The Christian Herald No 30

 

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                              

“This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.”

 

 

Alpha and Omega Christian Foundation, P.O. Box 123, Berowra Heights, NSW, 2082, Australia,
Telephone: 041 6295  270; Email:  aocf@optusnet.com.au; 
www.thechristianherald.info

  

 

          Newsletter 28 (08/14)

 

 

     Friends And Leaders Around the World, Greetings For The Last Time

 

The time has come for us to say our good byes while we can. The world is in meltdown and no one can tell how long it has until it slides into the abyss altogether.  What we can tell you though is that there is no turning back – the time of God’s reckoning is at hand.  

This is the last Newsletter we are sending out to you and the world.  It has served its purpose and is no longer needed to remind people that a new edition of The Christian Herald has been placed online. More than 20 000 people, from 171 nations, are now frequenting our web site without any notice, and that is more than we could reach through our Newsletters.

We express our gratitude to you all for making this work a resounding success. We do not know how many had a direct hand in it, but that does not matter because it is with you that we began this work and from you that it spread out to the whole world.        

When we began this work two and a half decades ago, some people thought we were mad, self-aggrandizing, wasting our time and money, and deluding ourselves to think that world leaders would pay much attention to a few stapled copies that we called The Christian Herald. We counted on people not to judge a book by its cover, and we have been proven right.

While we could not compete with the glossy publications of our competitors, we had something that no one else had:  the truth of God and the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Heaven emboldened us to take that Gospel to the world and we gladly obliged. We are exceedingly happy to announce that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God has been preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, just as Jesus Christ said that it would happen at this particular time in world history. 

What does this mean for the world? Let us look at Jesus’ words in their context.  

 

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. And this gospel of the kingdom will be

Mat 24:14  preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

 

Many Churches and preachers claim that they had preached the Gospel of the Kingdom in all the world long ago, but the fact that the end has not come exposes them as false.  They had preached gospels to the world indeed, but not the true Gospel, otherwise there would have been no need for a work like this, which preaches a Gospel that has not been seen and heard in the world since the early Churches of God. 

When we began this work, we could never have imagined that it would be one of merely witnessing the Gospel, and not one of converting people as well.  Jesus Christ knew the nature of this world better than we did, and that is manifested by the fact that two and half decades later we are still witnessing that Gospel and not converting anyone. Our competitors gloat about this; they should be crying.  They love false gospels, and do not want to hear that there is such a thing as a genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The time is at hand for every nation to face the Judgment of God Almighty. They will be judged by the standards that we have espoused in the pages of The Christian Heralds. This is why it is so important that people, especially the leaders, familiarize themselves with the contents of The Christian Heralds. We urge you all to download our magazines while they are still freely available on our web site.  Your people will need them, and you will be held responsible for denying them this opportunity.  The restored Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be found anywhere else, and we are experiencing increasing difficulties keeping this work alive.         

As a last service to our readers we offer them a window into how their nations performed in our monthly statistics.  Here are our top 25 best performing nations for the month of June 2014. 

Bear in mind that this is not a social media outlet.  

 

       Countries                                                                Hits

1.      United States                                                                              22,133

2.      France                                                                                           2792

3.      China                                                                                             1559

4.      Canada                                                                                         1340

5.      Russia                                                                                            891

6.      Ukraine                                                                                         846

7.      Saudi Arabia                                                                                       495

8.      Romania                                                                                                494

9.      Germany                                                                                      492

10.  Poland                                                                                           452

11.  Finland                                                                                          345

12.  Great Britain                                                                               286

13.  South Africa                                                                                281

14.  European Country [The Vatican]                            270

15.  Czech Republic                                                                         254

16.  Australia                                                                                                229

17.  Brazil                                                                                             207

18.  Thailand                                                                                        179

19.  Sweden                                                                                        152

20.  Indonesia                                                                                     142

21.  Israel                                                                                              136

22.  Estonia                                                                                          132

23.  Colombia                                                                                     127

24.  Mauritius                                                                                      120

25.  Philippines                                                                                   106

 

On the whole, with only minor variations, this table has remained constant for more than a year now.

France, the intellectual power house of Europe, is honorably sitting in second place, behind only America which has led the way from the beginning. Britain, which ought to be up there with France, and ahead of it given its language, lags behind many smaller non-English speaking nations.  They should never forget that their country is an island and there is a heavy price for those who turn away from God.    

 

Rev 16:17  Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, "It is done!"

Rev 16:18  And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth.

Rev 16:19  Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.

Rev 16:20  Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

 

Saudi Arabia, the bastion of Islamism, has more faith in God and in our Gospel than the British.  The so-called PIGS nations stand as follows: Spain 28 hits, Italy 11, Portugal 4, and Greece 3. 

Finland has 345 hits, while Norway has just one.  They should grant themselves a Nobel Prize for being the laggards of Europe.  Estonia has 132 hits, while Latvia 26 and Lithuania 6. 

We criticised Romania in the past for lagging behind its neighbors. Well, things have changed. In June, Romania had 494 hits, Hungary 36, Bulgaria 35, and Serbia 44.  Pity, that the country still has a government unworthy of its people.  They should pray that God does not apply the biblical principle of people paying for the sins of their leaders, for if He does none of them will survive the Great Tribulation. 

Now, as a last reminder, The Christian Herald No 29 is online at our usual web site: www.thechristianherald.info.  Shortly afterwards, The Christian Herald No 30 will be online too.  Beyond that, only God Almighty knows how many more editions we will be able to publish.  We still have much to say, but time is not on our side.

We conclude with the following fitting biblical injunction:   

 

Mat 11:17  “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance.” 

   Now you will dance even though no one plays the flute.

 

In the service of Jesus Christ,

 

Grigore Sbarcea

Coordinator A.O.C.F.

 

 

Good bye friends!

 

 

 

 

      

     “Be Happy – Don’t Worry About The World”

 

We put this title in inverted commas because it is not ours; it is a paraphrase of a popular song with the social media generation.  The title reflects the attitude of today’s commentariat too: no matter how bad things may be, they always get better in the end and there is always a tomorrow. 

Well, there may not be a tomorrow, because we are living in extraordinary times. 

Imagine what would happen if a journalist started disseminating the view that this world is on its last legs.  He would be hounded out of office and persecuted for spreading panic among the population, and the media that published his views would most likely be heavily fined if not completely shut down.  

The question is why are they not doing this to us?  We have been preaching for more than two decades that the world is heading towards a catastrophic end, yet we are still moving around unencumbered.  The answer is simple: no one believes us.  A lot of people are curious about our work; they come to us from all over the world, download our materials in large volumes, but beyond that no one wants to get involved.    

It is just as well that we have been allowed to do our work in peace, because the times in which we live demand that the long lost Gospel of Jesus Christ needed to be restored and preached to the world “as a witness to all the nations”, after which, as Jesus Christ said, the end will come.  Perhaps then the world will realize what has been going on in its midst, but because its values had been upside down it failed to take note and take the right measures in order to escape a calamitous end.     

Another reason we have been left alone to complete this work is that most of our readers come from overseas from where they could not reach us easily if they got angry with us.  Some have tried, reporting us for spam, defrauding us, or being a nuisance in many other ways, but on the whole they made little dent in our armor. 

Australia and Britain, our natural pastures, have made barely a ripple among the pool of our readers. 

In mid-2014, we sent out Newsletter 28 with the following caption: “Friends And Leaders Around the World, Greetings For The Last Time”.  In that Newsletter we pointed out that the world has reached a critical phase, being in meltdown, well on the way towards sliding into the abyss altogether.

We had some quick reactions to that; the most interesting one came from people who signed themselves simply as SDA [Seventh Day Adventist Church for those who may wonder what SDA stands for. For whatever reason, they seem to be ashamed to add the word Church to their institution anymore]   

We often get religious tracts in our mail box, as I am sure you get them in yours wherever you are in the world, but this one was different for two reasons.  First, they invited us attend an evangelical campaign which they held no less than 120 kilometers away.  I was once invited to attend a Catholic Church theological discussion some forty kilometres away, which I attended, but these people took the cake with their meeting place 120 km away, which I chose not to attend, mainly because I would have had to face heavy traffic across Sydney.   

Second, the wording of their leaflet indicated that they had knowledge of our Newsletter, which we had published less than a month earlier.  They said, “Many people today expect/predict a Global meltdown”, and went on to imply that they had better information than that.  

They moved on quickly to quash any idea that the world is in a meltdown.  They did not even quote us properly, for we did not say that we “expect/predict a Global meltdown”. What we said is that the world IS in meltdown right now.  With every passing day, this becomes even more apparent, but only those who keep themselves informed would understand the truly perilous condition of this world. 

In discussing His return and the end of this world with His disciples, Jesus Christ told them:

 

Mar 13:35  Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning—

Mar 13:36  lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.

Mar 13:37  And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!"

   

So what do we see in this world if we watch, as Jesus Christ said we should?

We see a world paralyzed by unprecedented violence, terrorism and never-ending wars;

We see humanity grappling with pestilences, diseases and epidemics on a global scale;

We see the globe ripped apart by earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, draughts and fires like never before;

We see a planet groaning under the weight of overpopulation, and megacities in which people live in utterly inhuman conditions;

We see famine and suffering, and angry crowds demanding improved conditions from governments who cannot provide them because of decreasing resources and diminishing agricultural land.   

We see people around the globe breathing polluted air; eating food denuded of sustenance, and drinking water unfit for human consumption. 

We see coastal nations losing ground to increasing sea levels because of melting polar ice caps;

We see ocean life dying because of pollution, acidification and depletion of oxygen as a result of global warming and climate change;

We see a polarization of wealth with the average people losing all to ‘experts’ in mega casinos called Wall Street and Stock Markets; 

We see deception on a worldwide scale, chief perpetrators being the very people who are supposed to be the standard bearers of the world’s moral, ethical and spiritual laws.    

We see a world that has dispensed with God’s life giving Law, and embraced Satan’s ‘human rights’ law – the law of gross immorality, homosexuality, disrespect, blasphemy and death. 

We see a world in which life is no longer worth living because instead of being saved, human beings are being led to perdition on a worldwide scale.   

This is the world that SDA wants to bestow to future generations in the hope that perchance they might be ready to receive the returning Christ one day.  But what did Jesus Christ say about that?   

 

Luk 19:26  'For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

Luk 19:27  But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.' "

 

Now how do other churches see the current world turmoil?  Are they any different? You might be surprised. 

 

 

 

          Rome No Longer An Eternal City

 

Since ancient times, long before Jesus Christ came into this world, and Rome became the capital of a vast ‘invincible’ Empire, it became a common belief among the Romans that their capital is an eternal city.

The Catholic Church embraced this belief wholeheartedly, even though it went contrary to the Bible and especially contrary to the Christian Gospel, which state that this world was created for a limited duration, and will come to an end when Jesus Christ returns to set up a new world, a world of ‘peace, prosperity and progress’ to borrow a phrase of optimistic politicians who thought that they could transform this world into that kind of paradise.

 

Rom 9:27  Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved. For He will finish the work and cut it short

Rom 9:28  in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth."

 

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.

 

So, the Lord makes a short work upon the earth, and its end will come when Jesus’ Gospel of the Kingdom will be peached in all the world as a witness to all the nations. 

Now who is it to witness that Gospel to all the nations in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ?  Would the Catholic Church do it?  There are at least three reasons why the Catholic Church cannot do that.  One, the Gospel that is to be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations must be a newly “restored” Gospel. 

 

Mat 17:9  Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead."

Mat 17:10  And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"

Mat 17:11  Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.

 

The Catholic Church claims that its Gospel has its roots in ancient times, Apostle Peter being its originator.    

Therefore its Gospel needs no restoration. Now those who want to see why the Catholic Gospel is as false as any in the world today, should read The Christian Herald No 25.

Two, the Catholic Gospel is predicated on the notion that this world lasts forever, or at least as long as this universe lasts. Hence the notion that Rome is an eternal city. But, as we’ve seen, the main tenet of the biblical Gospel is that this world has an end and that when the true Gospel is restored people should prepare for the return of their Savior. The Catholic Church knows that when Jesus Christ returns to this world its reason for existence comes to an end too, hence their preaching that people should not put too much value on the Bible, and more on the pronouncements of the Pope.  Among its disparaging statements about the Bible is that two books in particular are unreliable and must be avoided: Genesis and Revelation, the first and the last books, the very ones that portray a certain worldwide Church as doing the work of the Devil and not of Christ.  

Three, restoring the true Gospel requires good knowledge of the Bible and of the history of Christianity so as to understand what and when things went wrong and what needs to be restored.  No offence intended here, but my experience with the Catholic Church has indicated that its priests are not particularly good at either.  And I am not talking of just run-of-the-mill priests, but of high ranking Catholic clergies.  My readers may remember my ongoing diatribe with the Cardinal Pell of Australia. While I was pointing out from the Bible and from reputable scientific and world media reports that the world has entered the biblical warming of the planet, he kept quoting unbelieving sceptics and obscure media reports, mainly from Rupert Murdock stable, who seem to have made an alliance with the Devil to deny global warming no matter what the facts show.  This went on for years until, mercifully, the new Pope absconded him to a new post in the Vatican. 

My attendance at a theological discussion, held by a former lecturer in a Catholic university, was another case which showed a man that was completely out of his depth on biblical matters. 

These are only some of the reasons why the Catholic Church cannot do the end-time work of God in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ.

And while we are at this topic, let us have a brief look at what the Bible says about this Church and its leader. It has to be brief because this topic is huge, and one cannot do it justice in an article of this scope. However, we have covered it at length a number of times in our magazines, and those who wish to pursue it further can begin by looking at The Christin Herald No 2.  

For a long time, biblical scholars have come to believe that the biblical “Mother of Harlots” spoken of in the book of Revelation is none other than the Catholic Church.  Now hard to believe as this may appear to some, this fact has its roots in the Old Testament.  In one of His discussions with His disciples, in order to understand when the time of the end would come, Jesus Christ told them to go to the book of Daniel. Now that book has a number of major prophecies, but we will look at one that has relevance to our topic.  We intersperse some comments as we go along.  

 

Dan 7:1  In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.

 

God speaks to His prophets through dreams.  “Then the LORD came down in the pillar of cloud and stood in the door of the tabernacle, and called Aaron and Miriam. And they both went forward. Then He said, "Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream” (Num. 12:5,6). Therefore Daniel’s dreams were not ordinary dreams, but God speaking to him.

 

Dan 7:2  Daniel spoke, saying, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the.

Dan 7:3  Great Sea and four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.

 

The first three beasts represent the Kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. But the fourth Kingdom puzzled Daniel and disturbed him greatly. We will see the reason in a minute.

 

Dan 7:7  "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.

 

This beast has wondered scholars for ages. We are not aware of anyone who has penetrated this mystery until now.  Some have guessed that this is the Roman Empire, but no one understood why this disturbed Daniel.  

 

Dan 7:8  I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. 

 

Here we have the first clues why Daniel became sick when he understood the true nature of this beast with ten horns. This is none other than the nation of Israel with its twelve tribes. The little horn that came up among them is the High Priest, also known in ancient times as Pontifex Maximus, and in later times as the Pontiff or the Pope.  Many people know that the descendants of Abraham received the promise that they would conquer the world and be both a blessing and a curse for the world: a blessing for those who accommodate it and a curse for those who hate and fight it.  And so it has proved to be down through the centuries.   

 

Dan 7:9  "I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire;

Dan 7:10  A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, And the books were opened.

Dan 7:11  "I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.

Dan 7:12  As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

Dan 7:13  "I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him.

Dan 7:14  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

 

The pompous one who sits on top of the fourth beast is Pontifex Maximus, and the Son of Man who is brought before the Ancient of Days is of course Jesus Christ.  During His ministry on earth, Jesus Christ called Himself many times ‘Son of Man’, and only a few times ‘Son of God’.  He called Himself Son of Man for two reasons. One, to impress upon His disciples that although He had the seed of God – the Holy Spirit – within Himself, having been conceived by Him, He was a fully-fledged human being, just as they were.     

 

Dan 7:15  "I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.

 

Of course he would be grieved in his spirit in seeing that his “chosen people” would end up being such an awesome ‘beast’, a fact that he was not allowed to divulge at that time.   

 

Dan 7:16  I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things:

Dan 7:17  'Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.

Dan 7:18  But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever

Dan 7:19  , even forever and ever.'  "Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; and the ten horns that were on its head,

Dan 7:20  and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows.

Dan 7:21  "I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against

Dan 7:22  them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.

Dan 7:23  "Thus he said: 'The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces.

Dan 7:24  The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings.

 

The three kings that are subdued by this horn and his powerful kingdom are the three tribes of Judah.  The ten tribes of Samaria, which became the fourth Kingdom after transmigrating to Europe, and the two original two tribes of Judah make twelve tribes. However, the tribe of Joseph split into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, making thirteen tribes. When Israel split into two nations, Samaria and Judah, Samaria abandoned the Law of God with its statutes, judgments and Holy Days and reinstated the religion of Egypt with all its pagan beliefs, holy days and idolatrous accoutrements.   It also set up a High Priest in the manner of the Pharaohs, which in time became known as Pontifex Maximus, the Pontiff and the Pope. The tribe of Levy, which was assigned the role of priests and keepers of the Temple customs, abandoned Samaria when this returned to the pagan religion of Egypt, and went back to Judah where they served the Temple until this was destroyed and the nation was scattered among the nations of the earth by their brothers, the fourth beast under the leadership of the “little horn.”

 

Dan 7:25  He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time

Dan 7:26  and times and half a time. 'But the court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion, To consume and destroy it forever.

Dan 7:27  Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.'

 

Dan 8:23  "And in the latter time of their kingdom, When the transgressors have reached their fullness, A king shall arise, Having fierce features, Who understands sinister schemes.

Dan 8:24  His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; He shall destroy fearfully, And shall prosper and thrive; He shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people.

Dan 8:25  "Through his cunning He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; And he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; But he shall be broken without human means.

 

Yes, his pompous man shall exalt himself, by acquiring God’s title of “Holy Father”, and shall rise against the Prince of princes, against Jesus Christ, and kill Him by crucifixion.

   

Dan 8:26  "And the vision of the evenings and mornings Which was told is true; Therefore seal up the vision, For it refers to many days in the future."

Dan 8:27  And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days; afterward I arose and went about the king's business. I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it.

 

Daniel said that “the pompous man shall persecute the saints of the Most High for a time and times and half a time”.  In the Bible, for prophetic purposes, a day usually means a year.  But we have never found a plausible explanation as to what the term ‘time’ means. Well, in this case it can only mean one thing: one thousand years.  If we count back 3 500 years, we come to the time of the Exodus, and the ancient pagan Egyptian beliefs: life after death, sainthood after death, immortality of the soul, purgatory after death, idolatry, worship of images, etc., all of which have been doctrines of the Catholic Church to our time, and all of which have nothing to do with the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This brings us to the New Testament. 

For centuries the Catholic Church punished with death anyone who even owned a Bible let alone believed and practiced what was written in it. Daniel said that the “pompous” man shall remain in office until Jesus Christ returns and God’s everlasting Kingdom is set up.  How extraordinary that this prophecy should be fulfilled in our time, just as the world has entered the throes of the end-time Great Tribulation.

Here now is what the book of Revelation says about a certain “Babylon the Great and Mother of Harlots”.  

 

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."

 

They did this not only in Christian times, but long before that.

 

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 marvelled 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.

 

When Jesus Christ returns, and this beast is destroyed, her seed remains in the world, but it shall not prosper until the complete end of this world when Satan is released and in a last gasp rebellion rises up against God again.

 

Rev 20:1  Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

Rev 20:2  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a

Rev 20:3  thousand years;  and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

Rev 20:4  And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Rev 20:5  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first

Rev 20:6  resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand

Rev 20:7  years. Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison

Rev 20:8  and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.

Rev 20:9  They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

Rev 20:10  The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Rev 20:11  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

Rev 20:12  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

Rev 20:13  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

Rev 20:14  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Rev 20:15  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

Amen!

 

 

Revisiting the dilemma of the “Abomination of Desolation”

 

Given what we discussed above, it would not be hard for anyone to recognise in the “Pompous Horn” of the Old Testament and the “Mystery, Babylon the Great, and Mother of Harlots” of the New Testament the position of Pontifex Maximus and the ‘beast’ that carries him.  No other position in the world that fits its descriptions has survived the passage of history from the time of Daniel the prophet to our time. 

We discovered this fact during the papacy of John Paul II and promptly revealed it to the world.  We’d been unveiling so many biblical mysteries we thought this was just another one that the world needed to know about. But this was not just another one; this was the big one that Jesus Christ spoke about in conjunction with the Great Tribulation and His return to this earth.  To our bewilderment, instead of seeing this prophecy unfold before our eyes, we saw ourselves being turned into false prophets.  Our nemeses have been having a field day ever since.  We simply could not understand where we made the mistake much as we searched and looked for it.

