respond to sanctions. It is sometimes necessary for America to engage in diplomacy with very nasty people.  But it is possible to underplay this language as well. It is not merely hate speech. It has the hallmarks of incitement to genocide: the dehumanisation of a targeted group and the use of code words to cover genocidal intent. (In Rwanda, Tutsis were described as "snakes" and "cockroaches" who should be sent "down the river." The rivers were eventually clogged with corpses.)

One interesting theoretical question: Is such Iranian rhetoric a crime under the Genocide Convention of 1948 - to which Iran is a signatory - which forbids the "direct and public incitement to commit genocide"? The language of Iranian leaders is certainly direct and public. When forced to defend themselves, they often claim (unpersuasively) that their target is Zionists rather than Jews. But in the determination of genocidal intent, this doesn't matter. Genocide can be directed against any group - racial, ethnic, religious or national.  Yet the (rather thin) case law on incitement to genocide also requires an imminent threat of violence from the audience. In the Iranian case, the threat comes from government action - providing long-range missiles to Hamas or (down the road) the use of nuclear weapons.

In any event, a prosecution of Iranian officials for incitement to genocide is an exceedingly theoretical prospect, since it would require a referral from the United Nations Security Council - something Russia and China would not entertain.

But Iranian incitement should not be glossed over. It is not common, culturally excusable or normal among nations. "How many other states do we know," asks Michael Abramowitz, director of the Center for Genocide Prevention at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "that talk about other human beings in the way the Iranian leadership speaks of Israelis and Jews? They are conditioning generations of young people in their own country and the broader Middle East to think of Jews as subhuman, which makes acts of terror by groups like Hamas and Hezbollah seem more thinkable."  Several years ago, during an Iranian military parade, a Shahab-3 missile was decorated with the banner: "Israel must be uprooted and wiped from [the pages of] history." This can't be reasonably construed as a vivid political metaphor. It is the depiction of a twisted ideal, broadly shared within the Iranian regime. And it is one reason that President Barack Obama is right to draw his red line. Such a banner must never hang on an Iranian nuclear weapon. (Michael Gerson, The Australian, April 05, 2013)

 

Russian Ties Put Cyprus Banking Crisis on East-West Fault Line

LIMASSOL, Cyprus — Andreas Marangos, a Porsche-driving lawyer here, had just woken up when he heard the news that threatened to destroy his and Cyprus’s most lucrative business: setting up shell companies and providing financial services for wealthy Russians.  He rushed to his computer to check whether the “crazy talk” he had just heard was true — that his government had agreed last week to effectively confiscate 9.9 percent of the wealth of anyone holding more than 100,000 euros, about $129,000, in a Cyprus bank.  A week later, this Mediterranean island nation is still trying to figure out how to raise the $7.5 billion European lenders say it must have by Monday in return for a bailout. Late Saturday, the tentative plan was to seize a portion of all deposits above 100,000 euros, with the bite set at 20 percent for those banking with Cyprus’s biggest bank. For Mr. Marangos, either plan is bad news.

“Since last Saturday, we are just answering calls from angry clients,” said the lawyer, whose firm has helped Russians and Ukrainians set up 6,000 companies in Cyprus so that they can avoid taxes, benefit from a sound legal system and, they hoped, keep their money safe. Cyprus still offers those draws, he insisted, but his clients “thought we had betrayed them.”

Accusations of treachery, mostly aimed by poorer nations at Germany for demanding budget cuts and other painful steps in return for help, have become a regular feature of Europe’s three-year-old debt crisis. But what began in Cyprus as just another episode in a now-familiar narrative of stingy, rich Northern Europeans versus put-upon, poor southerners has escalated into a bigger drama tinged with cold war-style language and strategic calculations involving not just money but also energy and even military power.  Cyprus had been haggling with Europe for months over a bailout deal to rescue its bloated banks. Last week, the initial plan to seize money from even modest bank depositors sent swarms of panicked residents to automated teller machines to try to withdraw their money. But the crisis involves more than financial considerations.

“There is a geopolitical game going on behind all this,” Mr. Marangos said.  With just 860,000 people and a gross domestic product of only $23 billion, the Republic of Cyprus makes an unlikely strategic prize. But it sits atop a web of overlapping and potentially volatile fault lines — between East and West, the European Union and Russia, and Greece and Turkey, whose troops occupy the northern part of the island. It also has natural gas in the waters off its coast toward Israel. Nobody knows for sure yet how much — that may become clearer later this year when Houston-based Noble Energy carries out a new round of exploratory drilling.  But just the possibility of significant reserves has raised hope in Brussels, and fear in Moscow, that Cyprus could help break the European Union’s dependence on Russian-supplied gas.  “There is a clear danger of this area becoming a platform for confrontation between East and West,” said Harry Tzimitras, director of PRIO Cyprus Centre, a research center in the capital, Nicosia.   Cyprus has until now frozen out Russian interests from offshore gas concessions, snubbing a low bid by Novatek, a Russian company whose directors include Gennady Timchenko, a wealthy oil trader and judo club acquaintance of President Vladimir V. Putin’s. In talks last week in Moscow over a possible loan to Cyprus, Russia made clear that it expected a piece of the gas pie for its own companies, according to Cypriot officials and politicians.

In Russia’s view, Cyprus, which already has two British military bases, a legacy of the country’s colonial past, would also be an ideal place to set up a small naval installation should the Kremlin lose access to Tartus, a Syrian port that risks being swamped by that nation’s civil war.  The Moscow talks yielded no deal and dashed hopes that Russia might ride to the rescue. But many Cypriots still view Russia as a useful counterweight to bullying by Brussels. “We are not a Trojan horse for Russia in Europe, but we are trying to protect our interests like everyone does,” said Petros Zarounas, a diplomatic adviser to the Democratic Party, part of the governing coalition.  According to a recent opinion poll by Cyprus’s Sigma television, the public mood has turned decisively against Europe and toward Russia. More than two-thirds of those surveyed agreed that Cyprus should drop the euro and move closer to Russia because of the “behavior of our European partners.” Protesters outside Parliament last week waved banners cursing the European Union and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

With Cyprus’s banks closed for more than a week now, fear-driven rumors of secret deals and big power politics have become the main coin of the realm  As a team of European Union experts set up camp in Nicosia to try to figure out how to resuscitate the bailout package announced in Brussels on March 16 and declared dead on arrival by the Cypriot Parliament, a Russian-language radio station here led its news bulletins with reports of a “direct strike against Russia’s position” in the Mediterranean by Secretary of State John Kerry.  The report, on Russian Wave radio, said that Mr. Kerry had telephoned Cyprus’s finance minister and told him Washington was ready to help out, as long as Cyprus guaranteed a bigger role for the United States in gas concessions and raised the levy on large foreign depositors, many of them Russians, to 15 percent.