Naturally, we assumed that if John Paul II was not the abomination of desolation surely the next Pope would be the one.  But the unthinkable happened again.  For the second time, our prediction proved wrong again.  We just wanted to give up speaking for God, just like Jeremiah of the Old Testament wanted to do when his prophecies did not come true as he expected.

 

Jer 20:7  O LORD, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; Everyone mocks me.

Jer 20:8  For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, "Violence and plunder!" Because the word of the LORD was made to me A reproach and a derision daily.

Jer 20:9  Then I said, "I will not make mention of Him, Nor speak anymore in His name." But His word was in my heart like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, And I could not.

Jer 20:10  For I heard many mocking: "Fear on every side!" "Report," they say, "and we will report it!" All my acquaintances watched for my stumbling, saying, "Perhaps he can be induced; Then we will prevail against him, And we will take our revenge on him."

Jer 20:11  But the LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome One. Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail. They will be greatly ashamed, for they will not prosper. Their everlasting confusion will never be forgotten.

Jer 20:12  But, O LORD of hosts, You who test the righteous, And see the mind and heart, Let me see Your vengeance on them; For I have pleaded my cause before You.

Jer 20:13  Sing to the LORD! Praise the LORD! For He has delivered the life of the poor From the hand of evildoers.

 

Just when Jeremiah thought that he had escaped the taunting of his contemporaries, and things could not get any worse, they did. He then cursed the day he was born. 

 

Jer 20:14  Cursed be the day in which I was born! Let the day not be blessed in which my mother bore me!

Jer 20:15  Let the man be cursed Who brought news to my father, saying, "A male child has been born to you!" Making him very glad.

Jer 20:16  And let that man be like the cities Which the LORD—overthrew, and did not relent; Let him hear the cry in the morning And the shouting at noon,

Jer 20:17  Because he did not kill me from the womb, That my mother might have been my grave, And her womb always enlarged with me.

Jer 20:18  Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow, That my days should be consumed with shame?

 

As his story is an interesting and instructive one, let us see a little bit more of it. 

 

Jer 38:1  Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchiah heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken to all the people, saying,

Jer 38:2  "Thus says the LORD: 'He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes over to the Chaldeans shall live; his life shall be as a prize to him, and he shall live.'

Jer 38:3  Thus says the LORD: 'This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it.' "

Jer 38:4  Therefore the princes said to the king, "Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm."

Jer 38:5  Then Zedekiah the king said, "Look, he is in your hand. For the king can do nothing against you."

Jer 38:6  So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king's son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.

Jer 38:7  Now Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, one of the eunuchs, who was in the king's house, heard that they had put Jeremiah in the dungeon. When the king was sitting at the Gate of Benjamin,

Jer 38:8  Ebed-Melech went out of the king's house and spoke to the king, saying:

Jer 38:9  "My lord the king, these men have done evil in all that they have done to Jeremiah the prophet, whom they have cast into the dungeon, and he is likely to die from hunger in the place where he is. For there is no more bread in the city."

Jer 38:10  Then the king commanded Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, "Take from here thirty men with you, and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the dungeon before he dies."

Jer 38:11  So Ebed-Melech took the men with him and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took from there old clothes and old rags, and let them down by ropes into the dungeon to Jeremiah.

Jer 38:12  Then Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, "Please put these old clothes and rags under your armpits, under the ropes." And Jeremiah did so.

Jer 38:13  So they pulled Jeremiah up with ropes and lifted him out of the dungeon. And Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.

Jer 38:14  Then Zedekiah the king sent and had Jeremiah the prophet brought to him at the third entrance of the house of the LORD. And the king said to Jeremiah, "I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me."

Jer 38:15  Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me."

Jer 38:16  So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, "As the LORD lives, who made our very souls, I will not put you to death, nor will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life."

Jer 38:17  Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: 'If you surely surrender to the king of Babylon's princes, then your soul shall live; this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live.

Jer 38:18  But if you do not surrender to the king of Babylon's princes, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans; they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.' "

Jer 38:19  And Zedekiah the king said to Jeremiah, "I am afraid of the Jews who have defected to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they abuse me."

Jer 38:20  But Jeremiah said, "They shall not deliver you. Please, obey the voice of the LORD which I speak to you. So it shall be well with you, and your soul shall live.

Jer 38:21  But if you refuse to surrender, this is the word that the LORD has shown me:

Jer 38:22  'Now behold, all the women who are left in the king of Judah's house shall be surrendered to the king of Babylon's princes, and those women shall say: "Your close friends have set upon you And prevailed against you; Your feet have sunk in the mire, And they have turned away again."

Jer 38:23  'So they shall surrender all your wives and children to the Chaldeans. You shall not escape from their hand, but shall be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon. And you shall cause this city to be burned with fire.' "

Jer 38:24  Then Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, "Let no one know of these words, and you shall not die.

Jer 38:25  But if the princes hear that I have talked with you, and they come to you and say to you, 'Declare to us now what you have said to the king, and also what the king said to you; do not hide it from us, and we will not put you to death,' then you shall say to them,

Jer 38:26  'I presented my request before the king, that he would not make me return to Jonathan's house to die there.' "

Jer 38:27  Then all the princes came to Jeremiah and asked him. And he told them according to all these words that the king had commanded. So they stopped speaking with him, for the conversation had not been heard.

Jer 38:28  Now Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison until the day that Jerusalem was taken. And he was there when Jerusalem was taken.

 

The King did not listen to Jeremiah, and instead of giving himself up to the Babylonians as God said he should, he tried to escape.  In so doing he lost everything: his life, his family, and the nation. 

 

Jer 39:1  In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem, and besieged it.

Jer 39:2  In the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, on the ninth day of the month, the city was penetrated.

Jer 39:3  Then all the princes of the king of Babylon came in and sat in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer, Samgar-Nebo, Sarsechim, Rabsaris, Nergal-Sarezer, Rabmag, with the rest of the princes of the king of Babylon.

Jer 39:4  So it was, when Zedekiah the king of Judah and all the men of war saw them, that they fled and went out of the city by night, by way of the king's garden, by the gate between the two walls. And he went out by way of the plain.

Jer 39:5  But the Chaldean army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they had captured him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, to Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced judgment on him.

Jer 39:6  Then the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes in Riblah; the king of Babylon also killed all the nobles of Judah.

Jer 39:7  Moreover he put out Zedekiah's eyes, and bound him with bronze fetters to carry him off to Babylon.

Jer 39:8  And the Chaldeans burned the king's house and the houses of the people with fire, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem.

Jer 39:9  Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive to Babylon the remnant of the people who remained in the city and those who defected to him, with the rest of the people who remained.

Jer 39:10  But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left in the land of Judah the poor people, who had nothing, and gave them vineyards and fields at the same time.

Jer 39:11  Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying,

Jer 39:12  "Take him and look after him, and do him no harm; but do to him just as he says to you."

Jer 39:13  So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent Nebushasban, Rabsaris, Nergal-Sharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's chief officers;

Jer 39:14  then they sent someone to take Jeremiah from the court of the prison, and committed him to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, that he should take him home. So he dwelt among the people.

Jer 39:15  Meanwhile the word of the LORD had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying,

Jer 39:16  "Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Behold, I will bring My words upon this city for adversity and not for good, and they shall be performed in that day before you.

Jer 39:17  But I will deliver you in that day," says the LORD, "and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid.

Jer 39:18  For I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me," says the LORD.' "

 

The lesson from Jeremiah’s story is that God’s prophecies are not meant to please his prophets, they are meant to send a lesson to the people for whom they are intended.  Eventually God’s prophecies came true, and Jeremiah did well in the end. 

Now what is the lesson for us from all that?  That just as in the case of Jeremiah, where his prophecies appeared to be wrong at first but proved right in the end, our predictions were wrong at first, but the prophecy as a whole was right in the end.  A keen biblical scholar would have understood for the first time ever who would become the abomination of desolation and where the place is where he would arise.  The thing that we got wrong was when that would happen, and we got it wrong because we did not connect all the Scriptures as we should have.  Have a look at this.  

 

Lev 18:22  You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.

 

Does this ring a bell? We could never have imagined the unfolding events in the Vatican over the next few years.  We assumed that the man who held the position of Pontifex Maximus at the time the prophecy was unveiled to us would be the abomination of desolation. However, in the Bible you must never assume anything unless the Scriptures back it.  

A great danger for the people of God is when they unwarily succumb to the sin of pride and arrogance.  Our Father in heaven saw that this is where we were heading and so He let us eat some humble pie. 

As it turned out, neither the John Paul II nor the next Pope, Benedict, were abominations of desolation, both condemning homosexuality, Pope Benedict in very strong terms calling it “evil and unnatural”.  

Not so the next Pope, who said that homosexuals are his brothers and sisters and called on the world to treat them as equals. How could we ever have imagined that a Pope who called homosexuality “evil and unnatural” would be forced out of office and replaced by one who refuses to “judge” homosexuals?

Now let us have a look at that statement in its full context, and see how strongly it applies to our time.   

 

Lev 18:22  You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.

Lev 18:23  Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion.

Lev 18:24  'Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you.

Lev 18:25  For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.

Lev 18:26  You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you

Lev 18:27  (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled),

Lev 18:28  lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you.

Lev 18:29  For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

Lev 18:30  'Therefore you shall keep My ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you, and that you do not defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God.' "

 

The land vomited out those who engaged in this unspeakable sin in the past.  In the course of history, this happened more than once, as an example to us.

 

Jud 1:3  Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.

Jud 1:4  For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jud 1:5  But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

Jud 1:6  And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;

Jud 1:7  as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

 

Since the whole world is now in the grip of this abominable sin, the whole world will “suffer the vengeance of eternal fire”, hence the impending Great Tribulation.  

Rome is not an eternal city after all.

 

 

 

 

     Fundamentalist Churches’ response to God’s call 

 

The Catholic Church has ruled itself out of doing the end-time work of God since it does not believe in an end of his world, at least not one in a foreseeable future.  Other mainstream Churches:  Orthodox, Protestant, etc. are in the same boat since their beliefs and doctrines are virtually the same as those of the Catholic Church from which they had sprung.

We are left with the fundamentalist/evangelical Churches which have always claimed that they follow the Bible more accurately? The question is which one of them would be willing to undertake the end-time work of God.  We’ve already seen that the Seventh Day Adventist Church is not going to be the one.  But we can always count on the Churches that sprung from Worldwide Church of God, the most fundamentalist of fundamentalist Churches. 

During my membership in that Church, some four decades ago, the common belief among its members was that H W Armstrong and his son, Garner Ted, were the Two Witnesses of Revelation, and that the Church as a whole was doing the end-time work of Elijah of witnessing the Gospel of the Kingdom to all nations.     

Unfortunately, instead of becoming the all-powerful Two Witnesses, the two men became implacable enemies of each other, dying in disgrace without reconciling with each other.  This is what happens with the people who take upon themselves to do the work of God for which God has not appointed them. 

I have stated from the very beginning that I did not take it upon myself to do this work, that two decades after separating from that Church, God Almighty emboldened me to start publishing The Christian Herald.

In the beginning, people were entitled to be skeptical about it and ridicule us in seeing our difficulties and poor results, but not anymore, because by now our results speak for themselves.  We have both restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a Gospel from which the world’s Churches had departed long ago, and witnessed it to all the nations, the one and only sign that Jesus Christ specifically linked with the end of this world and His return to set up His Millennium Kingdom. 

All other signs are general in nature, many of which could have happened at any time in history, but the one about witnessing the Gospel to all the nations could not have happened before the advent of the World Wide Web.   This is the door that no one can shut, as Jesus Christ said, even though many have tried.   

 

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.

 

It is an extraordinary fact that H W Armstrong and his hirelings, who continue to preach his gospel, a gospel that has nothing to do with Jesus Christ and everything to do with Satan, would claim that he was the man of little strength even though he had a worldwide religious empire that brought him a reported annual income of $300 million.  He also claimed that Rev 11:3, which says that the Two Witnesses are “clothed in sackcloth”, referred to him too even though he wore the most expensive suits that money could buy.    

 

Rev 11:3  And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth."

 

Now compare that with our resources.  We have done this work from an annual pension of about $20 000.  The Satanists of the WCG knew this, yet they never stopped trying to defraud us and derail this work. 

That is how they think that they endear themselves to God. Do they ever read the Bible?

 

Rev 22:14  Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.

Rev 22:15  But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.

 

Now I do not call these people Satanists because that is my whim. I call them Satanists because that is how Jesus Christ called them; Satanists being the members of a synagogue of Satan. 

 

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.

 

In the early days of our separation, I tried to keep track of developments in the WCG, until Jesus Christ let me know that He did not want me to have anything to do with them anymore.  So I distanced myself from them and stopped reading their publications.  However, from time to time people I know send me materials which they think might be of interest to me.  Shortly after we published Newsletter 28, we received the July-August edition of Tomorrow’s World, a magazine published by the Living Church of God.  A cursory look through its pages drew my attention to a short article by its Editor.   See if you notice anything unusual about it.   

 

 

 “Are You Ready for Tough Times Ahead?”  

“If you have been following world news, you surely know that the seeds are now being sown to bring about the prophesied “Beast” of Revelation!  As Russian-sponsored men in black masks occupy and hold police stations and other facilities in the Ukraine, the European powers are reminded of how impotent they really are.  Having depended upon the nuclear umbrella provided by the United State since World War II, the nations of central Europe now realise that they cannot depend upon America‘s support in the future. 

“Increasingly, America is seen around the world as a “paper tiger.”  As we at Tomorrow’s World have pointed out repeatedly, the God of our forefathers warned long ago, “But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant . . . I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze” (Leviticus 26:14-15, 19).  Yes, although it is rapidly declining, America still has a great deal of power. But as the U.S. has as a whole turned its back on the Creator who gave the nation the power and almost unparalleled wealth it has possessed, its people have become less cohesive, less competent, and increasingly confused about how to use the wealth and the power bestowed upon them.

               

“Talk, Talk, Talk”

“Russia, Ukraine and many other nations around the world are seeing more clearly than ever that the U.S. is now a nation that will do a lot of “talking” – but will not act vigorously to protect its friends as it would have done a generation or two ago.

“With such a “power vacuum” created by American weakness, a full-scale European Empire cannot be too many years off!  For, as America continues to deteriorate in its morals, and become more and more a hedonistic society seemingly without purpose, Almighty God has decreed that a coming “Beast Power” will be His “tool” in humbling us and teaching us lessons!   

“It is not that this superpower led by the “Beast: will be filled with “bad” people; rather, it is simply that God uses different nations at different time as His instruments to humble those who rebel against Him, and teach the rebels some much-needed lessons.  The Bible is full of such warnings. We in this Work have specifically warned about this for many decades. Even back in the 1950s when assisting Mr. Armstrong, I was conducting evangelistic campaigns and strongly warning all those who would listen about a coming “Beast Power” in Europe—headed by a revived and heavily armed Germany.  At that time, many scoffed at this, thinking that Germany could never become a powerful nation again. But it is!  [Some are right to still scoff at this idea. Ed]

“We have shown you repeatedly in the pages of this magazine how Almighty God warned the descendants of ancient Israel that, if they would “despise” His statutes and His commandments—as we certainly have done—He would then “break the pride of your power” (Leviticus 26:19).  That very prophecy is now being fulfilled big-time! As you watch world events moving swiftly, I hope all of you begin to really understand what is happening to those nations originally composed of the British-descended and American peoples—the descendants of the “Lost Ten Tribes” of Israel!  ( . . . )

“As hard as it may be for many to believe, Scripture teaches plainly that most of mankind at the end of this age will actually fight against the returning Jesus Christ!  “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).  It is hard to imagine how massive the deception of countless millions of human beings will be in order for them to be willing to literally fight Christ when He returns as King of kings!  Yet that is the deception we must all be preparing to resist!” (Roderick C Meredith, Editor-in-Chief, Tomorrow’s World) 
     

For the average person, this might look like a very good sermonette.  No one will ever suspect that he is dealing with a deep rooted Satanist: Satanists being those who are members of a Synagogue of Satan, or those who preach and practice “doctrines of demons”. It so happens that this “Editor-in-Chief” is guilty of both.    

Herbert W Armstrong maintained until his death that his Worldwide Church of God was the Philadelphia Church of God of the book of Revelation.  Let us look at that passage. 

 

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." '

 

This passage tells us that in this Church there are two kinds of members: one large group which are not genuine Christians but a “synagogue of Satan”, and a small group, or perhaps even a single person, of little strength, who was persecuted by the first, but who remained faithful to the end.   

Now could a Church that claimed to be ‘Worldwide’ be considered to be a small Church?

Herbert W Armstrong and his acolytes thought so.

Now consider the consequences of what happened in the Worldwide Church of God four decades ago. 

A man who went to the headquarters of the Church to show the leaders grievous errors in their preaching, was expelled from the Church, robbed of everything, and thrown out mercilessly in the cold of Canadian winter.  Is that the work of a Church of God, or of a synagogue of Satan? 

R C Meredith was a high ranking evangelist in that Church when they did that dastardly thing.

Out of their Church, the man received the Spirit of Elijah, restored the Gospel of the Kingdom, and then witnessed that Gospel to all the nations, all while the members of that ‘synagogue of Satan’ continued to hinder and do everything in their power to derail his work, robbing him along the way a little bit more. 

Here are the words of Jesus Christ about the work of Elijah. Unmistakably it is linked to the end time.

 

Mat 17:9  Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead."

Mat 17:10  And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"

Mat 17:11  Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.

 

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.

 

Rev 3:10, tells us that Philadelphia Church of God, formed by those of little strength, and certainly not by those of the “synagogue of Satan” [Jesus Christ said that when two or three people are gathered in His name He is there in their midst. So a Church could be formed by as few as two people], will be in existence and protected during the “hour of trial” – the Great Tribulation - that envelops the whole world. 

It so happens that throughout the time of this work I always had only one supporter and no more. 

Now while we have been telling the world to prepare for its returning Savior, those of the “synagogue of Satan”, aka the remnants of the Worldwide Church of God, have been countermanding our message by telling their followers not to bother because that event is still a long way off into the future.

How extraordinary that the man who was expelled from the Worldwide Church of God was given the Spirit of Elijah, restored “all things” pertaining to the Kingdom, and then witnessed that Gospel to all the nations, telling them that the end is near, yet no one believes him because those who ought to be with him and support him, who claimed to be ministers of Jesus Christ turned out to be the ministers of Satan.

The second proof that this Editor-in-Chief is a minister of Satan and not of Christ comes from the fact that his Church and all Churches that hold on to the teachings of the Worldwide Church of God unashamedly preach and practice what the Apostles of Jesus Christ have called “doctrines of demons”. 

 

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.

 

You will never get a member of the Churches that ensued from the WCG to eat a juicy pork chop, a rabbit stew, prawns, lobsters, and hundreds of other “unclean” animals.  They forget that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  Also they never mention this statement from Jesus Christ.

 

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

 

Meredith went on to say that: “Scripture teaches plainly that most of mankind at the end of this age will actually fight against the returning Jesus Christ.”  The Scripture says no such thing, plainly or otherwise.  It does not say that “most” people will fight Christ at his return, but that “all people” will fight Christ. 

 

Rev 19:17  Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,

Rev 19:18  that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great."

Rev 19:19  And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

 

The difference between “most” and “all” is extremely significant. 

 First, because no one is allowed to add or take anything away from the Scriptures.

 

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;

Rev 22:19  and if 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.

 

Second: if he had quoted the Scriptures accurately, the members of his Church may well have asked what about us? Are we going to fight Christ at His return?  That is the awful truth – the whole world has been brought to the stage in which not a single person will recognise the Savior, treating Him as an alien to be fought against. 

Not a single Church in today’s world accepts all the tenets that make a true Church of God (See TCH 25 for a test that reveals a true Church of God).  

It is an extraordinary fact that while traditional Churches do not want Jesus Christ to return at all so that Rome remains an eternal city, fundamentalist/evangelical Churches do not want Him to return at this time. Why not? Because they don’t want us to be right, for that would expose them as false and be the end of them. 

They love this world so much they want it to continue as long as possible.  The cesspool of immorality, violence, social unrest and terrorism that surround them mean nothing to those who have ensconced themselves in cushy clerical positions.  They don’t want anyone to rock the boat, and we have done just that. This is why they have opposed us and unleashed their furry on us so many times.    

What about current world developments? How does this preacher see them?  He briefly mentioned Ukraine and Russia, treating their conflict as if it was just of local significance, and moved quickly to his forte point – the notion that Germany will rise to superpower status, able to destroy the Anglo-Saxon nations of this world.  Their prejudice against Germany has blinded them to the true messages of the Bible, especially to the end-time prophecies.  We can do no better than to quote here a couple of edited articles that we published a decade and a half ago.  It is good and safe that important articles are made available in more than one edition. 

 

 

 

 

    “Mystery of the Philadelphia Church of God” 

 

Before this year [1999], we knew nothing about Gerard Flurry and his church, except that he was just another offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God.  But then, a friend of ours, knowing that our teachings were diametrically opposed, handed us some of his publications and asked us to comment on them.  It was then we discovered that we were wrong to have dismissed this man so lightly in the past.  He does not want to be considered just another offshoot of the WCG; he claims nothing less than the mantle of Herbert W. Armstrong, and the leadership of the Philadelphia Church of God. 

Before the death of its founder, Worldwide Church of God members believed that their Church was none other than the Philadelphia Church of God of the book of Revelation, but even Herbert W. Armstrong hesitated to make that official, fearing perhaps what other Churches may think, or that they might scoff at the idea.  Not so Gerard Flurry.  He did away with all pretenses and came out into the open.   After considering all the facts, we believe that he is right.  He is indeed the rightful inheritor of Armstrong’s mantle, and the head of the Philadelphia Church of God. [That is, the leader of those whom Jesus Christ described as a synagogue of Satan within that Church, not of those of little strength who persevered in doing the end-time work of God] 

On the back of the title page of his Philadelphia Trumpet he makes the following statement:    

 

The Philadelphia Trumpet has no subscription price - it is free.  This is made possible by the tithes and offerings of the membership of the Philadelphia Church of God and others.  Contributions, however, are welcomed and are tax deductible in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand.  Those who wish to voluntarily aid and support this worldwide Work of God are gladly welcomed as co-workers in the effort to “hold fast” to the traditions established in the true church by Herbert W. Armstrong and to proclaim a final warning to the world. Contributions or letters of interest may be sent to one of our offices nearest you.”     

 

He “holds fast” to the traditions established in the “true church” by Herbert W Armstrong.  He did well to put the words “hold fast” in inverted comas, but forgot to do the same with the words “true church”. 

After the death of Herbert W. Armstrong, when his sins, excesses, and false doctrines were exposed to the world, not one of his top evangelists wanted to have anything to do with him anymore.  The result was that the Worldwide Church of God collapsed and went out of existence.  The top evangelists, and quite a few lesser preachers, took their flocks and formed their own “Churches of God”.  They soon discovered that the doctrines of the WCG, false as they may have been, had served them well, and so we soon had more than three hundred new “Churches of God”, virtually all carbon copies of the WCG.

Out of that chaos, arose a white knight, which hardly anyone knew, who determined to preserve the memory of his mentor and restore his religious empire.  Hence, the Philadelphia Church of God.  He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, surging ahead at phenomenal rates of growth.  His message is now being broadcast by more than 120 television stations around the world.  In the January 1999 edition of The Philadelphia Trumpet, we found this:  

 

“For over 50 years, the late Herbert W. Armstrong taught a strong prophecy message which included God’s prophecies about a “beast” power comprised of ten nations or groups of nations (Dan. 2:28-43;Rev. 13). That multi-national religion-led superpower is now rising to the forefront of world economic news before our very eyes, and will soon dominate the world and all of its inhabitants (Rev. 13:16-17).  A European economic and military powerhouse led by Germany and a “universal” church will soon take mankind down its final and most deadly pathway of destruction! (Read Rev. 13:11-15; Ezek. 5; Jer. 9:12-16; the entire book of Lamentations, and many other prophetic scriptures dealing with the “latter days.”)    

 

It was Herbert W. Armstrong who first began the polemic against Germany.  He preached about the danger coming from that country as early as the 1930s.  He was justified in doing so then, but failed to understand the new geopolitical realities that arose from the Second World War.  

When he saw Germany making great strides in rebuilding itself after the war, he assumed that this country would once again rise to become a world power and a threat to his people.  Germany, however, developed into a stable democratic country, thoroughly integrated into the European Community, and unilaterally renounced nuclear weapons.  These developments however were totally out of line with Armstrong’s preaching, nevertheless he held on to his believes until he died.  In the new world only two countries counted as great military powers, the Soviet Union and the USA, yet he continued to speak of the threat coming from Germany and ignored the one coming from Russia. 

After his death, if some of his followers had doubts about his preaching, they were quickly forgotten when they saw the catastrophic collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990.  They were convinced then that Germany’s time had come.  That is when both Gerard Flurry and us began our works in earnest.  He has been telling the world ever since that Germany represents a great danger to world peace, while we have been telling it that the danger comes from Russia and its allies.  Now if success is measured by the number of people converted to one’s cause, we are an abysmal failure.  Flurry on the other hand, could rightly claim to be the most successful preacher in the world at present.  Since both Flurry and I were once baptized into the Worldwide Church of God, let us see where we stand in relation to the Philadelphia Church of God of the book of Revelation.  

 

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." '

 

Notice carefully verses 9 and 10.  They speak of two kinds of people in this church. On the one hand, you have a group of people who claim to be “Jews” (spiritual Jews or Christians), but who are in fact a “synagogue of Satan”.  And on the other, you have one man of little strength who persevered and kept Jesus’ word and not denied His name, before which the first are made to come and worship before his feet. 

The word “synagogue” helps us identify who is who in this scenario.  In ancient times, this word identified the Jews who preserved the Torah and observed the sacrificial and dietary laws of the Old Testament.  But in the New Testament, after the abolition of the sacrificial laws through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:14-15; Col. 2: 14, 16; Heb. 7:11-28), these dietary laws became doctrines of demons. This is what Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy:

 

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.

 

So then a “good minister of Jesus Christ” would never preach “doctrines of demons” such as “forbidding to marry, and commanding people to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth”.  Anyone who preaches otherwise obviously does not know the truth.  For Flurry and his followers it is as if these Scriptures do not exist, as they did not exist for Herbert W Armstrong and the many “Churches of God” that he originated. They make a great virtue out of keeping dietary laws more strictly than the Jews.  In so doing, they deny both the name and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. 

Can you see now why Jesus Christ spoke of two kinds of people in His Philadelphia Church? There are some who claim to be “Jews”, but who are instead a synagogue of Satan.  Bear in mind that Jesus Christ called His followers Jews not Christians.  That is in line with the point made earlier in His ministry that salvation belongs to the Jews.

 

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

 

Now a few words about “forbidding to marry”.  This interdiction must be seen in context of the changes that occurred between the Old and the New Testaments.  In the Old Testament, the Jews were forbidden to marry people of other races, but in the New Testament this distinction no longer applies. 

 

Gal 3:26  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:27  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Gal 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:29  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

 

The only restriction in the New Testament for the people of God is that they must marry from among those who are members of the Congregations of God.   

 

1Co 7:39  A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.

 

2Co 6:14  Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

2Co 6:15  And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

2Co 6:16  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM. I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE."

2CO 6:17  THEREFORE "COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM AND BE SEPARATE, SAYS THE LORD. DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN, AND I WILL RECEIVE YOU."

2CO 6:18  "I WILL BE A FATHER TO YOU, AND YOU SHALL BE MY SONS AND DAUGHTERS, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY."

 

In the New Testament, we have a marriage covenant with God, just as the Jews of old had a marriage covenant with Him. 

 

Jer 3:14  "Return, O backsliding children," says the LORD; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

Jer 3:15  And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

 

Gerard Flurry holds on to the Old Testament marital restrictions by forbidding people of different races to intermarry even if they are baptized and full members of his congregation.  Once again, in so doing he annuls the New Testament and denies the name of his Savior.  You may have noticed the word “unclean” in 2 Cor. 6:17. This is often used to justify maintaining the distinction between “clean” and “unclean” foods, and hence their observance of dietary laws.  But what is it that the people of God must not touch, unclean foods or idols?  This passage is not about food, but about marriage; it does not refer to food, but to idols (see verse 16).

We can destroy our marriage with God by going after idols.  That is what makes us spiritually unclean, not the eating of foods.  Apostle John told us to test the spirits to find out which are true and which are false.

 

1Jn 4:1  Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

 

And Apostle Paul warned us not to be deceived by those who come disguised as ministers of Christ, but who are ministers of Satan instead. 

 

2Co 11:13  For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.

2Co 11:14  And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.

2Co 11:15  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.

 

We hope you are in a better position now to distinguish between the true and the false ministers of Jesus Christ.”   (The Christian Herald No 8, 1999)

 

What we want to do now is look at another publication that claims to speak “the truth”.  Like Meredith’s Tomorrow’s World and Flurry’s Philadelphia Trumpet, this also has its roots in the Worldwide Church of God.  We refer to the Good News magazine of the United Church of God.

In their November-December 2011 edition, they wrote:

 

“In 1933 Winston Churchill chillingly warned, “No one can watch the events which are taking place in Germany without increasing anxiety about what their outcome will be.” With an economic crisis now plaguing the Eurozone, will Berlin’s troubled history repeat itself? What is Germany’s destiny?  Does Bible prophecy give us any indication of where events in Europe are leading? 

 

Now just as Meredith and Flurry transposed the prophecy of 738 BC to today’s Germany, so do the wise men of the United Church of God transpose the words of Winston Churchill of pre-war Germany to today’s Germany.  The Good News magazine went on:

 

“Rather than constraining Germany’s geopolitical potential, the European Union now enhances it; Germany is on the verge of once again becoming a great power.   . . .  

How is it that the entire national debts of Greece, Portugal and Ireland amount to less that 5 percent of euro-zone debt, and yet the entire euro-zone can be seriously shaken by their debt problems?  This points to major structural flaws in the way the euro as originally constructed as a new currency beginning in early 1999.  

This probably has some bearing on why just prior to the establishment of Jesus Christ’s future rule on earth, the Bible speaks of a future European-centered superpower where the component countries are symbolically described as iron mixed with clay, “partly strong and partly fragile” (see Daniel 2:40-44) . . .

Ultimately a new and powerful European superstate, labeled in symbol as “the Beast,” will astonish a largely unsuspecting world. An imposing bloc of nations will coalesce as one final revival of the ancient Roman Empire (Revelation 13:1-8; 17:8-18; Daniel 2:27-45; 7:15-27) 

Ten member nations (or groups of nations) will relinquish their own national sovereignty to become part of this astonishing end-time superpower. “These are of one mind, they will give their power and authority to the beast” (Revelation 17:13)  . . .

Seeing the stage set for the fulfilment of end-time prophecies should motivate each of us to examine our spiritual condition in the light of God’s Word.  An understanding of prophecy ought to lead us to repentance and to dedicate our lives to seeking God and serving Him.  Mere academic Bible knowledge is far from enough!”  

 

As you can see, the theme is the same.  There are more than three hundred “Churches of God” that have ensued from the WCG which continue to preach the fallacies of Herbert W Armstrong.

There is no prophecy in the Bible that gives Germany, either in its modern name or as Assyria of old, a major role in the end-time Great Tribulation. Here are some examples of how these false prophets misapply biblical prophecies.  They said: 

 

“the Bible speaks of a future European-centered superpower where the component countries are symbolically described as iron mixed with clay, “partly strong and partly fragile” (see Daniel 2:40-44).   

 

So let us look at Daniel 2:40-44 to see if it says what they say.       

 

Dan 2:40  And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.

Dan 2:41  Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay.

Dan 2:42  And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.

Dan 2:43  As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.

Dan 2:44  And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.

            

Do you see a European-centered superpower in this passage?  No indication whatsoever of the geographical location of this fourth kingdom in this reference.  One cannot ascribe prophetic roles to countries as he wishes without some form of identifying marks. Certainly not when it comes to God’s prophecies! 

Now since all these prophets have been so brainwashed by that master of deception, HW Armstrong, that they cannot let go of outdated and inappropriate prophecies, let us look at another article that we published a decade and a half ago that is more relevant now than it was then.  That is because then we were dealing with prophecies, whereas now we are dealing with facts. 

 

 

           “Mystery of the Worldwide Church of God”

 

During my brief period in the Worldwide Church of God, in the early 1970s, I found it hard to believe that its leaders would regard Germany as a great threat to America, yet treat Russia (then incorporated into the Soviet Union) as if it did not exist. To me that represented a major fault in their preaching, but I could do nothing about it because, 1) I did not know much about biblical prophecies, and 2) My English was merely at a rudimentary stage.     

But as I grew in “grace and knowledge”, I became more and more convinced that they were wrong in their prophetic understanding, and tried to tell them about it. But the ministers in that church would have none of it. It was inconceivable for them that a newcomer could see things better than their great prophet.

So successful was Herbert W Armstrong in his brainwashing techniques that his followers still believe his prophecies even now when the whole world could see that they had failed.   

My conviction about the danger coming from the Soviet Union at that time was based not on prophetic understanding, but on firsthand experience.  I grew up in Romania at the time of the Russian occupation, and later under the strictest of the communist regimes, and knew what they were preaching and aiming at.

Having been indoctrinated in the communist ideology for no less than seventeen years in various educational and vocational institutions, it is nothing short of miracle that I am now preaching Christ instead of Marx. 

When I arrived in the West, many people were interested in my story.  I remember how at one time, at a party in Vancouver, Canada, people sat around me for hours, asking dozens of questions: how I escaped from the Iron Curtain, how I survived in the West, how was life in the communist world, in the communist army, in the navy, what was I planning to do in the West, etc.  At the end, many people advised me to write it down and publish it, but of course I could not do that. It was one thing to tell a story at a party in a broken language, and quite another to publish it. 

After that evening, I toned down my story and seldom talked about it, preferring instead to look to the future than to dwell on my past trials and those of my family.  It was the best thing I could have done for myself, opening up a new world of possibilities and freeing myself from the shackles of the past. I feel sorry for the people who relieve long past injustices and injuries every time they remember or talk about them. 

What could I have achieved if I had remained bitter about the injustices of the past?  I and my family were victims of the communist system, not of Nazism, and we all know that Russia cannot pay billions to its victims, as does Germany to the victims of Nazism.  Besides, Germany lost the war and Russia won it, and that is why one has to pay and the other doesn’t. That is why for me it was better to forget the past than hope in vain for justice which no one could deliver.  

Those who had illusions that this world can deliver justice, must have come down to earth with a thud when they saw what happened to Pinochet of Chile.  If the man is guilty of crimes against humanity, let him face the courts indeed, but who will arrest the people on the left of the political spectrum for their millions of victims?  Dare anyone dare lay his hands on Fidel Castro for example?  Or on Mengistu of Ethiopia who took refuge in the “paradise” of his close friend Mugabe of Zimbabwe?  Or on Jiang Zemin of China, for that matter, for the blatant violations of human rights that continue to take place in that country, not to speak of the millions of people who lost their lives during their Cultural Revolution?

Who will bring to court Ion Iliescu for taking revenge on my mother for the articles I wrote in this magazine when he became President of Romania by crooked methods, or for the victims of his collectivization when he was second in command under Ceausescu, which ruined the country and brought misery to millions? 

And just the same, who will bring to justice the Judges of Australia who put me in the street on a disability pension and gave my house to my millionaire wife who divorced me because I had “squandered” the money on this work?  Can one get justice for preaching Christ when he is judged by Jews, and divorced by a wife who also happens to be Jewish?  In Australia there is supposed to be no religious persecution, but as they say, there is more than one way to skin a cat.  But woe to that country whose Judges look for profit and deliver crooked justice. 

The Judge in my case even had the temerity to acknowledge before the court that he was delivering a crocked justice when he said in the hearing of all: “I am sorry to do this to you, Mr. Sbarcea!” 

To which I replied, also in the hearing of everyone: “You are doing it to yourself, Sir!” 

Of course, he did not believe me then, but he will shortly.  For had he applied God’s righteous principles, and used the Bible for guidance, he would have known that one must not “judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24), because “with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Mat 7:2), for one does “not judge for man but for the LORD” (2 Chr. 19:6). 

No, not much has changed since the time of Jesus Christ.  Christians are still getting the same raw justice their Lord got two thousand years ago.  And this from the people who ought to know better, who themselves endured great injustice only half a century ago.       

If “justice” is the name of the game, then let there be justice for all not only for those who fought the evils of communism and Satanism.  We wish the Jewish victims of the Holocaust good luck with their compensation, but we advise them to spend it quickly, for their billions will be worthless in just a few, very few, short years.  

And before anyone starts jumping up and down, accusing me of anti-Semitism, let me make one point clear: I happen to believe that I come from the same stock as the Jewish people, though I cannot prove it.  Not that I care to.    (. . .)

It may well be that the reason the ministers in the Worldwide Church of God began to give me cold shoulders after I was baptized in their church, was that we were beginning to speak a different language. 

I could no longer accept their notion that in order to be a Christian one had to keep the Jewish dietary laws and obey the law of tithing practiced in ancient Israel. I chose instead to follow the example of the other Jews – the Apostles of Jesus Christ – who never even mentioned these laws let alone enforce them on their followers.      

Another reason, of course, was that no story was allowed to overshadow that of their great leader. He was the one who had succeeded against all odds during the great depression; he had suffered great hardship during much of his life; he had risen from great poverty to lead the greatest institution on earth.  Now he was entitled to all the accolades and adoration he was receiving from his grateful followers for whom he was preparing a “paradise” on earth.

No one was allowed to cast even a shadow of a doubt over the validity of his doctrinal teachings. 

My salvation came from the fact that I did not allow others to determine the path of my life forever.  Anyone who exercises his brains in the minimum can see that churches serve as the babysitters in the early stages of one’s spiritual growth.  But then one must stand on his own feet or forever be a slave to others.  What else could the following Scriptures mean?  

 

Mat 23:15  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

 

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. "Beware of false

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

Mat 7:16  You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?

 

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?' And then I will declare to them,

Mat 7:23  'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

 

Who are they who prophesy in Jesus’ name, cast out demons in His name, and do wonders in His name, yet still practice lawlessness, if not those who are leaders in His churches? Those who claim to be “Jews” [Christians] yet are a ‘synagogue of Satan’ inside the very churches that carry the name of our heavenly Father - Churches of God!      

Every single one of the seven Churches of God mentioned in the book of Revelation, had problems with these people.  This is the great mystery of our world, that God Almighty has allowed the children of the Wicked One to rule in His churches over His children who needed to be chastened in order to develop the character suitable for His eternal Kingdom.

 

Heb 12:5  And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;

Heb 12:6  for whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives."

Heb 12:7  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father

Heb 12:8  does not chasten?  But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.

Heb 12:9  Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?

Heb 12:10  For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.

 

Luk 17:1  Then He said to the disciples, "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom

Luk 17:2  they do come!  It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.

 

2Pe 2:1  But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift

2Pe 2:2 destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.

 

2Pe 2:19  While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.

2Pe 2:20  For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.

2Pe 2:21  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.

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."

 

So take hold of a good Bible and “work out your own salvation”, for if you rely on others all your life you will not make it into the Kingdom of God any more than they will.”  (The Christian Herald No 8, 1999)

 

 

 

 

 

    “THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND”

 

Herbert W. Armstrong did not live to see the changes that took place in the world in late 80’s and early 90’s, but his hirelings saw them and were heartened by them, believing that their master’s prophecies were finally beginning to come true.  But as the years passed by, the unthinkable occurred.  Instead of Germany rising to new heights of power, it was Russia which started to assert itself again.  So they had to do something about it. They had to find an explanation and a new role for this country in their scheme of things.   This is what Gerard Flurry came up with:

 

“Germany is soon to inflict great destruction on this world. God is going to use that nation-called Assyria anciently-as His tool to punish the nations of Israel today-mainly America and Britain.  Then, about three years later, God is going to use the Russians and Chinese to destroy Germany. Finally, comes the battle called Armageddon, when Jesus Christ returns to rule this earth. We are getting dangerously close to the dreadful day of the Lord! But we also need to look beyond that time to the glorious rule of God!” (Nahum. An end-time prophecy for Germany, published by the Philadelphia Church of God).      

 

So after demolishing Britain and America, Germany will still be such an insurmountable power that Russia alone could not destroy it.  It will need a helping hand from China, a country in the other side of the world, to destroy this average size country in central Europe, when only a fraction of Russia’s missiles could virtually pulverize that country.     

Now did you notice how many biblical references they gave us to prove these assertions? None!  None, because there aren’t any.  And there aren’t any because this is pure fantasy not biblical prophecy.  That booklet was published in 1996, but by 1999 Flurry and his ministers had another change of heart.   “This former superpower [Russia] is now a dead man standing and has all but totally collapsed from the same economic phenomenon which has swept the other global emerging markets”.  (The Philadelphia Trumpet, February 1999, p. 10).  But then, realizing that this new position did not square well with their earlier pronouncements, they performed yet another somersault.

 

“Over the past year the Western press has presented the world with a picture of an ailing Russia, its economy in tatters, its president on the brink of death, International Monetary Fund aid disappearing without trace, its foreign policy enfeebled-an impression that Russia is a basket case with no means of recovery evident in the foreseeable future.  But gullible Western journalists have forgotten one thing: the expertise of the Russians in manufacturing and perpetrating disinformation. All of a sudden, the Russians are back.” (Philadelphia Trumpet, May 1999, p. 20).       

 

Breathtaking hypocrisy!  It is the Western media which presented a false image of an ailing Russia; the gullible Western journalists who forgot the Russian expertise in manufacturing and perpetrating disinformation, not they themselves.  In the ensuing editions of their magazine, they went back to their thesis that Russia in conjunction with China would destroy Germany after this destroys Britain and America first. 