American officials said they knew of no such call by Mr. Kerry, and the radio station’s news anchor, Nedezhda Braun, acknowledged that her report might not be true. No matter, she said. Russians here were desperate for information about a crisis that has hit their community hard.  There are more than 50,000 Russian speakers from across the former Soviet Union living in Cyprus, according to the Association of Russian Businessmen in Cyprus. Many live in Limassol, or Limassolgrad, as some now call it. The city has two Russian-language newspapers, dozens of shops selling Russian products and a memorial to Russia’s national poet, Alexander Pushkin.  A host of Russian plutocrats have registered shell companies here and some have bought villas, but most fly in for short trips to consult with lawyers and bankers.

A few have even invested in real businesses. Dmitry Rybolovlev, a fertilizer billionaire, is one of the largest shareholders in the troubled Bank of Cyprus. One proposal said to have been under consideration last week in Moscow would have involved Mr. Rybolovlev’s increasing his stake and other Russian investors taking over the Popular Bank of Cyprus, an institution that the Cypriot government has since decided to effectively shut down.  The majority of the Russians who live here full time are of modest means, and they resent a widespread view of Cyprus as a haven for Russian crooks and dirty rubles. This view, encouraged by a leaked report from Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, underpins much of the resistance in Berlin and other European capitals to any bailout for Cyprus that does not squeeze wealthy foreigners.

“We are not criminals, arms dealers or bootleggers,” said Sergey Ivanov, a Russian who runs a wine business here. “There is a generation of Russian businessmen like me who have lost faith in the Russian government, in Russian banks and in Russian laws. That is why we are in Cyprus.” He said he was now wondering whether he should go home.

Others have already decided to call it quits, including Alexey Voloboev, who owns Russian Wave radio as well as a Russian restaurant and stakes in other Cypriot businesses. He is so angry with the proposed confiscation of depositors’ money and the damage this threat has done to business confidence that he now wants to sell and move to London.   “I knew it would be bad, but never expected it to be this bad,” he said. “I thought banks might go bankrupt, but not the whole country.”

To avoid that fate, Cyprus has until Monday to reach a new deal with its lenders: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The European bank has threatened to cut off vital short-term financing to Cyprus’s wobbly banks if no agreement is reached, an action that would upend the country’s biggest and already effectively insolvent banks and risk pushing the country toward default.

“This is all a dirty game to create a banking collapse,” fumed Yuri Pianykh of the Russian business association — aimed, he contends, at luring Russian money out of Cyprus to other European countries. He insisted the country had better safeguards to combat money laundering than many other European states and had been the victim of a German smear campaign.

David Officer, a sociologist at the University of Nicosia, said Cyprus had indeed enacted tough legislation to fight dirty money, “but the problem is implementation.” He said that “a culture of secrecy” allows billions of dollars from abroad to slosh through the financial services and real estate industries with little supervision.  

The dangers this creates are illustrated by the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a Moscow lawyer who was arrested after he helped expose how corrupt Russian officials had stolen $230 million in taxes paid by Hermitage Capital, an investment company formerly based in Moscow. After Mr. Magnitsky died in prison in 2009, Bill Browder, Hermitage’s American-born founder, tracked $31 million of the stolen money to various bank accounts in Cyprus.

Any dirty money flowing through Cyprus, however, is dwarfed by funds generated by legitimate businesses looking for easy and legal ways to avoid taxes. There are so many Russian companies registered in Cyprus for tax reasons that the tiny country now ranks as Russia’s biggest source of direct foreign investment, most of it from Russian nationals through vehicles registered in Cyprus.  While wealthier European countries object to practices that allow companies to sell their goods in one nation and book their profits in low-tax havens like Cyprus, Mr. Marangos, the lawyer, sees no reason for Cyprus to give up its financial service industry when its other best asset is sunny weather.   “We want to keep this industry,” he said. “Otherwise we will be selling ice cream and laying out sun beds.”  (Andrew Higgins, International Herald Tribune,  March 23, 2013)

 

RUSSIA: MPs ban Americans from adopting Russian orphans

Russia’s lower house of parliament has given preliminary approval to a ban on US-funded non-government organizations and adoptions of Russian children in the US, worsening tensions between the two countries.  The bans are retaliation for a law approved in the US this month that imposes a visa ban and asset freeze on Russian officials suspected of involvement in the deth of lawyer Sergei Magnitcky and other human rightd abuses. “This is the response of a sovereign state, protecting its citizens,” said Vladimir Pligin, a senior MP of the ruling United Russia party.  Mr Magnitsky, a lawyer for London-based Hermitage Capital, alleged a $US230 million tax fraud by Russian officials. He died in 2000 after being beaten in prison. (SMH, Dec. 21-23, 2012)

 

U.S. Penalizes Russians for Human Rights Violations

WASHINGTON — The United States imposed new sanctions Friday on about two dozen Russians accused of human rights violations, and Moscow vowed to retaliate as a fractious dispute between the two countries escalated further into a cold war-style, tit-for-tat clash.   The Obama administration barred 18 Russians from traveling to the United States and froze any assets they may have here under a new law intended to punish human rights violations. A handful of other more highly placed officials, including the head of the Russian region of Chechnya, were put on a list not publicly revealed. Russian officials promised to ban a like number of Americans.   The back and forth was reminiscent of the days when the two powers expelled equivalent numbers of diplomats to disrupt spy rings or signal displeasure, underscoring the depth of discontent just four years after President Obama resolved to reset the relationship. The dispute has already resulted in Moscow shutting down American adoptions of Russian orphans. The new sanctions came just days before Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, Tom Donilon, travels to Moscow to try to smooth over the tension.  The public sanctions targeted largely midlevel officials but the classified list included Ramzan A. Kadyrov, the president of Chechnya, a Kremlin ally known as a ruthless ruler, according to people briefed on the list. Others on the secret list were figures of such prominence in Russia that the administration feared identifying them might invite retaliation by President Vladimir V. Putin against similarly situated American officials like members of Congress.  While critics were disappointed the scope was not more expansive, some called it a powerful statement of values and a first step in a broader effort to hold human rights abusers accountable.  “We’ve just crossed the threshold,” said William F. Browder, once a prominent foreign investor in Russia who lobbied Congress to pass the law requiring sanctions after his lawyer died in a Moscow jail. “This is the end of impunity. This is a historic moment and the United States has made a very strong statement about human rights abuses.”  Russia has assembled its own list of Americans to ban, dubbed by some the “Guantánamo list,” in reaction to Friday’s move. “We will respond to it, and the American side knows it,” said Sergey V. Lavrov, the foreign minister. “The timing is bad.”

The move could undercut any good will engendered by an Obama administration decision to scale back missile defense in Europe. But there were signs the two sides hoped to keep the issue from escalating further. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said the administration was “very frank and candid” with Moscow about human rights but “we will engage with the Russians” on other important matters. Moscow evidently expected the American action to be tougher. The newspaper Kommersant reported that the government had identified 104 Americans to ban if necessary. Aleksei K. Pushkov, the hawkish head of a parliamentary international affairs committee, told the Interfax news agency that the Obama administration was “taking the minimalist path” to avoid a deeper political crisis before Mr. Donilon’s visit.  Administration officials recognized that release of the list, required by Saturday under the law, would complicate Mr. Donilon’s visit. But they decided to proceed with the trip anyway because Mr. Obama is to meet with Mr. Putin on the sidelines of an economic summit meeting in Northern Ireland in June and then travel to Russia in September.  Of the 18 Russians identified on the unclassified list, all but two are tied to the death of Sergei L. Magnitsky, the lawyer for Mr. Browder who was investigating official corruption only to be arrested and die in custody in 2009. His death became a cause célèbre for Russia critics, and the American sanctions law was named for him.   Among those targeted Friday were investigators, tax officials, judges and prison supervisors connected to Mr. Magnitsky’s case. The other two were Chechens implicated in prominent murders: Lecha Bogatirov, accused of gunning down Umar S. Israilov, a Chechen dissident, on the streets of Vienna in 2009, and Kazbek Dukuzov, accused of murdering the American journalist Paul Klebnikov in Moscow in 2004.

Many of those penalized were already barred from obtaining visas and it is not clear whether any of them have assets in the United States. Even so, Russians complained that the blacklist makes those on it pariahs and will make it hard for them to travel or invest in Europe.  “What is important for the Russian authorities is the fact that this list exists at all,” said Aleksei Makarkin, an analyst at Moscow’s Center for Political Technologies. “For the first time, there is officially some number of Russian officials considered guilty of violating human rights.” Elena A. Panfilova, director of Transparency International in Russia, said that the officials had plenty of time to transfer any vulnerable property, but that: “It’s all about sending a message. If you restrict somebody’s rights, expect someone to restrict yours.”  American officials said the list was only the beginning. “This is not a one-time-only act,” said a senior administration official who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity. “The law makes clear that additional names should be added as additional information becomes available.”

Even so, the list disappointed lawmakers and rights activists in Washington. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, called the announcement “so damaging” because the list was not robust enough. He vowed new legislation to go after abusers.   Representative Jim McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, had sent the administration a list of 280 Russians compiled by Mr. Magnitsky’s family for possible sanctions, including senior officials like Yuri Y. Chaika, the country’s general prosecutor.   Lawmakers like Mr. McGovern wanted the administration to apply the sanctions to anyone about whom there was “credible information” on rights violations. But the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control required a higher degree of evidence normally used with economic sanctions, because if challenged in court, it will have to justify depriving people of assets.  “While the list is timid and features more significant omissions than names, I was assured by administration officials today that the investigation is ongoing,” Mr. McGovern said.  David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House, an advocacy group, said he wished the list were longer but was encouraged that it went beyond the Magnitsky case. “The key now is to keep this as an ongoing process by which more names can be added,” he said. (Peter Baker and Ellen Barry, New York Times,  April 12, 2013)

 

Russian politician accused of treason

In a move to purge the Russian parliament of even the faintest of contrarian voices, legislative leaders have accused an opposition politician of treason and demanded an ethics investigation, saying that the legislator had used a visit to Washington this month to urge the US to meddle in Russia's internal affairs.  The accused politician, Dmitry Gudkov, is one of just two members of the State Duma who are leading supporters of the Russian political opposition and who, since December 2011, have taken part in the large street protests in Moscow calling for the ouster of President Vladimir Putin.  Last week, Mr Gudkov was expelled from his party, Just Russia.  Just Russia is one of three minority parties in the Parliament, which is controlled by United Russia, the party that nominated Mr Putin for president.  The other opposition politician, Ilya Ponomarev, quit Just Russia this week in solidarity with Mr Gudkov. For now, they remain independent members of the Duma. But the accusations of treason against Mr Gudkov, 33, are seen as a clear precursor to an effort to strip him of his seat.  Mr Gudkov visited the US this month, where he participated in a panel discussion held by Freedom House, a non-profit group that works to promote democracy. While he criticised Mr Putin's government and the Duma itself, Mr Gudkov went out of his way to stress that the political opposition was working only in Russia's interests.  A letter demanding an investigation of Mr Gudkov was signed by politicians from all the factions in the Duma, including the Communist Party and the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party. It said: ''We believe that Gudkov's statements are effectively tantamount to calls for illegal acts that violate the sovereignty of the Russian state.''  (David Herszenhorn, SMH, March 17, 2013)

 

North Korea’s talk is all war

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday told his troops to be ready for “all-out war” and instructed them to “make the first gunfire” if tensions with South Korea boil over.  He also promised a “great advance” over the border between the two nations, shortly after the North announced that it had abandoned its peace treaty with the South.

The pariah state has launched a new round of war-like rhetoric in anger over tough new sanctions imposed on it.  The UN Security Council this week voted to impose the fresh round of sanctions targeting North Korea’s economy and leadership in the wake of the country’s third nuclear test.  Now the country has announced it is cancelling all non-aggression pacts with its southern neighbour, closing its hotline with Seoul, and shutting their shared border point.

North Korea, which threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the US, has said it will retaliate with “crushing strikes” if enemies intrude into its territory “even an inch and fire even a single shell”.  South and North Korea agreed in a 1992 joint declaration not to produce, test or use nuclear weapons.  North Korea has since conducted three nuclear tests.

Phongyang is renowned for its bellicose rhetoric, but the tone has reached a frenzied pitch in recent days, fuelling concerns of a border clash with both North and South planning major military exercises next week. 