People pay up to thirty per cent of their income, under the same ruinous tithing regime invented by Herbert W. Armstrong, to hear this kind of utter trash.  Flurry gave us Isaiah 10:5-7 as proof that Germany would rise one more time to become a mortal threat to Britain and America.  But when we checked that reference we found that it said nothing of a kind. 

 

Isa 10:5  "Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.

Isa 10:6  I will send him against an ungodly nation, And against the people of My wrath I will give him charge, To seize the spoil, to take the prey, And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

Isa 10:7  Yet he does not mean so, Nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, And cut off not a few nations.

 

Does this confirm his point?  It would except for a couple of things: Flurry and his hirelings know neither history nor the protagonists of the end time Great Tribulation. 

This prophecy was written in about the year 738 BC, which is about twenty years before Assyria trashed Israel and took the Ten Tribes that comprised Samaria into captivity. Henceforth, they became known as the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel.  We know now that they did not disappear from the earth, but transmigrated to the fertile lands of Europe, where in time they became the harbingers of Christianity.  

Although all Tribes had the blessings that God bestowed on Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Britain and America became inheritors of additional primogeniture blessings from Jacob.      

Exiled from their Middle Eastern land by Assyria, in their new land the Ten Tribes overtook their captors and became the mighty world Empires of Britain and France. 

As it is well known, full of envy, Assyria (modern day Germany) began two World Wars in order to bring the Ten Tribes to heel and regain its long lost greatness.  But no one could overturn God’s order of things. The proverbial time of ‘Jacob’s trouble’ had not yet come.  That time comes in the context of the end time Great Tribulation, and Germany has no role to play in that conflict.  It is Russia and her Gentile allies that will face Jacob’s Tribes in that worldwide devastation. 

We stood by this prophetic statement even when Russia was in ‘tatters’, to use Flurry’s term, and have never changed our position, unlike Armstrong’s disciples, and Flurry among them, who change with the politics of the day.  Then he gave us Revelation 13:16-17 as proof that “a multi-national religion-led superpower is now rising to the forefront of world economic news before our very eyes, and will soon dominate the world and all of its inhabitants”.  Well, let’s check this reference too; maybe we are luckier this time.      

 

Rev 13:16  He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right

Rev 13:17  hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.

Rev 13:18  Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

 

Do you see a “multinational-led superpower rising before our very eyes” in this passage?  Both these references are outright misquotations. Our “watchman of God” does not appear to be very sure of his Bible.  Could it be that his inability to prove his points is because he did not take them from the Scriptures but blindly accepted them from Herbert W. Armstrong?  

We added verse 18 to that quote to make it even more clear, and because this verse is closely linked with the previous two verses.  We do not know why they left this one out, except perhaps because it tells us to calculate the number 666 which identifies the “beast”.

By assigning numerical values to letters, the Pope’s title, “VICARIUS FILII DEI” (“Vicar of the Son of God”) in Latin, adds up to 666.  The letters “Lateinos” (the Latins) in Greek also add up to 666.  And, astonishingly, the letters “ROMIITH” (the Romans) in Hebrew also add up to 666.   This is how Joseph F. Berg presented them in his book, The Great Apostasy.

 

 

      V ……………..       5                   F……………..   0                  D ……………       500

      I  ……………..       1                   I ……………..   1                  E …………….                0

      C ……………..    100                         L ……………. 50                  I  …………….         1

      A  …………….       0                   I ……………..   1                                              _____

      R  …………….       1                   I  …………….   1                                                501         

      I  ……………..         5                                     _____                                                    112

      U  …………….       0                                                   53                                                  53

                                ______                                                                                                   _____

                                  112                                                                                                 666

 

            GREEK - Lateinos                              HEBREW - Romiith

 

            L ………………    30                                h ……………..     200

            A ………………      1                               i ……………...         6

            T ………………  300                                r ……………..       40

            E ………………      5                                t   …………….      10

            I  ………………    10                                t   …………….      10

            N ……………..      50                               p   …………….    400

            O ……………..      70                                              ­­            ____

            S ……………..     200                                                   666

                                      ­­ ----

                                         666

 

“Now we challenge the world to find another name in three languages: Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, which shall designate the same number”, wrote Joseph F. Berg.  

 

If this superpower is rising up “before our very eyes”, how did the ancients know about it too?  We find similar explanations in Christian writings as early as the third and fourth centuries AD.  Does not this tell you that this prophecy has long since been fulfilled?

Whose purpose then does it serve to hide the true identity of this “beast” by telling people that it is yet to rise when in fact it has already risen long ago?  Who is interested in keeping Christians unprepared for the return of their Savior by making them believe that there are still many years before these prophesies are fulfilled? 

Verses 16 and 17 of Revelation 13 do not speak about a “multi-national religion-led superpower”, but about a man who would cause all human beings to receive the mark of the “beast” on their right hand and on their foreheads.  That man has spread his religion over the whole world long ago.  Worship of the dead, life after death, worship of the sun, profanation of the Sabbath and the Holy Days of God, etc., trace their origin to pagan Egypt, whose religion was carried over by Pontifex Maximus [High Priest- the Pontiff] to the Roman Empire and then to the Catholic Church and the rest of the ‘Christian’ world, and indeed to the whole world. 

Most people never check other people’s references because they think they are true as a matter of fact. But true they aren’t, because we are not dealing with honest people but with deceivers, “whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame”. 

 

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

Php 3:19  enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.

Php 3:20  For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus

Php 3:21  Christ, 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.

 

Now let us look at Revelation 13:16-17 from another angle.  Let us accept that this prophecy is yet to be fulfilled. How long would it take Germany to become such a colossal power capable of destroying Britain and America?

It took these countries more than 50 years to reach their present awesome nuclear capabilities.  Now even if Germany has the know-how and the resources to build such an arsenal, it would take it at least half that long to catch up with the USA, let alone overtake it.  But what does the Bible say about the time element?  Let us look at the preceding 15 verses.

 

Rev 13:1  Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.

Rev 13:2  Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.

Rev 13:3  And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.

Rev 13:4  So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"

Rev 13:5  And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority

Rev 13:6  to continue for forty-two months.  Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.

Rev 13:7  It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Rev 13:8  All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Rev 13:9  If anyone has an ear, let him hear.

Rev 13:10  He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.

Rev 13:11  Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and

Rev 13:12  spoke like a dragon.  And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

Rev 13:13  He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the

Rev 13:14  sight of men.  And he deceives those who dwell on the earth—by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.

Rev 13:15  He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

 

Here we have two “beasts”, one arising from the other.  The first “beast” lasted for forty-two months, during which time it blasphemed God and made war with the saints. Then the second “beast” arose from the first and made those who dwell on the earth to worship the first “beast”.  Now which “beast” is supposed to rise “before our very eyes”, the first or the second? 

If Germany is the second “beast”, which is the first one from which it is supposed to have arisen? 

But if it is the first “beast” which rises “before our very eyes”, then it must reach its potential in just forty-two months.  That is, if we take the forty-two months to mean 1260 days, but if they mean 1260 years - a day for a year, as it often does in biblical prophecies -  then that would make this prophecy impossible in our time. 

If, on the other hand, this “beast” is the ancient Roman Empire, as we have proven after extensive historical and biblical research (See TCH 3&4), is it a mere coincidence that from the foundation of Rome in about 750 B.C. until the collapse of that empire in about 510 A.D. there are 1260 years?

The second “beast”, of course, is the Holy Roman Empire, which arose from the first “beast”, the Roman Empire.  The connecting link between these empires was Pontifex Maximus.  He was the religious leader of both empires.  He still is the head of the religious Roman Empire - the Catholic Church - today. 

Remember, the prophet Daniel said that this empire would be different from the previous three -  the Babylonian, Persian and Greek - and would last until the end of this age.  Now we know what he meant.  This empire is different in that it transformed itself from an expanding military power into an expanding religious power. Its doctrines and beliefs, false and dangerous as they are, have penetrated every corner of the world.    

It is this “beast” which has stamped its sign on people’s foreheads long ago by imprinting its pagan beliefs in their heads, and on their hand by forcing them to work and dishonor their God-given Holy Days after imposing on them its own pagan holy days.

Flurry’s Philadelphia Trumpet gave us another reference which is supposed to prove that a superpower of ten nations will arise in Europe now.

 

     “For over 50 years, the late Herbert W. Armstrong taught a strong prophecy message which included God’s prophecies about a “beast” power comprised of ten nations or groups of nations (Dan. 2:28-43;Rev 13).

 

Let us do the usual and check Daniel 2:28-43.                               

 

Dan 2:28  But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your

Dan 2:29  bed, were these: As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be.

Dan 2:30  But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.

Dan 2:31  "You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome.

Dan 2:32  This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze,

Dan 2:33  its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.

Dan 2:34  You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.

Dan 2:35  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Dan 2:36  "This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king.   You, O King, are

Dan 2:37  a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory;

Dan 2:38  and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold.

Dan 2:39  But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.

Dan 2:40  And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.

Dan 2:41  Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay.

Dan 2:42  And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly

Dan 2:43  strong and partly fragile.  As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.

Dan 2:44  And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.

 

Convinced by it?  Do you see in this passage a ‘beast’ power of ten nations rising in our time in central Europe? If so, what is Nebuchadnezzar doing there?  Daniel told this Babylonian king that there would arise three new kingdoms after his, the last one being more powerful than all the others.  This would remain in existence until the Kingdom of God will be established, and rulership will be given to the saints of the Most High.  Is it not clear that this prophecy also refers to the Roman Empire?  Once again, Flurry’s reference lets him down.  Not only is it not proving his point, it proves the very points that we have been making all along.

A ‘best’ power will indeed arise shortly; in fact it is rising before our very eyes, but not in central Europe, and not around Germany, but much further east.  Not involving the countries mentioned in Armstrong’s and Flurry’s writings, but the ones we have mentioned - Russia, China and their allies (For details of this prophecy, see The Christian Heralds 2&4). 

 

Roderick Meredith, Gerard Flurry and those who publish the Good News are children of the same feathers, all faithful disciples of the one we identified as the “worthless shepherd” of the prophet Zechariah. 

 

Zec 11:15  And the LORD said to me, "Next, take for yourself the implements of a foolish shepherd.

Zec 11:16  For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces.

Zec 11:17  "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."

 

People could look to Germany to become a superpower capable of destroying Britain and America until they get blue in their faces; it will never happen.

On the other hand, the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine is nothing but a proxy war between two nuclear armed superpower blocks – the East versus the West or as God sees it: the children of Greece versus the children of Zion.   The children of Zion being the nations of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, while the children of Greece being the nations of the Greek Orthodox Church. 

Russia will never allow Ukraine to become a member of NATO, a member of the children of Zion, because Ukraine is Russia’s backwater, or as Russian leaders see it, their brothers and sisters. 

Hence the danger coming from this “local” conflict!

 

 

 

     Mystery of the Disappearing Christians

 

Today’s Churches tell us that since the time of Jesus Christ, the number of Christians has continually increased in the world to the point that there are now more than two billion people who call themselves Christians.  The Bible, however, gives us a different picture. 

The book of Revelation, which deals in large measure with the end times, tells us that by the time of the end there won’t be a single Christian left in the world, and that the whole world will take up arms to fight the returning Christ.  Here is just a part of this account. 

 

Rev 19:11  Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.

Rev 19:12  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.

Rev 19:13  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

 

[The Word of God is none other than Jesus Christ. He was the One who said: "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen 1:26), and the One of whom Apostle John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Joh 1:1-3), and the One of whom Apostle Paul wrote:   Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (1 Cor. 10:1-5). So Apostle Paul believed that Jesus Christ was God: “that Rock was Christ, but with most of them God was not pleased”)]

 

Rev 19:14  And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

Rev 19:15  Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.

Rev 19:16  And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Rev 19:17  Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, "Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,

Rev 19:18  that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great."

Rev 19:19  And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.

 

Since “all people” gather together to make war against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, it stands to reason that there are no Christians among them, for we cannot imagine that they would rise up against their Savior.

At one time, at a session of questions and answers after a religious service, I asked an Anglican priest who was high up in the Anglican hierarchy, about those prophecies. He quickly replied that we should not worry about those things for they are for a long time in the future, and turned away to other people with more convenient questions.

The man seemed to be unaware of what is going on in the world at present, for the reason I asked him that question is that virtually all the signs that Jesus Christ gave as signifying the end of this age can be seen in the world at present: wars and rumors of wars, droughts, famine, pestilences, natural disasters, crime, violence, gross immorality, global warming, falling away from the truth of God, and of course, false preachers and religious deception.

Religious leaders would talk about anything in their Churches, and they are good at it, except what it matters most – the end of this age. And if the leaders don’t talk about it, members of their Churches don’t know anything about it either, and won’t listen to anyone who tells them otherwise. This is why it took us more than two decades to bring this topic to the attention of this world, and why the greatest world conflagration in the history of this world will take the world by surprise.

 

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.

Mat 24:15  "Therefore when you see the 'ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place"  (whoever reads, let him understand),

Mat 24:16  "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Mat 24:17  Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.

Mat 24:18  And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

Mat 24:19  But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

Mat 24:20  And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath.

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.

Mat 24:23  "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' [He is in this Church or in that Church] do not believe it.

Mat 24:24  For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible,

Mat 24:25  even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.

 

Mat 24:36  "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

Mat 24:37  But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

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

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

 

Mat 24:42  Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

 

This is where the problem lay: people are not watching, and those that are watching do their best to deny what they see and feel.  I am sure you’ve all heard of the global warming and climate change sceptics.  They scorch themselves in heatwaves after heatwave, yet they insist that there is no global warming.  The polar ice caps are melting at frightening speed, large swathes of the world suffer drought while others are drowning under torrential rains, cyclones, and tornadoes as never before, yet they say that there is no climate change.

Every year, ninety five per cent of the scientists that work in these fields tell us that things are getting visibly worse all the time and that the world is in far worse condition than in previous findings.  Unless humanity takes drastic measures to reduce carbon emissions and keep global warming below 2C degrees, humanity will be in a fight for its survival by the end of the century.  They give humanity more than eighty years to mend its ways if it wants to survive and keep on messing up this planet as it has done so for millennia. But people don’t listen to them, but rather to the five per cent of sceptic scientists who tell us that there is no global warming and climate change in spite of what we all see and feel.

Now even if no carbon dioxide emissions are released into the atmosphere at all from now on, global warming and climate change WILL NOT STOP let alone be reversed. That is because what affects the world at present are not emissions form the last few years or even the last few decades, but what has been put into the air more than a century ago. It takes that long for carbon emissions to be recycled in nature.  And given the fact that the world’s forests which absorb carbon are fast being destroyed and the marine organisms which do the same are dying because of pollution, acidification, overfishing, and global warming, even that cycle is now in doubt.         

The scientists who know these facts can’t insist too much that the world is already in dire straits because the world listens to those who give it good news, and they would put themselves in danger of being ostracised and losing their livelihood.  And so, the world is being kept in perpetual ignorance by those who ought to know better - secular and religious people alike.  And so, it is left to minnows like us to tell the truth and cry aloud the sins of this world, per chance some may listen and do something about it while there is still a chance.  But does anyone listen?  Or are we like this poor man?  

 

Ecc 9:14  There was a little city with few men in it; and a great king came against it, besieged it, and built great snares around it.

Ecc 9:15  Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that same poor man.

Ecc 9:16  Then I said: "Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, And his words are not heard.

 

What people do not know is that the major cause for this world’s problems, which gnaws at the edifice of everything that this world stands for, is sin. Nothing that human beings can do will bring a change for the better, including a reversal of global warming and climate change, short of repentance and wholehearted return to our Creator.  

Now who is Jesus Christ going to blame when He returns and finds this world in such an abysmal state of affairs?

Not the scientists who out of self-interest speak with half voices;

Not the world leaders who are more concerned with upholding the “human rights” of homosexuals than saving humanity from utter destruction;

Not the political leaders who hardly know better and do not want to alienate their electorate;

Not even the false preachers whose fate they themselves had sealed long ago. 

No, He is going to blame those who called themselves ‘Christians’ for not doing what His disciples must always do: watch, pray, keep the Commandments,  worship the true God and keep the faith of Jesus Christ.  

 

 

Rev 14:1  Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads.

 

 [These are those who are resurrected in the first resurrection, who are brought to heaven to be trained to judge the world and be priests and kings in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ]

 

Rev 14:2  And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps.

Rev 14:3  They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.

Rev 14:4  These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.

 

[Although this statement can be taken literally, as we know that sins of the flesh destroy the soul if not repented of, then term “women” in this case refers more to false churches which preach and practice idolatry. For God, the sin of idolatry, a sin of the mind and heart, is far worse than the sins of the flesh, for it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to repent of. 

 

Psa 135:14  For the LORD will judge His people, And He will have compassion on His servants.

Psa 135:15  The idols of the nations are silver and gold, The work of men's hands.

Psa 135:16  They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see;

Psa 135:17  They have ears, but they do not hear; Nor is there any breath in their mouths.

Psa 135:18  Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them.

Psa 135:19  Bless the LORD, O house of Israel! Bless the LORD, O house of Aaron!

Psa 135:20  Bless the LORD, O house of Levi! You who fear the LORD, bless the LORD!

Psa 135:21  Blessed be the LORD out of Zion, Who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the LORD!]

 

Rev 14:5  And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God.

Rev 14:6  Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people—

Rev 14:7  saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water."

Rev 14:8  And another angel followed, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."

Rev 14:9  Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand,

Rev 14:10  he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Rev 14:11  And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."

Rev 14:12  Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.

Rev 14:13  Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."

 

As you can see, "Babylon  . . .  that great city . . . has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."  This fornication does not refer to the sins of the flesh, but fornication with other false churches and religions. 

If you do not know yet which “great city” is this Babylon is, whose false doctrines and idolatry have spread to all corners of the earth, we are not going to tell you.  Watch out for a great religious leader, who thinks of himself as God, as he “Holy Father” of the Christin world, who said recently that all religions are right and wants to make an alliance with them all against the evils of this world. 

Little does he know that he is the greatest evil this world has ever seen.  

 

 

 

 

 

                Answering the question that people have wanted

   to know since the beginning of time 

 

At one time, the disciples of Jesus Christ asked Him why He was speaking to the people in parables, instead of telling them plainly what His teaching was about.   

 

Mat 13:10  And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"

Mat 13:11  He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.

Mat 13:12  For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

Mat 13:13  Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

Mat 13:14  And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'HEARING YOU WILL HEAR AND SHALL NOT UNDERSTAND, AND SEEING YOU WILL SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE;

Mat 13:15  FOR THE HEARTS OF THIS PEOPLE HAVE GROWN DULL. THEIR EARS ARE HARD OF HEARING, AND THEIR EYES THEY HAVE CLOSED, LEST THEY SHOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, LEST THEY SHOULD UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEARTS AND TURN, SO THAT I SHOULD HEAL THEM.'

Mat 13:16  But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;

Mat 13:17  for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Mat 13:18  "Therefore hear the parable of the sower”

 

You should read the rest of this parable in your Bible, for it is very instructing.  For our purpose, however, we stop here, as we just wanted to show you that the mystery of God’s Creation, the purpose for which He created the world in the first place, has not been given to human beings and kept secret until now. 

 

Rev 10:5  The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven

Rev 10:6  and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it, that there should be delay no longer,

Rev 10:7  but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished, as He declared to His servants the prophets.

 

Now let us go to another encounter between Jesus Christ and His disciples.

 

Mat 24:1  Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple.

Mat 24:2  And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

 

They pondered about that answer until they arrived at the Mount of Olives where they often went for prayer and discussion.  Then they asked Him to explain that answer to them.   

 

Mat 24:3  Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Mat 24:4  And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you.

Mat 24:5  For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.

 

He went on to list many more signs of which our readers would know about for we have often spoken about them.  Now we go to yet another encounter between Jesus Christ and His disciple. 

 

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.

Act 1:10  And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white

Act 1:11  apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

 

Jesus Christ told His disciples many secrets and mysteries that the wise men and prophets of old could not know, yet the answer to the question about His return and the end of this age He couldn’t tell them.  

It may surprise people to hear this, but we can know that time now.  

Undoubtedly, my nemeses will be jumping up and down now, shouting: “we got him, we finally got him.  Did not Jesus Christ say that no man knows the day and hour of His return? Here are the Scriptures.” 

 

Mat 24:29  "Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Mat 24:30  Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Mat 24:31  And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Mat 24:32  "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near.

Mat 24:33  So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!

Mat 24:34  Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.

Mat 24:35  Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Mat 24:36  "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.

 

Indeed, these are the Scriptures which tell us that only the Father knows the day and hour of Jesus’ return, but what everyone seems to ignore is the season of His return, the time when he fig tree puts forth tender leaves.  Otherwise all the signs that He gave us about the imminence of His return would make no sense. 

We are not looking for the day and hour of Jesus’ return, indeed it would be foolish for anyone to try to guess that. What we are looking for is the season, or perhaps the year, of His return.  It would not be a sin for anyone to do that, but more likely than not he would be made a fool, as so many have become, especially in America after telling their followers to sell everything and head to the mountains and wait for their Lord.    