Responding, White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said: “North Korea’s threats are not helpful. We consistently called on North Korea to improve its relations with its neighbours, including South Korea.”  “As a legal matter, no party to the armistice can unilaterally terminate or alter the terms of the Armistice Agreement,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said. 

North Korea television yesterday showed Kim Jong-un laying preparations for “all-out war”.            

 

US to fast-track cyber weapons

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon is accelerating efforts to develop a new generation of cyber weapons capable of disrupting enemy military networks, even when those networks are not connected to the internet, US officials say.

The possibility of a confrontation with Iran or Syria has highlighted for American military planners the value of cyber weapons that can be used against an enemy whose most important targets, such as air defence systems, do not rely on internet-based networks. But adapting such cyber weapons can take months or even years of arduous technical work.

When US military planners were looking for ways to disable Libya's air defence system before NATO aerial attacks last year, they discussed using cyber technology. But the idea was quickly dismissed because there was no effective option available, said serving and former US officials.  They estimated that crafting a cyber weapon would have taken about a year.

Last year, to speed up the development of cyber weapons, as well as defensive technology, $US500 million ($472 million) over five years was placed into the budget of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, one of the Defence Department's premier research organisations.  The agency has launched new cyber-development initiatives, including a ''fast-track'' program.  Pentagon officials were developing a congressionally mandated strategy for the rapid acquisition of cyber weapons that can keep pace with threats and technology.  (Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, March 20, 2012)

 

End Not Yet in Sight, Syria's Two-Year Conflict Reaches Grim Milestone

As Syria's civil war nears the two-year mark, the United Nations reports a rapid uptick in casualties: Of the 60,000 mostly-civilians who have been killed, 90 percent died in 2012.

Bombs and airstrikes were on the uptick in Damascus and its surrounding suburbs as rebel fighters and government troops clashed in attempts to take control of Syria's capital. At the moment, the regime still controls every major city in the country. And the rebels have not been able to change that balance. I think the focus of the fighting now is around two major air bases. The regime still controls the air. The rebels control most of the rural areas in the country, and two major cities are now in dispute. But the lines really haven't moved over the last couple of months. 

There was some expectation when the opposition reformed itself into a new group, when the military, the rebels reformed themselves into a more coherent group, that that would somehow pay off for them, that there would be some more weapons delivered, maybe some more aid that will come directly through the opposition movement, to bolster their position inside the country.  So far, that hasn't happened. And that's been particularly a bitter pill for the rebels to swallow.  Many of the rebel commanders were complaining that the arms had actually slowed down to almost a full stop. And what they are fighting with is what they can amass by taking over military bases inside Syria. (PBS Newshour, Jan. 4, 2013)

 

CIA guiding arms to Syria rebels

THE Obama administration has been quietly assisting a rapid expansion of clandestine arms deliveries from Arab governments to the Syrian rebels. The CIA has been helping Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan to acquire large amounts of weaponry from third-party countries and to determine which rebel groups should receive the arms after they have been shipped through Turkey. US defence sources said the agency was ensuring the weapons were channelled through the rebels' recently formed Supreme Military Command to prevent them falling into the hands of jihadist groups.  The disclosure follows reports that the US and some of its European allies are secretly training rebel fighters at military camps in Jordan and that the CIA has stepped up its intelligence-sharing with moderate opposition groups.  It suggests that Washington is sharply increasing its support for the mainstream rebels to hasten the downfall of the Assad regime, counter the rise of extremist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and end a two-year-old conflict that has generated the world's worst humanitarian crisis.  However, US officials insisted that Washington's policy of giving only non-lethal aid to the opposition had not changed.  The increased flow of arms appears to have helped the rebels to make advances on the ground in recent months. Yesterday, they managed to fire mortars into Ummayad Square in the heart of Damascus, killing at least two people and wounding others.

However, the risk is that Russia and Iran will retaliate by stepping up their military support for the embattled regime. In Baghdad this week, US Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Iraq's government to stop Iranian aircraft using its airspace to deliver military equipment to Damascus.  The Arab arms deliveries began in January last year when two Qatari Air Force C130 transport aircraft landed in Istanbul, according to flight data obtained by The New York Times.

The Qatari flights came from the al-Udeid airbase, which is also a US Air Force command and logistics hub. They gathered pace after last November's US presidential election, with the Saudis and Jordanians joining the effort as the northern winter arrived and thousands of Syrian refugees fled to neighbouring countries.

To date, the three Arab countries are believed to have sent more than 160 plane-loads of weaponry, with most of the flights landing at Esenboga airport near the Turkish capital, Ankara. From there the Turkish government has overseen the delivery of the arms into Syria, fixing transmitters to the trucks so their movements could be monitored. 

"A conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3500 tons of military equipment," Hugh Griffiths, who monitors arms transfers for the Stockholm International Peace Institute, told The New York Times. A former US official called the arms shipments a "cataract of weaponry".  The CIA refused to comment on its role but has reportedly helped the three governments to procure the arms from other countries, including a large consignment that Saudi Arabia purchased from Croatia and supplied to rebels in southern Syria via Jordan. The agency is also said to have vetted rebel groups to make sure weapons do not fall into the hands of Islamic extremists.

US officials argued that Arab governments were going to arm the rebels anyway, so it was better to assist the effort so that the administration could exert some influence on what type of weapons were delivered, and to whom. It is particularly concerned about anti-aircraft missiles falling into the hands of jihadists.  A report yesterday from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War urged the administration to be more pro-active in helping to arm the rebels.

"The current policy of inaction carries much more risk," it said. "This policy has not prevented extremists from acquiring arms. Instead, it has prevented more moderate forces from acquiring arms and consolidating their authority while allowing more extremist forces to develop their own independent sources of support that are less easily monitored."

The opposition enjoyed another boost yesterday when its National Coalition was awarded Syria's seat for the 22-nation Arab League summit in Doha overnight. Syrian state media said the league had "handed Syria's stolen seat to bandits and thugs".  Martin Fletcher and Michael Evans, The Times UK, March 27, 2013)

 

In Parts of Syria, Lack of Aid ‘Is a Catastrophe’  The number of Syrian refugees fleeing to neighboring countries has doubled since December, reaching one million and counting. 

SAWRAN, Syria — The United States and other international donors are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on humanitarian aid for Syrians afflicted by the civil war. But here in the rebel-controlled north, where the deprivation is most acute, that money has bought mostly anger and resentment: the vast majority of aid is going to territory controlled by President Bashar al-Assad, and the small amount reaching opposition-held areas is all but invisible. Rebels argue that the humanitarian assistance is in effect helping Mr. Assad survive the war of attrition. “Aid is a weapon,” said Omar Baylasani, a rebel commander from Idlib, speaking during a visit to a Turkish border town. “Food supply is the winning card in the hands of the regime.”   The biggest obstacle blocking aid from rebel-held areas is the United Nations requirement that its relief agencies follow Mr. Assad’s rules — which limit access to opposition territory — as long as the international assembly recognizes his government. The United Nations agencies are the main conduit for international aid, including most of the total of $385 million that Washington has directed to the cause in 2012 and 2013.  That means that while internally displaced Syrians living in government-controlled areas are cared for in United Nations-run camps, with standard shelter and basic utilities, the many who have fled into opposition territory are plagued by shortages of food, fuel, blankets and medicine. At a civilian medical clinic here in the rebel-held countryside north of Aleppo, the 15 doctors kick out their hundreds of patients each day at 4 p.m. because there is no fuel or power to keep the lights on.   The lack of foreign aid “is a catastrophe,” said Saed Bakur Abu Yahia, the clinic’s director. “We get nothing, ” he said, bundled in a winter jacket and rubbing his hands for warmth as he sat in his office.

The United States has done more than any other country to circumvent the United Nations, but its efforts remain unknown to most Syrians. Washington is funneling about $60 million — about $10 million in 2012, and about $50 million in 2013 — through independent nonprofit groups to deliver flour, food baskets, blankets and medicine to the most stable opposition-controlled territory (one group said it reached most of Aleppo Province, but not yet Idlib). The nonprofit groups insist on keeping their work and their American donors a secret to protect staff members still working in Damascus under Mr. Assad.   “Our humanitarian assistance, $385 million to date, is making a difference,” said one United States diplomat involved in Syria policy, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of international politics around the aid. “But we can’t talk about it.”   The result is deepening cynicism and anger toward the West among precisely those Syrians the United States and its allies say they are trying to assist and befriend, a disappointment and frustration to those in Washington who hoped to win favor among the opposition.   In interviews, dozens of Syrians living in rebel-held territory in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib insisted that their towns had received no Western aid and groused about “empty promises.” Only a few most directly involved in aid distribution acknowledged recent visits from international nonprofit groups, and those with knowledge of the meetings insisted that the names of the aid groups remain confidential. Even the Syrians most involved in the Western effort expressed frustration. “We believe we are owed an explanation over where this money is going, but every time we ask, we can’t get an answer,” said Ghassan Hitto, who runs the aid coordination arm of the Western-backed Syrian National Council. He estimated that as much as 60 percent of the Syrian population lives outside the Assad government’s control and thus beyond the reach of most aid. It is an assessment that is impossible to confirm but feasible because of the heavy population of the rebel-controlled north.   United Nations officials acknowledge the problem. But they say they have few alternatives while the United Nations recognizes the government, which is unlikely to change as long as Russia supports Mr. Assad.   

“The government, whether you like it or not, is still the government,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (David D. Kirkpatrick, International Herald Tribune,  March 8, 2013)

 

Netanyahu: I Will Attack Iran Alone if Necessary

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised on Monday that by the time his next term as Prime Minister is over, Iran will not have a nuclear weapons program. Speaking to Channel 2, Netanyahu said that if it is necessary, he will lead an independent Israeli attack against Iran, even without the support of the United States.

“When former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel, was it with the consent of the Americans? When former Prime Minister Menachem Begin bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, was that with the consent of the Americans?” asked Netanyahu.  “If there someone here who, as Prime Minister of Israel, cannot act on things that are fundamental to the State, to its future and to its security and depends only on approval of others, he does not deserve to lead,” said Netanyahu. “When we didn’t have a state, when we didn’t have an army, and when someone threatened to destroy us and then actually annihilated us, we went and pleaded with others,” he said. “Today we don’t plead, we prepare.”

The interview with Netanyahu was a follow-up to an investigative report on Sunday which said that he and Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the military and intelligence service to prepare for a military strike on Iran in 2010.  According to the report, the two met stiff opposition from then-IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and then-Head of Mossad Meir Dagan. Responding to accusations by Dagan that he and Barak were trying to 'steal' a war, Netanyahu clarified that “the responsibility ultimately lies with the Prime Minister.”  Barak also responded to the report and said that contrary to the claims by Ashkenazi and Dagan, the order that was given to them did not mean that they should go to war. At the same time he clarified that, “The assumption that says that if the Chief of Staff does not recommend doing something means that you cannot decide to do it – is baseless. The Chief of Staff builds the operational capacity, he should tell us professionally if he thinks it can be done or not, and he can also even make a recommendation, but ultimately it can be carried out even against his recommendation.”  Netanyahu's predecessor, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, also gave an interview to Channel 2 and attacked Netanyahu over his threat to attack Iran without the support of the Americans.

"What is this talk about us being the ones to decide alone about our fate and not take anyone else into account?” said Olmert. “Someone please explain to me exactly with what planes we’ll attack if we decide to attack alone contrary to the opinion of others? Will it be aircraft we created here? With which bombs we will bomb? With bombs we made? And if we find that we are missing something, who will we ask for it? Those in the face of whom we spit today? The one that we have done everything to ensure that he will not be president of the United States?”  Netanyahu's responded to Olmert's remarks and said, “What I’m hearing now is that we have to actually say, 'In this matter that threatens our future, we are giving the keys to the Americans. You decide whether to eliminate the threat that threatens our very existence.’ That’s not my approach. My approach says that if others can do it, all the better, but if there is no alternative and we are with our backs to the wall, we will do what we need to do to protect ourselves.”  ( Elad Benari, IsraelNationalNews.com, June 11, 2012)

 

Iran Warns of Strait of Hormuz Closure If US Chooses 'War'

Iran asserted on Thursday that the United States has no other options to pressure the regime over its nuclear program, other than war, and it is chooses to embark upon such a path, Tehran would have no qualms about closing the strategic Strait of Hormuz, its envoy to Baghdad told AFP on Thursday.  Ambassador Hassan Danaie-Far insisted that Tehran retained the right to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which a third of the world's traded oil passes, in response to any aggression, military or otherwise.  "What else (US President Barack) Mr. Obama can do?" Danaie-Far told AFP through an Iranian embassy translator. "The only remaining card on the table is war. Is it to their benefit? Is it to the benefit of the world? Is it to the benefit of the region?"  He added that if Iran faced a "problem," it would be within its rights "to react and to defend itself." Asked if it could try to close off the strait, Danaie-Far replied: "If there is some movement and action from our enemies, including US, against us, as a part of natural reaction, that may happen."  "Everybody would be a loser in that case," he added.  When asked if only military or other types of pressure could warrant such a move, he told the news agency, "It can include all of them." 