The disciples of Jesus Christ, including His Apostles, believed that He would return in their time. 

This is what Apostle Paul wrote:

 

1Th 4:13  But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

1Th 4:14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

1Th 4:15  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

1Th 4:16  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1Th 4:17  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

 

And this is what Apostle John wrote:

 

Joh 21:20  Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?"

Joh 21:21  Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?"

Joh 21:22  Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."

Joh 21:23  Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?"

Joh 21:24  This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.

 

As time went by and they endured many trials and tribulations, the Apostles understood that Jesus Christ would not return in their time and reconciled themselves to the fact that they would die and not see Him until the resurrection time. Later, after Apostle Paul was brought to Rome in chains to be judged by the Emperor, he wrote this.  

 

Php 1:12  But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard,

Php 1:13  and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord,

Php 1:14  having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

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 defence of the gospel.

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

Php 1:19  For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of

Php 1:20  Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

Php 1:21  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Php 1:22  But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.

Php 1:23  For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

Php 1:24  Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

Php 1:25  And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy

Php 1:26  of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

Php 1:27  Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

Php 1:28  and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 

Php 1:29  For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

Php 1:30  having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

 

To the very last, Apostle Paul believed in “deliverance through their prayer” but that was not to be, for shortly afterwards he was executed for “profaning” the Temple in Jerusalem, and the Temple of Diana in Ephesus, as his contemporaries denounced him for.  

He then told the Philippians that they must endure suffering, “for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me”.  

You won’t hear the impostors of today telling their listeners that the Gospel has been spread through suffering, and that “some preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction”. 

After all that he endured at the hands of his enemies, it is not surprising that Apostle Paul would rather die and “be with Christ”, but that it was better for the disciples if he remained alive.  So is he with Christ now?  Of course not! He is dead and shall remain dead until the resurrection time which takes place at the end of this age. 

Now here is the crux of the matter.  The Apostles did not know when the resurrection would take place, nor that there would be two resurrections: the first for those who are raised to be trained as Kings and Priests, and a second for the rest of those who are to be saved.  

Why then did Apostle Paul say that he would rather die and be with Christ if no one ascends to heaven until the resurrection time?   The Apostles believed that they would either be alive, or be dead a short time, and since they would be unconscious of the passage of time it would be like they had just died. Here is the passage from Thessalonians again.

 

1Th 4:13  But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.

1Th 4:14  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

1Th 4:15  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.

1Th 4:16  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

1Th 4:17  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

1Th 4:18  Therefore comfort one another with these words.

 

The question is why did even the Apostles have such a hard time to understand the truth about the end of this age and the return of Jesus Christ?  For one simple reason:  they did not have the book of Revelation. 

That book was given by Jesus Christ to Apostle John, the youngest of His Apostles, when he was old and when all the other Apostles had disappeared from the scene.  We can now know things that even the Apostles could not know.

You may be surprised to know what that Book is telling us. The reason other Churches do not know it is because “Babylon the Great” has been telling people that two books of the Bible are not to be trusted: Genesis and Revelation, the very books that reveal it as the “Mother of Harlots”.

 

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 marvelled 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.

 

Biblical scholars have known that for prophetic purposes, God used the principle of a day for a year, and a day for a thousand years depending on the context of the prophecy. Here are some examples of a day for a year.

 

Num 14:34  According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.

 

Eze 4:4  "Lie also on your left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it. According to the number of the days that you lie on it, you shall bear their iniquity.

Eze 4:5  For I have laid on you the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days; so you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.

Eze 4:6  And when you have completed them, lie again on your right side; then you shall bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year.

 

And here are some examples of a day for a thousand years. 

 

Psa 90:4  For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.

 

2Pe 3:8  But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

 

And here are some examples in which numbers 7 and 40 play important roles in the Bible.  

 

Creation took seven days (Gen. 2:2).

Noah took seven pairs of clean animals and seven pair of birds on the Arc (Gen 7:1-3)

The rain for Noah’s Flood fell for forty days and forty nights (Gen 7:4). 

The Flood itself lasted forty days and forty nights (Gen. 7:12) 

Jacob served seven years for each of his two wives, Leah and Rachel (Gen. 29:27; 29:30).

 

Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt (Ex. 16:35, Deut. 8:2).

Moses spent 40 days on the mountain twice to receive the Ten Commandments (Ex. 24:18, 34:28).

Jesus Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness without food (Mat. 4:2). 

And if I may say so, it took me forty years after parting company with the Worldwide Church of God to complete the work of preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness to all the nations, another sure sign of the end of this age?

 

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.

 

There are many more examples like these in the Bible. However, the one that concerns us at this point is number seven for the Creation week. Some biblical scholars have come to understand that there is a parallel between the physical creation and a spiritual creation.

In the Genesis week, God created everything that is in this physical world, including human beings.

During the seven thousand years that He has allocated for this world, He is performing a Spiritual Creation.

At the end of seven thousand years, a new member is added to the heavenly dynasty – the Holy Spirit.

Here are the last words of Jesus Christ before He ascended to heaven. 

 

Mat 28:18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

Mat 28:19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things

Mat 28:20  that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.

 

Prior to this, the only time Jesus Christ mentioned the Holy Spirit was in a the context of blasphemy against Him.  

 

Mat 12:30  He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.

Mat 12:31  "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.

Mat 12:32  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

Mat 12:33  "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known

Mat 12:34  by its fruit.  Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

 

There is one major difference between these two accounts.  In Matthew 12, the Holy Spirit is the Father, or the Spirit of the Father, or the Angel of the Lord.  When God sends an Angel to speak or act for Him he is taking the identity of God Himself.

 

Jdg 2:1  Then the Angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said: "I led you up from Egypt and brought you to the land of which I swore to your fathers; and I said, 'I will never break My covenant with you.

 

 In Matthew 28, and thereafter, the Holy Spirit is a separate entity in the heavenly Trinity.  It is only after Jesus Christ overcame the Devil, was resurrected from the dead and raised to heaven that He could speak of the Holy Spirit as a separate entity. 

The entirety of the New Testament is about the Holy Spirit becoming the bride of Christ.  And who is the bride of Christ in the world today?  The Church of God – the real and true Church of God, which only God and Jesus Christ know, not the ones that masquerade as Churches of God these days.  

 My readers may remember the ongoing controversy that I’ve had with the enemies of Christ over this issue. For decades they have confronted me with all sorts of falsehoods and misreading of the Scriptures to prove that there is no such a thing as a heavenly Trinity, and only a Duality of Father and Son.  They would say that, wouldn’t they? They serve their master, Satan, well, who hates the Holy Spirit for taking his place in heaven.

At one time, Jesus Christ said: "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working" (Joh 5:17).  Now how has the Father been working if the book of Genesis tells us that after the six days of creation God rested the seventh day?  The assumption was that ever since that time God has been resting, yet Jesus Christ gave us a different picture. 

Herein lays one of the greatest mysteries of the Bible: The end of the physical creation was the beginning of a spiritual creation, during which time God has been creating a new member for His family – the Holy Spirit.

There is a parallelism between the seven day physical creation and the seven thousand years spiritual creation? The six working days of the week parallel the six thousand years of spiritual creation, while the weekly Sabbath parallels the thousand years Millennium Kingdom.  When the Holy Spirit is raised to heaven, Satan is cast out, never to be heard of again.  

 

Rev 20:1  Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

Rev 20:2  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;

Rev 20:3  and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

 

Rev 20:7  Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison

Rev 20:8  and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.

Rev 20:9  They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.

Rev 20:10  The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Rev 20:11  Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

Rev 20:12  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

Rev 20:13  The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

Rev 20:14  Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Rev 20:15  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

 

In the next chapter Satan does not appear anymore, while the Holy Spirit becomes the bride of Christ. 

 

Rev 21:1  Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.

Rev 21:2  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Rev 21:3  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.

Rev 21:4  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Rev 21:5  Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."

Rev 21:6  And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.

Rev 21:7  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

Rev 21:8  But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Rev 21:9  Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife."

 

Now if Satan is bound for a thousand years, during which time the land enjoys a sabbatical rest (2Ch 36:21), then the Great Tribulation and the return of Jesus Christ cannot occur at any other time except at the end of six thousand years of human history and the beginning of the thousand years Millennium Kingdom.

Biblical chronology tells us that we are in the midst of this transition period.  However, Jesus Christ allowed for the possibility of a delay in His return. 

 

Mat 25:1  "Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.

Mat 25:2  Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

Mat 25:3  Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,

Mat 25:4  but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

Mat 25:5  But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

Mat 25:6  "And at midnight a cry was heard: 'Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!'

Mat 25:7  Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps.

Mat 25:8  And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'

Mat 25:9  But the wise answered, saying, 'No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.'

Mat 25:10  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

Mat 25:11  "Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open to us!'

Mat 25:12  But he answered and said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.'

Mat 25:13  "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

 

How long will this delay be?  No one can tell.  Only the Father knows this. However, it cannot be more than a few years at the most.  We are certain that it will happen during the reign of Vladimir Putin of Russia.  We have identified him as the man of destiny long before he appeared on the scene. 

He has a mission from God against the wayward western civilisation, which has abandoned any pretence of obedience to the Law of God and embraced Satan’s law of “human rights”.

If the world refuses to take note of God’s examples in the Bible, in which He destroyed all those who had gone after strange flesh, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the tribe of Benjamin being the most obvious examples, then the whole world will suffer their fate; hence the Great Tribulation which will cleanse the world of its physical, moral and spiritual pollutions in preparation for the Millennium Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

STATE OF THE WORLD

 

Society and Culture

 

Seriously, your kids should not be watching this

SEX and violence are at an all-time high in the movies our children watch, the music they hear, and the games they play.

And, in bad news for mums and dads a new study, published this week in Pediatrics, suggests that it is parents who are unknowingly dropping the ball.  The researchers asked 1000 parents of children between 6-17 years to watch eight movie clips in a random order. Each clip contained either sexual content or strong violence.  Parents were asked what age their children would have to be before being allowed to watch these scenes. The first clip was always rated as being suitable for an older child. The final clip was always rated as being appropriate for younger children. Regardless of the order of viewing, parents consistently reduced their age recommendations as they watched more clips. The more of a particular kind of content we watch, the greater the level of desensitisation we experience. What was once shocking eventually barely registers. Like a drug, the more violence or sexual content we take in, the more of it we need to get the same “shock” factor. Don’t watch the news for a couple of months, and then sit through a full bulletin. It will assault your senses.  Is there really a problem with our children seeing sex and violence? Does it really affect them?  In my work I regularly speak with parents of children as young as six who are watching Game of Thrones, The Wire, or Breaking Bad. Their parents wonder why their child is having “behaviour issues.”  Many adults claim that they’ve watched violent movies all of their lives, played violent games, and never killed someone. In fact they’ve never even acted aggressively. They’ll say the ‘wowser-brigade’ is making mountains out of molehills.

They’ll point to all the things we watched as children that never affected us because we never understood it. What is the harm of allowing a 6-12 year-old to see sex and violence in their lounge room?  These arguments persist in spite of hundreds of studies over several decades showing that sexual and violent content are genuinely influencing our behaviour — and our morality. We may not kill people because we watched Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger shoot bad guys by the thousands. But research tells us that violent and sexual content do impact the way we behave towards others.  As one neat example, a 2009 study demonstrated that exposure to gratuitous violence in either a game or a movie led to a reduced willingness to help someone who was in pain.  Participants in two different experiments took longer to come to the aid of an injured victim, saw a violent act as less serious, and were less likely to even hear that a fight was occurring when compared with those who played a non-violent video game or watched a non-violent movie.  Additionally, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, prolonged exposure to violence increases agreement with the idea that violence is an acceptable way of solving problems. It also promotes acceptance — in children — of the ‘mean world’ syndrome: a belief that the world is a dark and sinister place.

Ongoing (or even periodic and accidental) exposure to sexual and violent content is empirically proven to have a desensitising impact on both children and adults. The more we watch it, the less concerned we are about it — and the greater the potential impact on us, on our children, and on our society.  We may not become “violent” or “sexual”, but our behaviour and our responses are impacted by what we have seen. Empathy is reduced. Objectification is increased. Morality erodes.  Our digital diet is desensitising us. The violence and sex we see is glamorised, and often consequence free. But there ARE consequences we are not aware of. We need to wake up. By not only enduring it, but embracing it — and endorsing it for our children’s entertainment — we act to their detriment.   (Justin Coulson Opinion, The Daily Telegraph, October 24, 2014) Dr Justin Coulson is a parenting researcher, speaker, author and father of six. 

 

Patriotism not a cause for shame

PATRIOTISM has been declared racist. Just when we must insist Australia is worth defending, we’re told only scum would say so.   Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt was outraged this week that two Woolworths outlets sold singlets printed with the Australian flag and “If you don’t love it leave”.  Bandt reposted a tweet blasting these “racist singlets”, fanning the fury of the Twitter Left.  Woolworths took instant fright, declaring the patriotic slogan “totally unacceptable” and promising to never again sell such a wicked thing.  But exactly how is the singlet racist? Which “race” does it attack? Which “race” does Bandt think hates Australia so much that they are the obvious target?  No, the haters of the singlet are not trying to protect some Australia-hating “race” they cannot even identify and would insult if they tried.  They are instead offended by patriotism. They are instead vilifying proud Australians who cannot understand why people who openly shout they loathe this land don’t try their luck somewhere else in a world full of options.

Yet it was only nine years ago that this sentiment was still acceptable enough for even Australia’s longest-serving treasurer, Peter Costello, to voice it. Costello was puzzled why some extremist Muslims, especially immigrants, were demanding sharia law — extremists such as Hizb ut-Tahrir leader Ismael al-Wahwah, who wants Australia under a caliphate in which “those who are guilty of apostasy ... from Islam are to be executed”, according to his party’s website.  Said Costello: “Our laws are made by the Australian Parliament. If those are not your values, if you want a country which has sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you.”  Or as the Woolies singlet sums up, if you don’t love us, leave. But now the invitation Costello offered is “totally unacceptable”.  What’s helped to change the climate is the media coverage of the 2005 Cronulla riot. That was mischaracterised as a racist uprising by flag-waving white Australians, rather than an ugly reaction to a minority of ethnic Lebanese youths throwing their weight around.

Now the flag, flown from a house or car, is seen as the summonsing to a racist riot.  Adding to the angst is that mass immigration and the Age of Terror have left us with more ethnic tensions than ever since Federation. The Left particularly seems to fear that peace is now so fragile that just showing the flag is like showing a red rag to a paddock of foreign bulls.

And yes, some Australians do indeed now feel threatened by what immigration and multiculturalism have wrought. The backlash one day could be ugly. But the trashing of patriotism goes far beyond this often exaggerated fear of bogans carrying flags. Take the campaign even by schools to promote a retribalising of Australia, symbolised by the flying of the Aboriginal flag alongside the Australian one. Add also extreme multiculturalism, which most rewards the ethnic groups that most keep their distance.  Then add the constant preaching of a largely invented history of genocide, “stolen generations”, racism and environmental devastation until Australia seems faintly disgusting.  So it’s not surprising that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s appeal for a “Team Australia” was widely mocked by the Left, even though I’m sure most voters backed it.  In fact, the very idea of such a nation state is starting to strike “progressives” and the “alienated” as so last century.

LAST weekend, the ABC’s Encounter program explored what life would be like under a caliphate instead.

“If you’re not a Muslim, it might seem all rather in-house and speculative,” presenter David Rutledge conceded.

“But if you consider that the nation state — like many other products of secular modernity — is beginning to look like a concept whose time could be drawing to a close, then suddenly the caliphate seems less like a medieval fantasy and more like, well, the future.”  It may be crude and even provocative, but “if you don’t love it leave” begins to sound like Socrates against this exhausted toying with totalitarianism. It is also more likely to be just what we need.

Powerful forces today threaten to tear Australians apart, with calls for jihad, sharia law, treaties with the “First Australians”, new racist divisions in the constitution and more mass immigration of the kind that now looks like colonisation.

No society can survive such threats without prizing its past and its symbols and without insisting what members have in common is far greater than what divides them. Sure, we must stay open to criticism, to make a great country greater.

But don’t love it? Then, please, feel free to leave. (Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun, October 15, 2014)

 

T-shirt debate shows progressives shun any display of patriotism

“IT is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during God Save the King than of stealing from a poor box.” So wrote George Orwell. His sentiments could scarcely be more applicable in modern Australia. On patriotism, as with other national characteristics and policy strategies, Australia sits between individualist, nationalist America and collectivist, patri­otically reluctant Europe.  Recent stormy debate over a T-shirt bearing an Australian flag and the slogan ‘Love it — or leave’ illustrates how difficult it is for Australian progressives to embrace outward displays of patriotism, lest they be stained by, or confused with, chest-beating hyper­masculinity or perceived exclusion of minority groups.

Patriotism is a dirty word. Indeed, hip-hop artist Matt Colwell not only labelled the Australian flag “racist” on the ABC’s Q&A, he said later: “The way those people have used the flag has so tarnished the flag for me personally that it stands for a sort of swastika symbol in my mind.”  American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt writes in The Righteous Mind that conservatives have a broader matrix of moral worlds than progressives, who are skewed towards caring for the weak and distributing wealth. He compiled a catalogue of six fundamental ideas that commonly undergird moral systems: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity.  When psychologists talk about authority, loyalty and sanctity, those who identify with the Left spurn these ideas as the seeds of racism, sexism and homophobia.

Two world wars left a deep scar on the European psyche, especially on the notion of nationalism, which was seen as causing the rise of fascist Italy and Germany.  This ambivalence spawned a belief that countries such as Britain should be a culturally blank canvas; that patriotism is an old fashioned trapping of empire and countries such as Britain could be shaped afresh with new cultures living side by side in unity.  While we may lack the imperial guilt, there can be little doubt this view is apparent in Australia, perhaps even more so given our relative youth and more malleable historical and cultural foundations.  Orwell made a clear distinction between nationalism and patriotism.  He qualified nationalism as “the worst enemy of peace”, the belief one’s country was sup­erior to others while patriotism was an attachment to and admiration of a nation’s way of life and “of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally”.  While Islamic terrorism is attractive to a very small proportion of the population, it highlights a weakness of liberal democracies in their lukewarm, sometimes conflicted promotion of a collective identity.  The gap for Islamists is filled by the fierce transnational identity that the Islamic notion of the ummah can build, a piety so strong they are prepared to sacrifice their lives. Macabre, evil and disgusting the actions may be, but the intensity of belief is in stark contrast to the relative apathy of mild-mannered secular atheists.

French philosopher Michel Onfray said in an interview last year on the topic of the decline of the West: “Who is ready to die for the values of the West or the values of the Enlightenment?”  Onfray questions the will of Westerners to fight for anything, believing we have been numbed by consumerism in a secular age that creates no attachment to God and country.  The strong patriotism of the US that integrates its extremely diverse population so successfully may explain why so few American-Muslims, as a proportion of the population, have gone to fight in Syria, compared with many thousands from Europe. The several hundred estimated to have travelled from Australia, as a percentage of our Muslim population, are many multiples greater than in America.  While an Australian republic is traditionally derided in conservative circles, there is a direct correlation with Tony Abbott’s Team Australia rhetoric and the intensification of patriotism a republic is likely to promote. It holds promise as a key plank in fostering a greater collective identity.  Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane championed a greater patriotism for the Left in his 2009 book Reclaiming Patriotism: Nation-Building for Australian Progressives. The reaction to a harmless T-shirt promoting love of country suggests the task has a considerable way to go. (Tanveer Ahmed, The Australian, October 24, 2014)

 

“If you are saddled with an idiotic name you should just learn to love it”

“WHAT’S in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So wrote some chap called William Shakespeare 400 years ago. Meaning, it doesn’t really matter if you’re called Petunia or Poohead, you’ll still be your fragrant self. Probably.  So to all the mums of little girls called Isis, who are currently recoiling in horror that their beautiful name of the Egyptian goddess of magic has garnered a whole new meaning, I say, don’t panic.  Although I do concede it’s akin to the parents in the 1930s who must have been utterly dismayed when their little Adolfs gained a notorious namesake. I imagine thousands became Alans at the end of World War II.  Last week The Daily Telegraph ran the story of Isis Leskien and her mum Sheridan, who are fighting back along with US woman Isis Martinez to reclaim the name.  But not everyone is so brave. I know of at least one Sydney mother who has officially changed her baby daughter’s name from Isis and many more will be ripping that page out of their 1000 Best Baby Names book.  When good names go bad you only have two choices. You can ride it out or you can change it.  But if you’d lived your life for 48 years perfectly respectably as Mr J Bieber, you might be a little peeved at sacrificing your identity because some twerp keeps monkeying around in public.