Iran frequently conducts missile tests and maneuvers to stress its military capabilities, and has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil tanker traffic should it be attacked.  Washington has warned Tehran that any attempt to close the strait would be viewed as a "red line" and grounds for United States military action.  Iran regularly denounces the regional presence of foreign forces, including American, particularly those stationed in the Gulf and maintains that the security of the region must be ensured "by regional countries." (Rachel Hirshfeld, IsraelNationalNews.com, Jan. 25, 2013)

 

Russian Foreign Minister Warns Against Strike in Iran

Attacking Iran's nuclear facilities "a very dangerous idea," says Russian FM Sergei Lavrov.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday warned against the idea of strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, RIA Novosti reports.  The remarks were made after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a speech given after he was reelected for a third term, said that one of the principles of his new coalition would be preventing Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.  “Attempts to prepare and carry out strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities are a very dangerous idea,” RIA Novosti quoted Lavrov as having said at a press conference in Moscow.

“We hope that these ideas and statements will not be realized,” he added. Addressing the talks between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Lavrov said that the Iranians to speed up the proceedings.

"The Iranians said they wanted to sign an agreement. We believe they can do it a little faster than they have so far," said Lavrov. The IAEA and Iran have been holding talks over the atomic agency’s request to access sites where it believes the Islamic Republic has been conducting nuclear weapons tests. Another round of talks was held last week but no deal was reached, as diplomats briefed afterwards voiced skepticism that more talks next month could bridge the differences. The United States, Israel and some of their allies accuse Iran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear energy program. Iran rejects the allegations, arguing that it is entitled to develop and acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

Russia has said it will scuttle any UN Security Council resolution which could be interpreted as allowing military action against Iran. Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Senators last week that “history will not forgive those who do not stop Iran's nuclear program,” adding that “a nuclear Iran is the problem of the world.”

In November Netanyahu indicated that by the time his next term as Prime Minister is over, Iran will not have a nuclear weapons program, stressing that if it is necessary, he will lead an independent Israeli attack against Iran, even without the support of the United States. (Elad Benari, IsraelNationalNews.com, Jan. 24, 2013)

 

Russia Launches Surprise Military Exercise in Black Sea

Russian President Vladimir Putin surprised his defense minister in the wee hours of Thursday morning last week with an order for surprise military drills to test battle readiness in the Black Sea. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was awakened at 4:00 a.m. local time with sealed orders to activate 7,000 troops, 36 ships, up to 20 fighter jets and helicopters and 50 pieces of artillery.  Aviation, paratroopers and special forces are involved in the exercises, which were launched immediately according to Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said “We are talking about major exercises, intended as a check,” according to Russian news agencies.  “According to international practice, exercises involving up to 7,000 people do not require us to inform our partners in advance,” Peskov noted. He added that the drills would take place on three military test ranges on Russian territory and are expected to last about a week.  Russia has been heavily involved in protecting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad from international ire at the United Nations Security Council, but as Assad's grip on power has increasingly weakened, and fragmented rebel forces gain control over more territory in the country, Moscow has begun to quietly evacuate its citizens from Damascus and surrounds. Likewise Putin has joined discussions over what may become of Syria's lethal arsenal of chemical weapons of mass destruction, a rising concern in the international community.

The Black Sea is a strategic waterway bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus, and connects to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas and two straits known as the Turkish Straits – the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. The Bosphorus Strait, which flows through the middle of Turkey, connects it to the Sea of Marmara. The Strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean Sea region of the Mediterranean, which separate eastern Europe and western Asia. Countries with shoreline along the Black Sea include Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania, in addition to Russia.

Late last year Turkey requested -- and received -- authorization to deploy a number of batteries of Patriot missile defense systems along its border with Syria. The batteries, contributed by NATO allies that included the United States, were installed in January 2013.  (Chana Ya'ar, IsraelNationalNews.com, March 31, 2013)

 

'Israel Spies on Russian Fleet Off Syrian Coast'   According to a report in The Sunday Times, Israel used espionage equipment it planted off the Syrian coast to monitor Russian naval movements in the Mediterranean Sea.  The devices, which were discovered earlier this month by fishermen on Ant Island, were reportedly planted by commandoes of the IDF’s “Flotilla 13”-- or in Hebrew “Sheyetet 13” elite naval unit.  The commandoes allegedly visited the island via German-manufactured Dolphin class submarines, armed with nuclear cruise missile capabilities, at least twice previously in order to gather information on the local terrain and plant the equipment. 

Earlier this month Syria’s state television released photographs of the devices Damascus said were designed to photograph, register and transfer classified information.  The footage showed a camera, six large batteries, cables and transmitters, along with fake rocks used to camouflage the equipment.  According to the report, the equipment was planted on an uninhabited island in the Mediterranean, opposite to the Syrian port city of Tartus, near a Russian naval base.

The Sunday Times, citing a report on Lebanon’s Al-Manar television station, said that the gear could be used to track the movements of Russian warships and relay the pictures in real time.

It is unknown how long the equipment was in use before it was uncovered.  A senior Syrian security official told The Times that the spying gear was “highly intricate,” adding that the devises could have been used to track the Syrian military.

Syria is engulfed in a civil war that erupted nearly two years ago, and which has already resulted in the death of other 70,000 people, according to figures released by the United Nations.  Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor did not comment on the report of the spy equipment earlier this month.  "We will not be dragged into the Syrian civil war. Not on the verbal or propaganda battlefield, nor on the real one," he said.  (IsraelNationalNews.com, Martch 31, 2013) 

 

Germany warns Britain against EU blackmail   GERMAN Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has warned Britain in a Sunday newspaper interview against "blackmailing" its EU partners in a bid to bring powers back home from Brussels.  "We want to keep Britain in the EU and not force it out," Schaeuble told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "But I will also say that does not mean anyone can blackmail us."  Asked whether a debate raging in Britain about a possible referendum on the country's future in the 27-member bloc was "dangerous", Schaeuble said: "Our British friends are not dangerous. But a referendum would create uncertainty," he said.  He said he only got "cross" with Britons over football, adding he hoped for "more British engagement in Europe, not less".  Britain has belonged to the European Union since 1973 but has not joined the 17-nation eurozone.

Schaeuble has served as German Chancellor Angela Merkel's main ally in Berlin in plotting an austerity-driven course to resolve the eurozone debt crisis as well as greater political integration of the bloc.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, said last month that he still supports British membership of the EU but cannot accept the "status quo" and wants a "new settlement" that involves repatriating some powers. He has so far avoided offering a clear "in-out" referendum despite strong pressure for clarity on the issue from his party. Tensions flared last month when Cameron opposed a new trillion-euro ($A1.25 trillion) EU budget for the next seven years, saying it was unacceptable to increase spending at a time when many countries were taking austerity measures at home. A recent poll in the UK's Observer newspaper found 56 per cent of Britons surveyed would vote to leave the EU given the chance.  (AAP, December 23, 2012)

 

Five Million Dutch have a Satanic View of Israel

Ebert Foundation Study: 39% of Dutch believe Israel is exterminating Palestinian Arabs.  Yesterday, the major Dutch news site Dagelijkse Standaard published an article by Israeli anti-Semitism expert Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld in which he wrote that there are currently more people with neo-Nazi views in the Netherlands than the number of Dutch collaborators with the Nazis during the Second World War.   Gerstenfeld wrote: “At least five million Dutch have a satanic view of Israel. This can be concluded from a study undertaken by the University of Bielefeld for the German Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert Foundation in 2011. This study was ignored in the Netherlands.

"The study’s authors asked people if they believe that Israel is conducting an extermination war against the Palestinian Arabs. About 39% of the Dutch polled answered in the affirmative.  "Already in 2003 in a Euro barometer study, it was asked which countries are dangers to world peace. Israel came in second place after Iran. This was the opinion held by 59% of the Europeans. In the Netherlands, the percentage was the highest at 74%.”

Gerstenfeld added: “With such a diabolical opinion of the Jewish state, millions of Dutchmen are thus back in the Middle Ages mentally. Today, there are more Dutchmen with this insane viewpoint than the number of Nazis in the Netherlands during the Second World War.  " At present these views are largely latent, as were Dutch Nazi views before the war. Today there is actually more hostility against Jews than before the Second World War in the Netherlands. But if the atmosphere is ripe, violence can increase, as has happened in the past.”  Most talkbacks to the article supported it, but some were anti-Semitic in nature and even promoted Holocaust revisionism.  When contacted by Arutz Sheva, Gerstenfeld said, “This is just one of many disparate and worrisome developments in the Netherlands of the last years as far as Jews and Israel are concerned. There are frequent attacks on ritual slaughter (shechita) and circumcision. These are mainly aimed at Muslims, however the Jews suffer collateral damage as a result.  "There is the recent TV broadcast in which Dutch-Turkish youths praised Hitler and the Holocaust and say that they picked up these views from their friends.  "Left-wing groups held an offensive Kristallnacht ceremony in which they did not mention current and widespread Muslim anti-Semitism.  "A few days ago, a higher court fined an observant Jew who didn’t carry his identity card with him on the Sabbath, even after a lower court had found him not guilty. "In addition, another higher court overturned the judgment of a lower court which forbade a ceremony by the municipality at the local cemetery of Nazi Germany’s soldiers in the village of Vorden last year. The municipality intends to hold such a ceremony this year on May 4th which is Dutch National Memorial Day.”  (IsraelNationalNews.com, March 7, 2013)

 

US steps up efforts to protect its trade secrets

Washington: The Obama administration warned on Wednesday it would launch new efforts to persuade China and other countries to halt the theft of billions of dollars' worth of US trade secrets. The threat to place offender countries on a watch list and other steps are part of a broader effort by the administration to co-ordinate with other nations to fight the growing theft of intellectual property. ''State sponsored trade-secret theft … embattles our status as world leader in innovation,'' Victoria Espinel, the White House co-ordinator of intellectual-property enforcement, said at a strategy roll-out.

The new effort comes amid heightened attention to the issue of cyber-espionage directed at commercial targets, especially by China. This week, the cyber security firm Mandiant issued a report accusing the Chinese government of massive hacking campaigns against US targets and the President, Barack Obama, recently issued an executive order aimed at better securing the computer networks of critical industries such as energy.  On Wednesday, China's state-owned news agency said Mandiant's claims that the nation's military was behind global cyber attacks were ''full of loopholes''. It was ''highly unlikely'' anyone could trace where attacks originated from because hackers hid behind a network of proxies, Xinhua news agency said.

''It is beyond belief that a firm specialised in the field of cyber security could be so indiscreetly desperate as to jump to a conclusion so full of loopholes,'' Xinhua said. The claims ''will only tarnish the image and reputation of the company making them, as well as that of the US''. Within the past year, Mr Obama, the Defence Secretary, Leon Panetta, and then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton have raised economic cyber-espionage with their Chinese counterparts.

''Our message is quite clear: the protection of intellectual property and trade secrets is critical to all intellectual property rights holders, whether they be from the United States or whether they be from Chinese companies or other companies around the world,'' Robert Hormats, the under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, said. Though China is regarded as the most aggressive actor, Mr Hormats said other countries are guilty as well. He cited Russia and India as two countries active in the theft of intellectual property. While officials said they are concerned about traditional means for stealing commercial secrets, through tactics such as recruiting current or former employees, they said cyberspace is an increasingly important avenue for espionage.  ''A hacker in China can acquire source code from a software company in Virginia without leaving his or her desk,'' the Attorney-General, Eric Holder, said. He said the Justice Department has made prosecution of trade-secret theft a top priority. The department is seeking to bring cases of economic cyber-espionage that officials hope will deter foreign governments from hacking US company networks. Plans also call for federal law enforcement to pursue stronger agreements with foreign counterparts to pursue investigations in their own countries.

Jason Healey, the director of the Atlantic Council's cyber statecraft initiative, called for more specific steps, such as denial of visas to officials from foreign companies that benefit from the theft of US trade secrets and blacklisting the firms from US government contracts.  (Ellen Nakashima, SMH, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Feb. 22, 2013)

 

Obama Visit Enters Third and Final Day

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday enters the third and final day of his trip to Israel.

Shortly before 9:00 a.m., Obama is scheduled to visit the gravesites of Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, and former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. He will place a wreath at both tombs.  At 9:35, the President will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust institute, and at 10:50 he will hold yet another meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.  After he meets Netanyahu, Obama will visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. At 3:30 p.m. he will bid farewell to Israel in a state ceremony at the Ben Gurion Airport. From there he will take off to Jordan, where he will meet King Abdullah II.