I pity all the Harold Potters of the world. Oh how they must laugh when every time they go to the shops the cashier asks them where their wand is.  Or what about people whose names become notorious for all the wrong reasons — the other David Hicks and Edward Snowdens for example, must breeze through passport control.  Similarly, it’s very unfortunate when your perfectly unassuming name takes on a new meaning in another language. Not a problem if you never travel, big problem if you emigrate.  The international football scene is the perfect arena to see this phenomenon at play — take for example the Korean footballer Kim Dong-Suk. Dong-Suk is a standard name in South Korea, a little less successful in Australia.  He joins some of my personal favourites — Argentine striker Mario Turdo, Czech defender Milan Fukal, ex-Brazilian defender Argelico Fucks and German striker-turned-chairman Stefan Kuntz. All have provided wonderful fodder for the juvenile sniggering supporters of the away side, I think you’ll agree.  But what are Messrs Kuntz and Turdo supposed to do? Change their names on the off chance they leave the country or, as I suspect, just put up with the ridicule every time they go on a mini-break.  When I first moved to Australia from the UK 20 years ago, I was surprised to be informed by everyone I met that I “had a man’s name”.  And not only did I have a man’s name, but the most famous man in Australia. I even had the temerity to have his initials. Back in 1994 I decided that I would meet and marry James Packer, thus becoming Kerry Packer, which, I’m sure you agree, would be very amusing. Unfortunately this did not come to pass due to the fact that (a) I was not a supermodel and (b) I never met him.  However, this wasn’t the first time my name had met with censure — in fact, when I was born and my parents proudly announced my name to the family, my great-grandma was disgusted and informed them Kerry was a dog’s name.  She never wavered from this conviction until one day, when I was about five, we visited her to see her new poodle puppy. 

“What’s his name?” I asked. “Kerry,” she replied, stony faced. There was a long, awkward silence and no one ever mentioned it again.  Ironically, great-grandma went by the name of “Pete”, which, unless I am very much mistaken, is a man’s name.  One day, I vow, I will get a dog just so I can call it Pete, for revenge.  To be honest, I think naming a child is a minefield. Even if you think you are selecting the most anodyne one possible, it is bound to offend someone in your extended family or friends.  Everyone loves to pass judgment on the names we choose, especially when people get a bit creative and call their kids Hurricane or Dude (both names I have encountered), or watch too much Game of Thrones and go for Daenerys and Tyrion.  So really, you just shouldn’t care. Because you know what, it doesn’t matter one jot what you are called; your name melds into you and before you know it seems perfectly normal to everyone anyway.  And if someone else pops up with your name, well just own it. Apologies here to the Sydney-based GP Kerri Parnell, who may on occasion get censured for the unfunny columns she writes in The Sunday Telegraph.  At least she can take consolation that I haven’t committed any crimes, other than those against journalism.  (Kerry Parnell, The Sunday Telegraph, October 04, 2014)

 

Ending animal testing in cosmetics a win for consumers

I want to see a worldwide end to animal testing for cosmetics before I die. That’s not too much to ask is it? It certainly shouldn’t be when you consider how easy it is to produce cosmetics without any animal testing at all. I should know, I’ve been doing it for more than 30 years and you could say it’s worked out quite well. LUSH cosmetics now has more than 900 stores in 51 countries, 25 of them in Australia, and being entirely free of animal testing is one of our core ethics. Always has been, always will be.  I’m thrilled to say we are no longer alone either. In fact, it’s getting rather crowded on the cruelty-free side of the cosmetics industry. There are now hundreds of companies just like us, producing fabulous, innovative, safe beauty products without the stain of animal testing. I know from first-hand experience that that’s what consumers want. When new customers discover LUSH and hear that our products are not tested on animals, they are horrified to learn that some cosmetics companies are still killing and harming animals. But that’s the ugly truth of animal testing, and it brings shame on an industry that I’m otherwise very proud to be a part of.  Ending animal testing in cosmetics is a no-brainer, whichever way you look at it. It’s outdated science; mice and rats are not mini people so animal test results are notoriously unreliable when it comes to assessing how real humans will react to substances. I sometimes wonder if my industry prefers these tests just because they are so unreliable. It’s very difficult to work out the health hazards of synthetic hair dyes, sunscreens and preservatives using animal tests.

In July, the Labor Party launched a public consultation on ending cruel cosmetics in Australia. This comes hot on the heels of Greens senator Lee Rhiannon introducing the End Cruel Cosmetics Bill, the United States introduced the Humane Cosmetics Act, and the one-year anniversary of Europe banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals anywhere in the world. The 28 countries of the European Union, together with Norway, Israel, India and the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, have all banned animal testing for cosmetics. Global momentum is building towards eliminating this unnecessary practice, and now it’s Australia’s opportunity to play its part. I really hope it grabs it with both hands.  Advertisement

This week I have been happy to add my name to an open letter, which has been signed by the heads of some of Australia's cosmetics companies, to Health Minister Peter Dutton. We are urging the government to implement a test and sales ban as soon as possible.  A cruelty-free Australia is a win-win for everyone – happy customers, happy regulators and happy bunnies. It has been argued that most companies don’t test on animals in Australia anyway so why ban it? But that’s just an excuse for  doing nothing. The truth is we simply don’t know how much cosmetics animal testing happens in Australian labs, but we do know that for as long as it remains legal the higher the chance it will continue, or even increase, in the future. For as long as companies can test on animals abroad and sell their animal-tested cosmetics in Australian shops to unsuspecting consumers, this whole sorry practice will continue around the world.  At LUSH we’re standing shoulder to shoulder with the Be Cruelty-Free campaign, which is spearheading efforts all over the world and here in Australia. We’re giving the End Cruel Cosmetics Bill our backing and urge politicians on all sides to do the same. It’s time to consign cosmetics animal testing to the history books.  (Mark Constantine, SMH, August 17, 2014)

 

No one’s fault but your own if you don’t have a bestie, boys

 

     

Maintaining friendships is difficult, but hanging out with friends makes most people happy, which – in turn – feeds into the success of a long-term relationship. A man is complaining he has no friends because his wife has squeezed them out of his life. Apparently Christopher Middleton sank from having a “merry crew” of mates to sitting alone with a beer watching recorded sport on TV.

In his column “Mates? Most married men waved our best friends goodbye years ago” this weekend, he cited a report by charity organisation Relate that about 4.7 million Britons report not having a best friend. In Middleton's case, he claims to come to this unhappy circumstance because his wife has removed their names from the “family address book” and replaced them with friends more to her own taste, usually couples or single women. Supposedly, this is why not only him, but many men, don't have besties.  Really? If you find yourself identifying with this man, there are probably a few other reasons people may not want to spend time with you.

1. You blame your wife for things that aren’t her fault. True, it is way easier than taking responsibility. But it also seems like a simplistic way to avoid your own shortcomings. For example ...

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2. … You complain too much. There is nothing not good about sitting on the couch with a beer watching TV.

3. You don't stick up for your friends. If your wife is so domineering/jealous/manipulative – or any of the other negative inferences there are to be had in an article that accuses women of being the main reason you're a sad loser with no friends – then you really should have fought harder for your buddies. It seems they're all you've got.

4. You assume the secret to women’s friendships is time spent together criticising their husbands. Even on the rare occasions your wife manages to put down her pencil and eraser and step away from the "family address book", she will probably have lots to talk about with her friends besides you. Perhaps since she is married to a man who sits around at home complaining about doing nothing, she may spend some time lamenting her husband who sits around at home doing nothing. She and her mates will probably also talk about federal politics, their jobs, their children, Sydney house prices and Game of Thrones, because, well, it's 2014.

5. You use a "family address book".

Maintaining friendships is difficult, regardless of gender, especially once you’re in a long-term relationship, working and possibly trying to wrangle a couple of children.  For me, having friendships that are my own help me feel like I’m living my life instead of drowning in the mundane bits of it. Keeping them going takes time and effort, for example, a chain of 28 emails in the weeks leading up to a dinner out, and a flurry of text messages on the night. That doesn’t even include the juggling of child-rearing responsibilities between me and my husband.  Indeed, the precision planning that’s required to ensure one grown-up can leave the house at 7pm may be enough to lure many into a funk of lonely couch-sitting but, in the end, hanging out with friends makes most people happy, which – in turn – feeds into the success of a long-term relationship. If you have time to moan about your lack of mates, you probably have time to track down their emails and invite a couple of them out for a meal.  (Aparna Khopkar, SMH, August 18, 2014)

 

Hip to be hairy: Beards make a comeback for the hipster look

NICK Horrigan is a self-described hipster and loves all things fashion, but the 25-year-old is missing that hippest of accessories – the full bush beard. “It’s just sort of patchy and light, some parts are thicker than others and it’s not like a George Clooney,” he said. So the underground miner based in Ipswich, Qld, flew to Sydney this week to undergo a facial hair transplant.

“I’m not into the Ned Kelly look, I liked the groomed style and it’s a masculine thing, you know, the best genes survival of the fittest, it just looks good,” Mr Horrigan said. “My dad had a good thick beard and I’m pretty particular and into fashion and maybe I pick on myself a bit.” From the hipster capital of Brooklyn New York, the beard transplant has arrived in Australia.  While women are opting for the Brazillian at one end of town, style-driven men like Nick are undergoing facial hair transplants in pursuit of more hirsute manscaping – from Bradley Cooper style designer stubble to the full bush Jared Leto.  James Naden from the Crown Clinic said he had taken 10 inquires in the last two months and has performed three facial hair transplants in the same time frame.  “Why? I blame Bradley Cooper,” says Mr Naden. “He’s the actor that came out (in Hangover) with the stubble and became popular and it’s very much a fashion thing at the moment.”

Facial hair transplants work much the same way as a traditional hair transplant said Mr Naden.  A ‘plug’ of hair is taken from a donor site, usually at unobtrusive nape of the neck, and using a technique called follicular unit extraction, they are dissected into single follicles and transplanted one by one into the stubble trouble parts of the face at a cost of $8000 to $10,000.  “It heals in 10-12 days and the hair grows in three to four months but it can take up to a year for the final result,” Mr Naden said.  One of the clinics current clients is a gentleman who had his facial hair lasered off completely when bare meant beautiful only to grieve basking in the shade of his long-lost five-o- clock shadow.  “He wants it back,” says Mr Naden.  But fashion is a fickle thing. This week researcher from the University of NSW discovered that beards are only attractive when a rarity. As soon as it’s the norm the opposite applies, which is good news for the current clean shaven man.  “Clean-shaven faces were least attractive when clean-shaven faces were commonest and more attractive when rare,” Dr Barnaby Dixson wrote in the Royal Society Journal.  Rehan Alikhan from the Martinik Hair Restoration Clinic based in Sydney and Perth said his clinic was performing facial hair transplants for cultural reasons more so than fashion.  “We just had an Asian student who brought in a picture of his favourite actor (with a thick beard) and we have a lot of Indian clients, sheikhs who equate a thick beard with virility and we have Middle Eastern clients who feel compromised with gaps in their beard,” Mr Alikhan said.  The clinic has also treated a man in his 30’s who permanently lasered his beard and wanted it back.  “He lasered if off in his 20’s and now he wants it back,” he said.  (Jane Hansen, The Sunday Telegraph, April 27, 2014)

 

Executive Living: Turning points

GROWING old takes so much time and effort. The years of scrambling for things you thought might make you happy and probably didn’t. The decades of struggling to pay the mortgage. Not to mention the countless nights wasted fretting about lost promotions and dead-end jobs. Now all that is over and it is not the gloomy spectre of pensionable age that should beckon us. It is the vision of freedom. This is an era to be savoured, a time to ­escape the stereotypes of the past.  Where is it written down that all men over the age of 55 must don gold jewellery and frantically search out a chirpy young partner, one who may think Led Zeppelin was an actual person? What edict states that all men must strive never to show emotion and to mimic the behaviour of silverback chimpanzees? Testosterone can be such a cruel master. As Aristotle said, letting go of that is like being unchained from a maniac. Show me the law that states all women over the age of 50 must metamorphose into cougars intent on snaring younger men. Or the sub-clause that dictates all women must mourn the passing of a time when they couldn’t enter any public place without men ogling them, no matter how subdued their clothes or appearance? Invisibility has so much to offer.  I’m no Pollyanna, but every period in life has possibilities and promise, and this time of later middle age has more on its side than most people think — that is, if you’re lucky enough to be healthy, have enough money to feed and house yourself, and live in a country not torn apart by war. The average life span in the Western world increased by more than 30 years in the 20th century, mainly due to advances in public health. By comparison, the average life span was 30 in medieval Britain. In Australia, 25 per cent of the population is older than 54 and they can expect to live until they are almost 80. That’s long enough to change yourself and your life, even if you begin at the age of 60. Of course, muscle tone is not what it was, and there is an inevitable thickening of girth. You see wrinkles in the oddest places, such as toes and ears. You don’t like driving at night and can’t see properly without spectacles. But these are minor disadvantages compared with the constraints of wage slavery, the expense of raising children and the almost universal young-adult affliction of status anxiety.

Do I earn enough money? Is my house big enough? Am I successful enough? The questions go on and on in an endless stream. If they are ever answered, they are automatically replaced with other, equally spurious ones. Am I handsome enough? Popular enough? Pretty enough?  But it is possible, at a certain age, to stop this personal interrogation and instead start living the life we might once only have dreamed of, before responsibility took over so much of our existence. We can, if we make an effort, break out from our self-imposed protective custody, not by trying to recapture youth, but by relishing the time we have left. We can do anything we like. Consider that last phrase for a minute. When was the last time you were able to say that with any degree of accuracy? Now we can downsize or even sell our houses and become grey nomads. We can take to the road and never look back. We can return to university or change ­careers. We can end unhappy marriages and begin new ­relationships.

Consider the evidence. The divorce rate in the over-60s has risen by more than half in the past two decades. The Australian Council for Educational Research reports that the number of mature-age students is growing at the same rate as students younger than 25. Walk into any airport and see the number of grey-haired men and women shouldering backpacks and consulting well-worn copies of Lonely Planet guides. These people are embracing life, not cardigans and slippers. People older than 60 read more books than any other age group. They’re interested and many want to give back.  Consider the growing number of retired executives who have chosen to mentor troubled adolescents instead of travelling the world in seven-star luxury. “I was CEO of a hedge fund that increased profits year-on- year,” a retired English executive told me recently. “I was used to feeling satisfied. But it was nothing like the reward of persuading a bright but troubled boy to stay on at school, and then see him get into a leading university.” Not everything about growing older falls into the happily-ever-after category. Inevitably, there is sadness, illness and disappointment. But there might be time to try and get it right for once; for an absentee parent to mend a fractured relationship with an adult child, for a person to let go of old grievances.  The 16th-century French philosopher Michel de Montaigne had the right idea about growing old. He thought that things mattered more as people got older. He wrote that as men and women aged, they had the opportunity to recognise that they were fallible. And if people understood that growing old didn’t make them wise, then that was a kind of wisdom all of its own.  (Suellen Dainty, The Australian, April 14, 2014)

 

10 strange customs of the British Royal Family

It’s safe to say that when the Prince and Princess of Cambridge touched down in Sydney this afternoon, they did so as the most normal – or least odd – royals the world’s ever seen. You could almost imagine sharing a schooner with them at the pub.

But as much as they’re rebranding the stuffy image of Britain’s blue bloods, William and Kate belong to a family that’s still weighed down by tradition and protocols. Here’s ten strange customs the Royal Family still abides by…  

But as much as they’re rebranding the stuffy image of Britain’s blue bloods, William and Kate belong to a family that’s still weighed down by tradition and protocols. Here’s ten strange customs the Royal Family still abides by…

Heirs travel separately
For security reasons, and to ensure the succession to the throne is not cast into disarray, heirs usually travel separately. Imagine the constitutional crisis if all the Queen’s children were killed in a plane crash. But for this current Royal tour of Australia, William and Kate broke with tradition and took nine-month-old son George on their flight.

Relations of Dracula
Speaking of heirs, genealogists say that baby George is distantly related to Vlad The Impaler, the 15th century prince who inspired Bram Stoker’s infamous vampire Dracula. Going back even further, the kid’s bloodline can be traced to an Islamic sultan believed to have descended from the Prophet Mohammed.

            

[Vlad the Impala, inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, and possible Royal]

Surnames? For commoners!  Titled members of the British Royal family are not required to have surnames, but can, if they chose, use the name of their Royal house instead.

Posh wake-up call
How do you get the Queen out of bed in the morning? By getting a piper to play beneath her window for 15 minutes every day at 9am when she’s staying at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle or Balmoral.

Obey the rules
Once Her Majesty has been dragged out of bed, it’s important to remember certain protocols. First, no touching. As Aussie PM Paul Keating found out in 1992, placing your peasant hands on the Queen is frowned upon. Also, no touching the pets, either! Only Elizabeth is allowed to stroke her beloved Corgis.

They can’t be killed
Technically, Britain’s Sovereign never dies. While individual kings and queens perish, they are immediately succeeded, so there is never a point when there isn’t a monarch. This is why it’s customary for the phrase “The Kind Is Dead, Long Live The King” (or Queen where appropriate) to be spoken following a death.

News delivery
In the event of a Royal birth or death, the news is announced on an easel that’s attached to the railings of Buckingham Palace.

House of watches
Buckingham Palace is home to one of the world’s largest collections of working clocks – 350 in all (including watches). There’s so many that the Queen employs two full-time horological conservators to maintain and wind them up every week.

Birds can be soldiers
The Tower of London, an official palace and fortress of the Royals, is famous for its collection of ravens. A decree by King Charles II means hat at least six of the birds must be kept at the Tower at all times. And they’re considered so important, they are officially enlisted as soldiers.

Weird personal habits
The kooky private customs of the various members of the Royal Family are so varied, they could be made into a book. Actually, they have. Not In Front Of The Corgies!, a tome written by one of the Queen’s former servants, described how the Queen has straw placed in her toilet so no one will hear her pee, that Prince Charles has never undressed himself, and servants are allowed to swim in the Buckingham Palace pool as long as there are no Royals in it at the time…    (Worldofknowledge.com.au,
April 16, 2014)

 

 

[The Royal Family, waving to the Great Unwashed]

 

Prince Harry's trip to Australia cost taxpayers $150,000

Prince Harry's visit to Australia cost taxpayers $150,000. Photo: Janie Barrett

 

Taxpayers were charged $150,000 for Prince Harry's two-night visit to Australia last October, Senate documents reveal.

Entertaining the Prince cost significantly more than the Coalition spent recently on other official visitors.  Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma's National League for Democracy, spent almost 15 years under house arrest before her release in 2010. The bill for her five nights last November and December was just under $40,000. Her tour included speeches at universities and the Sydney Opera House, and a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott at Parliament House in Canberra.

About $12,000 was spent on New Zealand Prime Minister John Key's one-day visit last October. Indonesia's Vice President Boediono visited for six nights last November, during heightened tensions between the Australia and Indonesia over spying claims and the Coalition's boat turn-back policy. His trip cost taxpayers about $151,000 or a nightly cost of $25,000. The nightly cost of Prince Harry's trip was $75,000.  Advertisement

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) would not provide a breakdown of the money spent on Prince Harry, but said the “broad categories of costs for these visits could include transport (air/ground/water), accommodation, hospitality and other visit related costs.”  PM&C also covers the cost of gifts to official guests, according to an official questioned by opposition Senate spokeswoman Penny Wong in estimates hearings this week.  While visiting Australia, Prince Harry attended the International Fleet Review celebrating 100 years of the Royal Australian Navy, met with SAS troops in Perth and met with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his family at Kirribilli House.  Prince Harry appears to have enjoyed the hospitality. An AAP journalist covering the royal trip reported: “Before his departure from Sydney, Prince Harry told reporters Australia already felt like a second home and he was very sad to be leaving.”  "I just can't get the time off work these days," Prince Harry said.  "The next time I come back you will be struggling to get rid of me I am sure.”  (Fergus Hunter, Jonathan Swan, The Sun-Herald, June 1, 2014)

 

Royal visit cost Australia $474,582

THE Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's tour of Australia and the advance visit for the trip cost Australia's taxpayers just under STG260,000 ($A474,582), according to recent figures.  WILLIAM, Kate and Prince George toured Australia for 10 days in April, visiting some of the nation's most famous sites from the Sydney Opera House to Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock.  The total cost for the trip, and a preliminary visit in January by Kensington Palace staff and personal protection officers, was STG259,000, with transportation costs the largest portion of the bill at just over STG137,000.  The Cambridges based themselves in Sydney and later the capital Canberra during the tour, with their son remaining at the locations while they carried out official engagements.  The bill for media liaison at STG46,641 was the next highest cost followed by domestic travel, for things such as meals and accommodation, at STG40,233 while hospitality and event related costs came to STG32,501.  During royal visits to countries where the Queen is head of state, it is normal practice for the host nation to pay for the cost of the trip.

The figures were released by Australia's Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to The Australian newspaper after a Freedom of Information request, but do not include the cost of security or GST. 

When the Queen visited Australia in October 2011, the cost of her trip reportedly came to almost STG1.5 million, but the bill included the charter of a plane for long-haul flights. (AAP, dailytelegraph.com.au, Oct. 09, 2014).