On Thursday, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu toured the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the largest cultural institution in the State of Israel which is ranked among the world’s leading art and archaeology museums.

The presidential delegation visited specifically the permanent Shrine of the Book exhibition.

Obama then travelled to Ramallah, where he met with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. At a press conference with Abbas, Obama stressed that the PA should not impose preconditions on negotiations with Israel, as it has done for years. The President said that the two state solution was the best way to end the conflict. Obama did not condemn construction in Judea and Samaria, but did  say that it was an "obstacle" holding up the peace process.

Obama then returned to Jerusalem, where he gave a speech in front of hundreds of students. During the speech, the President once again called for the two-state solution, adding that “Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace.”  Improvising at times and receiving warm applause throughout his speech, Obama eventually reached the point at which he called on Israelis to put pressure on their own government. "Political leaders do not take risks if their people do not push them to take risks," he said. "You must create the change that you want to see. Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope." 

Obama’s second day in Israel concluded with a festive dinner at the residence of President Shimon Peres.

Before the dinner, Peres bestowed the President's Medal upon Obama. The medal was given to Obama for his unique contribution to Israel's security.  This is the first time in which an honorary decoration is bestowed by an Israeli president upon a president who is still serving in office. Peres received the U.S. President's Medal of Freedom from Obama last year.

The gala dinner at the President's Residence included the prime minister and his wife, various representatives of the Israeli public and senior members of the U.S. administration.  (Elad Benari, IsraelNationalNews.com, March 22, 2013) 

 

A Baby is Stoned for Being an "Occupier"

The "occupation" terminology has lethal results.  A two-year-old Jewish girl named Adele, who lives in the "settlement" of Ariel, is fighting for her life, and her mother and two sisters are severely injured. The truck driving in front of the  Bitons was attacked with stones during Palestinian Arab riots that erupted in Judea and Samaria ahead of Obama’s visit. The driver stopped short and Adele's mother, whose vision was blocked by the width of the truck, hit the back of the vehicle.  A week earlier, an old Israeli man was shot near Kedumim. In 2011, Asher Palmer and his infant son Yonatan were killed when their car overturned after being pelted with boulders. The Fogel family is already legend in the pantheon of Israel's victims of terrorism.  Who is responsible for this? The Western "symbolic violence against the Jews" is to blame, as Shmuel Trigano called it in a recent essay. The Israelis must be burn in effigy, he said, before being physically slaughtered on the streets.

The same week as the terror attack against the Bitons, a 8,000-word New York Times magazine cover story justified Palestinian Arab terrorism and called for another Intifafa.

“If there is a third Intifada, we want to be the ones who started it: One village in the West Bank tests the limits of unarmed resistance”.  The NYT's abominable cover shows the faces of eight Palestinian residents involved in the Nabi Saleh's false myth, which presents the Palestinian Intifada as a battle between IDF soldiers and Arab kids. The goal of the 8,000-word article is to angelize and exculpate Arab terrorism and stimulate the ever increasing Arab expectations.
After all, weren't these Arabs just fighting against "the
occupation"? Weren't they?

Palestinian apologists and their supporters at the New York Times like to assert that such horrific acts are desperate expressions of “frustration” against Israel’s policies.  But today, 97% of the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria are governed by the Palestinian Authority. In practical terms, they manage their own lives independently. The Palestinian Arabs have a parliament and government, voted in by the Palestinian electorate in elections.

As a new Yesha's booklet prepared for Obama's visit explains, the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria carry an orange identity card with the emblem of the PA on it. They can be issued a Palestinian passport, receive a driver’s license from the Palestinian Ministry of Transportation, send their children to Palestinian-run schools, receive medical treatment from the Palestinian health-care system, be sentenced by or receive legal aid from the PA judicial system, and also acquire building permits in Areas A and B from the Palestinian Housing Ministry.  They lack authority in only two areas: security and foreign affairs, because if granted to the Palestinians, these powers would specifically endanger Israeli civilians.

Another example of symbolic violence against the Jews is the elevation of the assassin of Israeli minister Rehavam Zeevi by the French mayor of Bezons, the latest proof of Europe’s self professed anti-Semitism. Another example is Europe’s boycott of Israeli goods (why didn't Shimon Peres, in his recent address to the Europan Parliament, criticize the racist policy promoted by Europe’s governments?).  By far the worst is Barack Obama's speech in Jerusalem, where he spoke in front of an idiotic Israeli parterre: “See the world through the eyes of Palestinians”. And "peace must not be made through occupation".

This is Obama's carte blanche to murder the Jews. What will be the effect of Obama’s words in the mind of an Arab in Nablus and Gaza? It is an invitation to “liberate” the territory stolen by the Jews. Obama said it clearly: for him, there is no Eretz Israel.  It was explained to the Israeli judges by Akim Awad, the Arab who slaughtered the Fogels in Itamar: "I am a person like you, I have no mental condition, I never had a serious illness. My only illness is the Israeli occupation".

“Obama has targeted the "settlers" as a group, as a dangerous "other", charging them with being "violent".  When these five Jews from the same Israeli family were killed in their own beds, a famous Italian priest, Mario Cornioli, wrote - immediately after the massacre - a subliminal justification of the killings: "What is Itamar? An illegal Israeli colony built on stolen land". This is also what Obama said in Jerusalem.

 Adopting tactics reminiscent of the way some anti-Semitic regimes abroad handled their Jewish problem, Obama has targeted the "settlers" as a group, as a dangerous "other", charging them with being "violent".  Israeli writer and Holocaust survivor Aharon Appelfeld begins his story "Badenheim 1939" thus: “Spring returned to Badenheim. Bells were ringing in the country church near the town, and primeval shadows drew back into the forest”. The primeval shadows of hatred linger in the forests, while the bells of denial are ringing out their silence across Europe and the West.

The New York Times’ publications, the European Union’s protocols and Barack Obama’s rhetoric, which all together foment the blood libel and the dark lie of the occupation, must be denounced for what these really are: a burlesque masquerade of anti-Semitism which is meant to facilitate the killing of the Jews.  It is symbolic violence against Israel which opens the doors to real violence. That’s why a little Israeli girl named Adele Biton is now fighting for her life. Because this victim of terror has been turned into a "symbol of occupation".  It is the West which arms the Palestinian hand. But it is the Israeli establishment that helps anti-Semites drown the Jews in