 

 

Queen Victoria’s dirty little secret revealed in Roland Perry’s new book:

“The Queen her Lover and the most Notorious Spy in History”

IT has been a British royal secret for 180 years: Queen Victoria had an affair at just 15 years old with a Scottish nobleman, the 13th Lord Elphinstone, who was 12 years her senior. He was Captain of the Royal Horse Guards and a close confidant of Victoria’s predecessor, King William the 4th. The young princess and the dashing lord had a passionate relationship, which later matured into a strong friendship at her royal court.  When Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, discovered the affair early in 1836, she had Elphinstone “exiled” to become Governor of Madras.  The Duchess had run the household at Kensington Palace like a prison to keep her daughter from outside “influence”. But young Victoria’s love of horses saw her riding daily in the forests and fields around the Palace. Her first choice of a riding companion was the gallant Captain of the Horse Guards.   With Victoria’s lover out of the way, the Duchess, her consort John Conroy, Victoria’s uncle, Leopold King of the Belgians, Baron Stockmar and others conspired to have Victoria marry a royal. They settled on Prince Albert, an impoverished German from an insignificant principality. The 309 files in the huge Elphinstone Archive in London’s British Library has abundant references to the affair including scores of comments from prominent establishment figures and those in royal courts in the UK and Europe.  Typical was a letter from Charlotte Canning (a lady-in-waiting to Victoria) who wrote to a friend in 1837 that “all the people in the town of Spa, Belgium, ask us every day if the stories about the Queen and Lord Elphinstone are true, and if he is to come back to England to marry her”.  Newspapers of 1837 and 1838 carried innumerable remarks about the affair. When Victoria was ill and secluded at Ramsgate for several months in late 1835, royal poet Robert Browning noted that “(Princess) Victoria was lame and unable to stand upright, yet bent on marrying nobody but Lord Elphinstone”.

 

   

 

Undated painting of Queen Victoria who was the longest reigning Queen of England. Source: News Corp Australia

Matters came to a head late in 1837, when Victoria, then queen but not yet crowned, wanted Elphinstone back from India to be with her during her coronation in mid-1838. Without consulting her prime minister, Victoria “recalled” Elphinstone from Madras.  As one report indicated ambiguously, this was so he could “perform for the royal household”. She clashed with the prime minister who reversed her directive and kept Elphinstone in Madras, and also blocked any job in London.  The incident was a test of her powers in a growing democracy, in which ministers of the crown were holding more sway at the expense of the monarch than ever before in history. Victoria failed and after five years of prevarication, married Albert in 1840. The arranged marriage lasted 21 years (until Albert’s death) and produced nine children.  After Elphinstone returned to London from India in 1846, she made him her lord-in-waiting, the closest male to her in the royal court next to her husband. When the Scottish Lord died in 1860, Victoria had photographs and paintings of him refurbished for hanging in the royal collection. Some remain to this day.

A more than life-sized monument of him was created by Victoria’s favourite sculptor, Matthew Noble. It lies in the elegant St Peter’s Church, at Limpsfield in Surrey near the Kent border, where Elphinstone is buried.   In 1945, art historian Anthony Blunt was commissioned by King George V1, the current Queen’s father, to steal or collect from a German castle all the thousands of letters from Victoria to her daughter Vicky. They contained intimate details of Victoria’s relationship with Elphinstone. Blunt returned with the letters, which were placed in Windsor Castle. But he happened to be a double agent spying for the KGB. Blunt microfilmed the key correspondence and passed it on to his masters in Moscow.  He was rewarded with a knighthood in 1956 and given a position at Buckingham Palace as Keeper Of The Queen’s Pictures. Despite the knowledge from 1963 that he was a Russian spy, Blunt kept his job. He had virtual “blackmail” insurance that if he were discovered as a double agent he could not be fired because of the secrets he knew. Blunt was “outed” as a spy in public by the media in 1979. The only “punishment” for his treachery was that he was forced to give back his knighthood.  (Roland Perry, The Daily Telegraph, November 01, 2014) Professor Roland Perry’s The Queen, Her Lover And The Most Notorious Spy In History is published by Allen & Unwin, $32.99. He is Writer-In-Residence at Monash University. This is his 28th book.

 

Science and the Environment

 

Ice sheets melting faster, claims leaked report

The melting of Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is accelerating and may trigger a faster sea level rise than predicted, leaked details of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report reveal.  Greenland's ice added six times more to sea levels in the decade through 2011 than in the previous 10 years, says a draft 2200-page study by the UN agency obtained by Bloomberg.  The Antarctic melt produced a five-fold increase, prompting the UN to raise its forecast for how much the two ice sheets will add to Earth's oceans by 2100.  The leak comes just weeks before the panel gathers on September 23 in Stockholm, where the Fifth Assessment Report is scheduled to be released four days later. National delegates are expected to wade through about 1800 comments to achieve consensus on the important Summary for Policymakers during the event.  Advertisement

The report's assessment of ice melt from Greenland and Antarctica will be closely watched. The previous IPCC report, released in 2007, drew criticism from some scientists for underplaying the potential contribution from the two regions. ''Greenland is losing mass and the rate of loss from Greenland has increased,'' said Ian Allison, a Hobart-based honorary research professor and lead author of the IPCC report's chapter on the cryosphere. ''Antarctica is also losing mass but the signal is not so strong whether it's accelerating.'' Professor Allison declined to comment specifically on the IPCC report but said important international reports since the previous report in 2007 had improved our knowledge significantly about the two regions.

''We're a lot surer of what happened,'' he said, noting that satellite information is now largely reconciled compared with earlier studies. Sea levels are now forecast to rise by as much as 80 centimetres by the end of the century and continue to rise after that.  The leaked report says Greenland's contribution to rising sea levels ''very likely'' rose - indicating a probability of more than 90 per cent - to an average of 0.59 millimetres a year from 2002 to 2011, up from 0.09 millimetres a year in the previous decade.  Greenland could add a total of four centimetres to 21 centimetres to ocean levels by the period 2081 through 2100, across a range of carbon-emission scenarios assessed in the study, compared with the years 1986 through 2005. That's up from a 2007 forecast of one centimetre to 12 centimetres.  Results due to Antarctic ice range from lowering sea levels by six centimetres to a 14 centimetre increase. The 2007 report forecast a reduction of two centimetres to 14 centimetres, due to higher snowfall than surface melting. Global sea levels have been rising at the rate of more than three millimetres a year.  Greenland and Antarctica contain enough ice to raise sea levels by almost 66 metres, a process that would take thousands of years, Bloomberg reported.  The IPCC leaks come as Australia is likely to register a poor snow season.  Temperatures often favoured rain rather than snow, with the early arrival of warm spring weather likely to continue a trend towards shorter snow seasons.  ''The world is defrosting,'' Professor Neville Nicholls, a climate expert at Monash University, said in a recent interview.  ''We are losing snowfields, we're losing glaciers and we're starting to get melting of the big ice blocks on Greenland, even on Antarctica over the last decade or so … It's just more and more evidence that the whole world is warming.''   (Peter Hannam, SMH/Bloomberg, September 7, 2013)

 

One-Fifth of China’s Farmland Is Polluted, State Study Finds

BEIJING — The Chinese government released a report on Thursday that said nearly one-fifth of its arable land was polluted, a finding certain to raise questions about the toxic results of China’s rapid industrialization, its lack of regulations over commercial interests and the consequences for the national food chain.  The report, issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Land Resources, said 16.1 percent of the country’s soil was polluted, including 19.4 percent of farmland. The report was based on a study done from April 2005 to last December on more than 2.4 million square miles of land across mainland China, according to Xinhua, the state news agency. The report said that “the main pollution source is human industrial and agricultural activities,” according to Xinhua. More specifically, factory waste products, irrigation of land by polluted water, the improper use of fertilizers and pesticides, and livestock breeding have all resulted in tainted farmland, the report said.  The study found that 82.8 percent of the polluted land was contaminated by inorganic material. The most common pollutants were cadmium, nickel and arsenic, and the levels of these materials in the soil had risen sharply since land studies in 1986 and 1990. The level of cadmium had risen by 50 percent in the southwest and in coastal areas and by 10 percent to 40 percent in other regions, Xinhua reported. The soil in southern China is more polluted than in the north.

The report confirms spreading fears among many officials and ordinary Chinese that the country’s soil has been in severe decline. Its numbers also indicate a more serious problem than statistics did in a book published in early 2013 by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, “Soil Pollution and Physical Health,” which said one-sixth of China’s arable land, or nearly 50 million acres, was polluted. Officials have become increasingly vocal about the problem in the past year. In December, a vice minister of land and resources, Wang Shiyuan, said at a news conference that eight million acres of land across China, equal to the size of Maryland, were so polluted that farming should not be allowed on it.  Hunan Province, in central China, has some of the worst soil pollution because it is one of China’s top producers of nonferrous metals. But it is also a large rice-growing area, producing 16 percent of the country’s rice in 2012, according to one market research company. Officials in Guangdong Province last year found that some rice had excessive levels of cadmium. Most of that rice was from Hunan.  It is unclear how the findings released Thursday related to a national soil survey that was done from 2007 to around the end of 2009. Those findings have never been released, with officials calling them a “state secret.” Some environmental advocates said the survey ended in 2010 and have sought its results.  (Edward Wong, New York Times, April 18, 2014)

 

Cities’ Air Problems Only Get Worse With Climate Change

SAN FRANCISCO — The threats from climate change are many: extreme weather, shrinking snowpack, altered ecosystems and rising and more acidic seas, to name a few. Another lesser-known issue may hit especially close to home for city dwellers. In the world’s already smoggy metropolises, pollution is likely to grow worse, a phenomenon scientists have taken to calling the climate penalty. Ozone is a key culprit. This lung-damaging compound, often formed from chemical reactions involving sunlight and automobile exhaust and other pollution, plagues major cities around the globe. As the climate heats up, it is projected that more ozone will form in polluted areas on sweltering days.  “You have a hot summer, you’re going to get a lot of ozone,” said Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering at Harvard.  The explanation lies in chemistry. Ozone, formed by a sunlight-aided reaction of volatile organic compounds with nitrogen oxides, is created more quickly at higher temperatures, as was evident during the European heat wave of 2003. Climate change will also make the air more stagnant in some areas like the East Coast of the United States, Dr. Jacob said, because with the Arctic getting warmer more quickly than the tropics, air circulation between those two regions will slow. In a warmer world, plants may also produce more emissions that are precursors to ozone.

In a 2009 paper in the journal Atmospheric Environment, Dr. Jacob and another researcher found that “climate change alone will increase summertime surface ozone in polluted regions by 1-10 parts per billion over the coming decades, with the largest effects in urban areas and during pollution episodes.” (The United States standard for ozone is 75 parts per billion, though many experts say it should be lower to protect health.)  But the projections for ozone are not uniformly bad. Scientists predict that the climate penalty will mainly affect already polluted cities, where ozone is formed locally. But because a warmer climate means more airborne water vapor, which can dismantle ozone through a series of chemical reactions, the background level of ozone — that not created by man — at the earth’s surface is expected to fall. This means that sparsely populated areas, which produce less pollution, may escape the climate penalty.  In Europe, for example, southern areas are expected to see climate change lead to higher ozone (assuming emissions stay the same), whereas the thinly populated Nordic region could feel no impact or even see improvements, according to Joakim Langner, an associate professor at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. Southern Europe not only produces more ozone-forming emissions, but it is also projected to become drier and sunnier, Dr. Langner said — conditions conducive to ozone formation.

In China, a similar regional split is expected to emerge. Eastern China, home to megacities like Shanghai and Beijing, is likely to see an increase in ozone problems, whereas western China can expect lower levels, scientists project. The ozone in western China is largely produced elsewhere, allowing water vapor in the atmosphere an opportunity to dismantle the ozone through a series of chemical reactions.  The phenomenon of an increase in climate-linked ozone is likely to hold true for other big, polluted Asian cities, like those in Japan or India, said Amos Tai, an assistant professor in the Earth System Science Program at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Scientists are most certain of the trajectory of ozone, but other health-damaging air pollutants may also be affected by climate change. Attention is turning to soot and other fine particles, which can lodge in the lungs and cause long-term harm.  In areas prone to drought, the climate may also worsen soot-spewing wildfires, as is the case this year in the western United States.

In China, where fine particles are already a huge problem for big cities, a change in winter monsoon patterns could bring less clean air from eastern Siberia, and “that would favor more pollution over eastern China,” said Yuxuan Wang, an assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry at Texas A&M University, Galveston. A changing monsoon could also affect South Asia’s pollution distribution, she said. However, the future of monsoon patterns is uncertain under existing climate models, Dr. Wang said.  Another key question, researchers say, is what the effects will be from dust swept off major deserts and transported around the world. Even on ozone further study is needed, said Ruth Doherty, a reader in atmospheric sciences at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “Ozone is still a key area of research in the context of climate change impacts because it is strongly coupled to meteorological conditions and hence climate,” she said.  Carlos Ordonez, who works on regional air quality modeling for the Met Office in Britain, points out that most records for ozone and other air pollutants are relatively short, compared with temperature data, so longer-term information is needed.

But with the threat of a climate penalty looming, of course, added impetus is on the world’s nations to reduce their emissions of air pollutants from factories and motor vehicles.  (Kate Galbraith, New York Times, August 20, 2014)  

 

After ‘Cadmium Rice,’ now ‘Lead’ and ‘Arsenic Rice’

Soil in China’s leading rice-producing region shows high levels of heavy metal contamination, in a study that suggests that the proximity of mining and industry to agricultural areas is posing serious threats to the country’s food chain.

In “Cadmium Rice: Heavy metal pollution of China’s rice crops,” researchers for Greenpeace East Asia sampled farmland and uncultivated soil, water and rice grown near a smelter of non-ferrous metals in Hunan Province, China’s top rice producer.

In some locations of the study, the researchers found soil containing cadmium levels more than 200 times the national health standard, adding to a growing body of evidence that parts of the country’s soil are heavily degraded after decades of fast industrialization and high economic growth. All but one of the rice samples exceeded the maximum level of cadmium in rice for human consumption in China.

“Cadmium rice” is a well-known term in China since a 2013 Guangdong Province government report that 44 percent of rice samples had excessive levels of cadmium attracted attention. But the Greenpeace study extended the concept by listing “arsenic rice,” “mercury rice” and “lead rice.” Of those four toxic substances, only mercury levels appeared relatively safe.

With “a fast pace of urbanization, China is struggling to save enough land for farming and keep a high rate of grain self-sufficiency. But apart from quantity, whether it can maintain soil health remains a question,” Tang Damin, a communications officer at Greenpeace, wrote in an email.  The study tried to pinpoint the source of the cadmium — according to another recent government study, 7 percent of soil in China is polluted with the metal. Greenpeace noted that many provinces where metals mining and smelting was widespread were also major grain-producing provinces. It supplied two maps that showed colored-in provinces representing metal-smelting areas and grain-production areas that mapped closely to each other. “The main sources of cadmium pollution are emissions from smelting plants,” said Chen Nengchang, a soil expert at the Guangdong Institute of Eco-environment and Soil Sciences, chiming with the study’s findings. According to the study: “For five metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, manganese and zinc), strong correlations of concentrations in uncultivated soils indicate a common source, suggesting that emissions from the complex may be a major contributor to elevated concentrations of these five metals in uncultivated soils in this area.”  In rice, “the cadmium levels were most notable, with all but one of the samples exceeding the maximum allowable level of cadmium in rice for human consumption in China (0.2 mg/kg), with the highest level exceeding the limit by 22 times,” it said.  In a telephone interview, Mr. Chen said : “Cadmium intake through food is a chronic intoxication process by small doses. It’s a very slow accumulation, but its excretion and drainage is even slower. Its half life is about 17 to 38 years, that’s to say it would take that long to reduce by half. Basically once inside, it will stay there — if not all your life, at least the better half of it.”  “About a third of the cadmium absorbed by the human body will concentrate in the kidneys, another a quarter in the liver. Its damage to human health is formidable. Generally speaking, one can’t take in more than two grams of cadmium in a lifetime,” he said.  Rice is China’s favorite food, but it is also unusually vulnerable to pollution as it easily absorbs metals from the soil, Deborah Blum reported last week in The Times’ Well blog. It is “one of the most widely consumed foods in the world,” and “also one of nature’s great scavengers of metallic compounds,” Ms. Blum reported. Rice contamination with cadmium and arsenic was also an issue in the United States, she noted. However the levels found in the study, in Texas, were “not high enough to provoke alarm.”  (Didi Kirsten Tatlow, International Herald Tribune, April 25, 2014)

 

 

Economics

 

Equality at risk in the West, says Rupert Murdoch

IN a confronting message to the world’s leading ministers and central bankers, Rupert Murdoch has warned their policies have caused a “massive shift” in ­societies to benefit the super-rich with a legacy of social polarisation.

In the News Corp executive chairman’s speech to the G20 meeting this month — now available for the first time — he told global decision-makers the consequence of their policies had been “greater inequality” in Western society.

Speaking at the dinner in the Library of Congress building in Washington, Mr Murdoch said “the ladder of generational progress” was now at risk in the developed world and that a moment of “great global reckoning” had ­arrived. He said that, since the 2008 global financial crisis, leaders had made the mistake of responding to the domestic “political outcry” instead of devising long-term structural reforms to restore economic confidence, investment and innovation. The upshot was the sacrifice of a generation of young people.

 “It is at moments of great reckoning that great leaders are fashioned,” he told guests including US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen, European Central Bank president Mario Draghi and senior economic ministers from the top 20 nations, including Joe Hockey who organised the invitation to Mr Murdoch. It was the first time an outsider had addressed the G20 meeting.

Mr Murdoch said “the verdict was still out” on the great quantitative easing experiment — under which central banks put more money into economies by buying securities — “but we ­already know that one result has been greater inequality”.  “In America, the most highly paid 1 per cent now pay 46 per cent of all income tax,” Mr Murdoch said. “In Britain, the top 1 per cent pay 28 per cent of all income tax. That is a massive shift from what our society looked like 30 years ago. We should all be concerned about this polarisation which was never the intent of policy but is certainty a consequence. “Quantitative easing has increased the price of assets, such as stocks and real estate, and that has helped first and foremost those who already have assets. Meanwhile, the lack of any real wage increase for middle-income workers means growing societal divisions and resentment.  “This is one of the core lessons of my professional life — I have seen many politicians who have the best of intentions but who ­deliver the worst of outcomes.”  With the global economy still struggling after the 2008-09 ­crisis, Mr Murdoch told economic decision-makers their prescriptions fell far short of the optimum economic and social ­results.

The significance of his nine-page speech is his argument about the limits to both monetary and fiscal policy and the imperative for a new approach based upon the need “for government to get out of the way”. Mr Murdoch called for: labour market reform; lower and more competitive corporate taxes; a crackdown on multinationals — naming Google — for not paying taxes where they make their profits; a rethink on excessive bank regulation, warning “you would have to be mad to join the board of a bank these days”; and recognition that high taxes and over-regulation were damaging economic growth and the public interest. The October 9 dinner was hosted by Mr Hockey since Australia is the G20 host nation this year. Reports after the event said the speech was broadly appreciated by those in attendance. In the current global context, Mr Murdoch’s message is highly provocative. It conflicts with the domestic policies of many nations, not least Australia where the populist ­denial about the need for structural reform is intense. Mr Murdoch said he was still an optimist — if the right choices were taken.  He was confident because the world was shifting “from an industrial society to an information society”. The information revolution sweeping all societies would create new opportunities for entrepreneurs and private-sector growth.

The policy priorities he advocated were education and immigration reform, infrastructure investment and cheap energy. Mr Murdoch said cheap gas in the US had decreased manufacturing costs and lifted US manufacturing exports by 6 per cent. But his message to global leaders was that the results weren’t good enough — economic growth was weak, unemployment was too high and family incomes were inadequate. He said growth in the eurozone was “basically static”. While the US was held up as a “bright spot” the reality was different. Real US median income was lower than 15 years ago and its 63 per cent ­employment participation was at the lowest level in 35 years. “This has an enormous impact on quality of life for American families,” he said. “Today many Americans who have jobs aren’t satisfied with them. They would like to work longer hours or find higher-wage jobs with growth ­potential, but there just aren’t enough opportunities.”

Mr Murdoch said much of the burden of failed policy was falling on young people.

The lack of opportunity for the next generation was “especially troubling” along with the “inevitable social and political upheavals to come”. This was because the unemployment rate for people under 25 years in the US was 13 per cent and in the eurozone was 23 per cent. It was twice as high in Spain and Greece and parts of France and Italy.  The chief of News Corporation, ultimate owner of The Australian, told European and US leaders in the intimate setting of the dinner that many of their policies were a “tremendous disincentive to innovation and risk-taking”. He confronted them saying high taxes and overregulation “goes to ­extremes in many European countries and several US states”.  He said an “easier” problem to tackle was that posed by Google in Australia. “Google harvests nearly $1 billion annually in Australia — by pirating the copyrights of local taxpayers,” Mr Murdoch said.  “While I am sure they are not the only offenders, as the chairman of a company that is continuously financially wounded by that piracy, I feel quite justified in calling them out by name.” On company tax, he quoted former president Bill Clinton saying the current system, notably in the US, was “crazy”. Action had to be taken to make corporate tax rates more competitive.  (Paul Kelly, The Australian, October 28, 2014)

 

How Coles squeezed suppliers for ‘perfect profit day’

AMONG Coles top supermarket executives it was known as “profit day” or if they were feeling particularly animated, “perfect profit day”. It was a special time of year, which seemed to happen a lot, when the general managers of Coles’ key supermarket categories, such as deli, bakery or frozen, would contact suppliers and demand money from them. And from the internal emails detailed in court documents this morning by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, “perfect profit day” pushed as much pressure on Coles staff as it did their food and grocery suppliers.  One particularly active Coles executive even tried to top his “perfect profit day” target, pushing staff to squeeze $1 million from suppliers when the actual target was only $750,000 for the day.  Take one example revealed in the Federal Court documents prepared by the ACCC. In August and September 2011, Philip Armstrong, the manager of the snacks and beverages category, also known as “Impulse”, sent an email to his executives setting out his expectations they would be “challenging lines for profit” with Coles’ suppliers every week.  These were profit targets Mr Armstrong expected his team to meet for the week, period and financial year end.

When the money couldn’t be squeezed from suppliers a “profit gap” emerged, and then the pressure would be upped.

“Our profit position still well behind budget we now need to be chasing all suppliers for any profit gaps we have to sales,” read an email in October from the category manager for frozen to his staff.  By November Mr Armstrong made clear the profit gap had to be closed.  “I want to get out of the Friday morning ‘panic’ please,” he wrote in an email, “our profit budget is a given … Ring suppliers today if you are short on profit.” But Mr Armstrong didn’t want a big deal made about it, best to keep it quiet, he advised. The ACCC alleges that in one email in December 2011 he relevantly stated: “Just a reminder today is perfect profit day, it is meant to be kept low key (we seem to have perfect profit day every day in Impulse!)”.’  Mr Armstrong also passed news of success in extracting money, and after seeking a payment from a supplier for a purported “profit gap” on a report Coles had generated, told other Coles executives the review of the specific Coles report resulted in a “pot of gold”.  He encouraged others to use the report to obtain more payments for further purported “profit gaps” from suppliers. Mirroring his email was Anna Croft, the boss of the home-care category, who sent a message to other executives listing “actions” for “perfect profit day”’ which are now the subject of the ACCC’s case.

The grocery and frozen categories would also need to chip in to help Coles’ profit target as another Coles executive detailed in an email plans to extract $1 million for “profit day”.  “We have been sent a target of what money we need to secure as a team for the day,” wrote Philip Ready, the head of frozen, “as this number is $750,000 which is just over $100,000 per category … lets aim to secure $1 million for our profit day.”  His email also included handy tips and suggestions for demanding money from suppliers, the ACCC alleges, in “areas that have delivered income”.  Later Mr Armstrong would send an email at 6.48am where he indicated that the target for the Impulse category for profit day was $2 million.  The matter is listed for a directions hearing in Melbourne on Friday 24, October 2014 before Justice Gordon.  (Eli Greenblat, The Australian, October 16, 2014)

 

Abbott and Hockey: Why poor people don't matter

It doesn’t seem yet to have dawned on Tony Abbott that he was elected because he wasn’t Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd, not because voters thought it was time we made a lurch to the Right. The man who imagines he has a “mandate” to mistreat the children of boat people, ensure free speech for bigots, give top appointments to big business mates and reintroduce knights and dames, represented himself as a harmless populist before the election. The other thing he doesn’t seem to have realised is that just as he has us moving to reduce our commitment to action against climate change and to make the budget much less fair, the rest of the advanced economies are moving the opposite way.  President Obama is taking steps to overcome Congress’s refusal to act on global warming, the Chinese get more concerned about it as each month passes and the International Monetary Fund is chastising us for our apostasy.  Advertisement

And while we use our budget to widen the gap between rich and poor, people in other countries are realising the need to narrow it.

Wayne Swan, former Labor treasurer, noted in a speech on Monday that “centre-right political leaders across the globe are acknowledging the obvious truth that capitalism is facing an existential challenge . . . only last week ratings agency Standard and Poor’s emphasised yet again that high inequality is a drag on growth”.  In Australia, however, an increasing “vocal minority has decided to oppose any reform, no matter how necessary and no matter how obvious in its benefits to the whole nation, if they perceive it is in their short-term interests to do so.  “This is a recipe for unnecessary political division and widening social inequality, and unfortunately permanent reform failure,” he says.  Australians had done much better than the Americans at matching strong economic growth with social equity but, according to Swan, “we’re witnessing the Americanisation of the Right in this country. Obsessed with defending the advantages of the wealthiest in our society”.   In his various efforts to defend rather than correct his first budget’s unfairness, Joe Hockey seems to be doing just that. Meanwhile, the messages coming from international authorities are very different.  In a recent paper on policy challenges for the next 50 years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned the growing importance of skill-biased technological progress and the rising demand for skills, will continue to widen the gap between high and low wages.

Unless this was corrected by greater redistribution of income, other OECD countries would end up facing almost the same level of inequality as seen in the US today. “Rising inequalities may backlash on growth, notably if they reduce economic opportunities available to low-income talented individuals,” it warns.  Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, noted in a speech that the 85 richest people in the world control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population - 3.5 billion people.

“With facts like these, it is no wonder that rising inequality has risen to the top of the agenda - not only among groups normally focused on social justice, but also increasingly among politicians, central bankers and business leaders,” she said.

“Many would argue, however, that we should ultimately care about equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.” As it happens, Hockey has defended his budget’s unfairness with just that argument.  “The problem is that opportunities are not equal. Money will always buy better-quality education and health care, for example. But due to current levels of inequality, too many people in too many countries have only the most basic access to these services, if at all. The evidence also shows that social mobility is more stunted in less equal societies.”  Disparity also brings division, she said. “The principles of solidarity and reciprocity that bind societies together are more likely to erode in excessively unequal societies. History also teaches us that democracy begins to fray at the edges once political battles separate the haves against the have-nots.” Pope Francis put this in stark terms when he called increasing inequality “the root of social evil”.

“It is therefore not surprising that IMF research - which looked at 173 countries over the past 50 years - found that more unequal countries tend to have lower and less durable economic growth,”  Legarde also said.  Get that? Until now, the conventional wisdom among economists has been that efforts to reduce inequality come at the expense of economic growth. Now a pillar of economic orthodoxy, the IMF, has found it works the other way round: rising inequality - as is occurring in Australia, the US and almost all advanced economies - seems to lead to slower growth.  Lagarde said other IMF research had found that, in general, budgetary policies had a good record of reducing social disparities. Social security benefits and income taxes “have been able to reduce inequality by about a third, on average, among the advanced economies”.  What can we do? “Some potentially beneficial options can include making income tax systems more progressive without being excessive; making greater use of property taxes; expanding access to education and health; and relying more on active labour market programs and in-work social benefits.”  Perhaps in his efforts to get a modified version of his budget passed by the Senate, Hockey could bring in the IMF as consultants.  (Ross Gittins, SMH, August 20, 2014)

 

BIS chief fears fresh Lehman from worldwide debt surge

Jaime Caruana says investors are ignoring prospect of higher interest rates in the hunt for returns

The world economy is just as vulnerable to a financial crisis as it was in 2007, with the added danger that debt ratios are now far higher and emerging markets have been drawn into the fire as well, the Bank for International Settlements has warned. Jaime Caruana, head of the Swiss-based financial watchdog, said investors were ignoring the risk of monetary tightening in their voracious hunt for yield. “Markets seem to be considering only a very narrow spectrum of potential outcomes. They have become convinced that monetary conditions will remain easy for a very long time, and may be taking more assurance than central banks wish to give,” he told The Telegraph.  Mr Caruana said the international system is in many ways more fragile than it was in the build-up to the Lehman crisis. Debt ratios in the developed economies have risen by 20 percentage points to 275pc of GDP since then. Credit spreads have fallen to to wafer-thin levels. Companies are borrowing heavily to buy back their own shares. The BIS said 40pc of syndicated loans are to sub-investment grade borrowers, a higher ratio than in 2007, with ever fewer protection covenants for creditors.

The disturbing twist in this cycle is that China, Brazil, Turkey and other emerging economies have succumbed to private credit booms of their own, partly as a spill-over from quantitative easing in the West.  Their debt ratios have risen 20 percentage points as well, to 175pc. Average borrowing rates for five-years is 1pc in real terms. This is extemely low, and could reverse suddenly. “We are watching this closely. If we were concerned by excessive leverage in 2007, we cannot be more relaxed today,” he said.  “It may be the case that the debt is better distributed because some highly-indebted countries have deleveraged, like the private sector in the US or Spain, and banks are better capitalized. But there is also now more sensitivity to interest rate movements." The BIS warned it is annual report two weeks ago that equity markets had become "euphoric". Volatility has dropped to an historic low. European equities have risen 15pc in a year despite near zero growth and a 3pc fall in expected earnings. The cyclically-adjusted price earnings ratio of the S&P 500 index in the US reached 25 in May, six points above its half-century average. The Tobin's Q measure is far more stretched than in 2007. “Overall, it is hard to avoid the sense of a puzzling disconnect between the markets’ buoyancy and underlying economic developments globally,” it said. Mr Caruana declined to be drawn on when the bubble will burst. "As Keynes said, markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent,” he said. The BIS says prolonged monetary stimulus in the US, Europe, and Japan has led to a leakage of liquidity, contaminating the rest of the world. The rising powers of Asia are no longer able to act as a firebreak – as they did after the Lehman crash –and may themselves now be a source of risk.

Emerging markets have racked up $2 trillion in foreign currency debt since 2008. They are a much larger animal than they were during the East Asia crisis of the late 1990s, so any crisis would do more damage. “The ramifications would be particularly serious if China, home to an outsize financial boom, were to falter," it said.

BIS officials doubt privately the whether China can avoid a ‘hard landing’, fearing that the extreme credit growth over the last five years must lead to a financial reckoning. They also doubt whether the aftermath will in the end be easier to deal with in a state-controlled banking system where the Communist Party controls the credit levers. The annual report suggested that China’s $4 trillion of reserves are a Maginot Line defence. It noted US was also a large external creditor in the 1920s, as was Japan in the 1980s, before each went into deep crisis. “Time and again, in both advanced and emerging market economies, seemingly strong bank balance sheets have turned out to mask unsuspected vulnerabilities that surface only after the financial boom has given way to bust,” it said.

The BIS is the doyen of world’s financial institutions, created in Basel in 1930 to clean up the mess left by German reparations payments under the Versailles Treaty. It has since evolved into the bank of central banks, and lately the bastion of monetary orthodoxy. It issued a crescendo of warnings in the build-up to the Lehman crisis, implicitly rebuking the US Federal Reserve and others for holding interest rates too low, which in their view robs economic growth from the future. The BIS was vindicated, though not everybody agrees that it was right for the right reasons. Monetarists argue that the Great Recession was due to over-tightening into the downturn. This caused M3 broad money growth to collapse months before the banking crisis. The BIS backed QE as an emergency measure in early 2009 to avert a deflationary spiral but has long since called for a return to sound money, and even rate rises. "The predominant risk is that central banks will find themselves behind the curve, exiting too late or too slowly," it said. This has earned BIS a reputation for Austrian School ideology , accused of encouraging crude liquidation. The bank denies this, tracing the bank’s doctrines to the pre-Keynesian Swedish economist Knut Wicksell. Wicksell posited a “natural rate of interest”. Holding rates too low creates a host of problems. While his model looks like the modern “Taylor Rule” used by the Fed and other central banks, it is different in crucial respects.

Confident in its cause, the BIS more or less indicts the central bank establishment of malpractice. "Policy does not lean against the booms but eases aggressively and persistently during busts. This induces a downward bias in interest rates and an upward bias in debt levels, which in turn makes it hard to raise rates without damaging the economy – a debt trap." "Systemic financial crises do not become less frequent or intense, private and public debts continue to grow, the economy fails to climb onto a stronger sustainable path, and monetary and fiscal policies run out of ammunition. Over time, policies lose their effectiveness and may end up fostering the very conditions they seek to prevent," it said. Basel's lonely call for discipline pits it against the Fed, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, and even Frankfurt these days. It prompted an unusually piquant riposte from London earlier this month. "Has monetary policy aided and abetted risk-taking? I hope so. That's why we did it," said the Bank of England’s chief economist Andy Haldane.

"It is good to have the debate,” said Mr Caruana gamely. Yet he refuses to back down. “There is something strange about fighting debt by incentivizing more debt." He is now skirmishing on a fresh front, questioning the Fed's new enthusiasm for macro-prudential curbs as a first line of defence. "On their own there is little evidence that they can constrain financial imbalances. We don’t think macro-pro can serve as a substitute," he said. Mr Caruana said the US recovery is not a vindication of monetary stimulus, but evidence that the best answer to "balance sheet recessions" is to clear away the dead wood and unlock resources for new technologies. “The Americans were quite aggressive in forcing recognition of losses and there was a very rapid recapitalisation of the banks. This is why it was successful. The role of quantitative easing is an open question.” Mr Caruana dismisses the global deflation scare as alarmist, even though Sweden's Riksbank has just abandoned his camp and slashed rates to near zero to avert a Japanase-style trap. Deflation is very unlikely to happen in the West, he insists. Gently falling prices are typically benign in any case. "We should not exaggerate the role of deflation in history," he said.

The Great Depression is the exception, not the rule. Welfare systems and unemployment insurance now make such an outcome almost impossible. "In the 1930s the stabilizers were very different," he said. Critics are unlikely to accept this assurance since Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Latvia have all gone through depressions over the last six years, and Italy, France and Holland are all close to debt-deflation. The concern is what would now happen to parts of Europe if there were a fresh downturn or an external shock. Debt ratios are higher than they were in the 19th Century. The "denominator effect" of deflation is therefore more destructive today. The International Monetary Fund has hinted that it might be best for the world to chip away its debt mountain with a few years of inflation, as the US did in late 1940s and early 1950s, armed with financial repression. Asked whether he would support this form of loss recognition for creditors, Mr Caruana came close to choking. “It must be clearly resisted,” he said.  (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Daily Telegraph (UK), July 13, 2014)

 

Wealth of seven richest Australians exceeds that of 1.73 million households

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows the bottom 20 per cent of households own roughly $54 billion in wealth. The most recent BRW Rich List shows the seven richest people in the country own more than $56 billion in accumulated wealth.

 

The rich Australians.

They are Gina Rinehart (estimated wealth of $22 billion), Frank Lowy ($6.9 billion), James Packer ($6 billion), Anthony Pratt & Family ($5.6 billion), Ivan Glasenberg ($5.6 billion), Harry Triguboff ($4.95 billion) and Wing Mau Hui ($4.82 billion).

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The Australia Institute's paper, Income and Wealth Inequality in Australia shows how policy decisions in Australia - such as the reduction in the top marginal income tax rate over time - have contributed to an increase in wealth of Australia's richest individuals, and widened the disparity between wealth and incomes in Australia.  It says the gap between the richest and the poorest households will grow if government payments to low-income families are reduced further in this budget.

The paper shows in the past eight years the cost of tax cuts introduced by Labor and Liberal governments have been about $170 billion, with the top 10 per cent of earners receiving more benefits from those tax cuts than the bottom 80 per cent of taxpayers. A recent survey by the Australia Institute found that most Australians are unaware of the extent of inequality, with the majority of people believing the ''average income'' in this country is similar to their own personal income. People who earn between $20,000 and $40,000 a year believe the average Australian earns the same. The same goes for Australians who earn between $100,000 and $150,000 a year.

The decision by Treasurer Joe Hockey to index the age pension against the CPI, rather than male total average weekly earnings, will lead to age pensioners' incomes falling further behind community standards, it shows.

It comes as Nobel-prize laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz warns about the consequences of a global rise in inequality.

Professor Stiglitz will talk in Sydney Town Hall on Tuesday night about the ''Price of Inequality''. He warned last week that political decisions were to blame for the enormous growth in wealth and income at the top of the income distribution in the United States, and for the falling living standards in the middle and lower bands. Dr Richard Denniss, the Australia Institute's executive director, says the Abbott government's decision in this budget to make welfare payments grow at a slower rate than wages will ''inevitably'' lead to a bigger gap between rich and poor. He says a recent survey found more than 80 per cent of Australians want the level of social services in Australia to remain as they are or to be increased, ''even if increases mean additional taxation.''  Clive Palmer, told the National Press Club on Monday that he would not support the Abbott government's $7 GP co-payment because it would reduce the real incomes of pensioners and the poor.  ''I didn't get elected to Parliament to take someone's chocolate or coffee off them, as simple as that mate, and it won't be happening.''   (Gareth Hutchens, SMH, July 8, 2014)

 

More to public's dislike of the budget than simple selfishness

Tony Abbott has turned out to be a chameleon. Before the election, he took the guise of a populist, opposed to all things nasty and in favour of all things nice. Since the election, he's revealed himself to be a hard-line ideologue, intent on reshaping government to suit the interests of big business and high-income earners.  Before the election, he was the consummate vote-seeking politician. Since the election, he has transformed into an inflexible "conviction politician" who doesn't seem much worried about whom he offends. Dr Mike Keating, former top econocrat, says the budget is always the clearest guide to a government's priorities and values. That's certainly true this time.

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This budget scores high marks for its efforts to get the budget back on track. As almost every economist will tell you, there is no "budget emergency". But there would be problems if we allowed the budget to stay in deficit for another 10 years, which was a prospect had Abbott failed to take tough measures (all of which were in marked contrast to his sweetness and light before the election and many of which were in direct contradiction to his promises).  The budget's great strength is its approach of announcing savings while delaying their major effect until 2017-18, by which time it's hoped the economy will be strong enough to cope with the reduced spending. That, plus Treasurer Joe Hockey's efforts to increase spending on infrastructure in the interim. But the budget goes further than is needed to fix the budget. It's our first genuine attempt to achieve (as opposed to talk about) "smaller government". So as to minimise the need for future tax increases, it puts government spending on a diet.  It does so partly by increasing user charges (for GP visits and tests, pharmaceuticals and university tuition), but mainly by changing the indexation of pensions and government grants to the states for public schools and hospitals, from indexes linked to the growth in wages to the main index linked to consumer prices.  That's a saving of at least another 1 per cent a year, cumulating every year forever (or at least until it's reversed as politically and economically untenable).

By restricting his savings to cuts in government spending and studiously avoiding all the lurks hidden in the tax system, Abbott ensured the burden of his savings is carried overwhelmingly by low and middle-income earners, leaving high-income earners largely unscathed, save for a small temporary tax levy. He also ignored almost all the government spending constituting welfare for businesses.  You would have to be terribly trusting to believe all this happened by accident rather than design.  The public's wholehearted disapproval of the budget makes it likely a lot of its measures won't make it through the Senate. Abbott's opponents will have a field day acting as our saviours.  No doubt much of this disapproval arises from simple, short-sighted self-interest. After all, Abbott spent the past four years fostering our selfish incomprehension. People got it into their heads that their cost of living was rising rapidly, causing their standard of living to slip. It wasn't true, but Abbott reinforced rather than corrected the misperception. (To be fair, the Labor government was no better.)

But I'd like to believe there’s more to our disapproval of the budget than simple selfishness. John Howard says the public will accept a tough budget provided people are satisfied it's reasonably fair and in the nation's interests.  Trouble is, this budget is neither fair nor in the nation's interest – unless you share the Business Council's certainty that the world would be a much better place if only big business was allowed to do whatever it pleased and executives paid minimal tax.  What surprises me is how Abbott could change from being such a supremely pragmatic, vote-obsessed pollie in opposition to being so willing to alienate so many interest groups while in government.  I never imagined I'd see the day when any government decided to take on perhaps the most powerful voting bloc of them all, Grey Power. The fury of the old will be even greater when they fully comprehend how the planned change in pension indexation will lower their relative incomes. If it survives, it will be a hot issue at the next election.

Nor did I ever expect to see any government declare war on virtually the whole of the younger generation. The plan to deny education leavers the dole for six months involves high social costs with little budgetary or economic merit, but is the reappearance of one of Abbott’s personal bonnet-bees.  The plan to let universities charge what they please for their courses and impose a real interest rate on students' HECS debt will saddle our brightest and best with big debts, lingering for many years. I've heard of worse injustices, but it seems a strange way to endear yourself to those who represent the future Liberal heartland.  Abbott is no doubt counting on there being a long time for voters to forgive and forget before the next election in 2016.  But despite its goal of avoiding future tax rises, the budget's incorporation of a further two years of bracket creep means it will push up the tax rates faced by a lot of low to middle-income earners, something they won't easily forget.  If I were Abbott, I wouldn't be counting on too much voter gratitude for fixing the budget.  (Ross Gittins, SMH, June 10, 2014). Ross Gittins is economics editor.

 

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Trains, planes and pain: it takes only seven minutes longer to travel from the Sydney CBD to Melbourne than it does to Ruse

SYDNEY’S peak hour commute has slowed to such a crawl it takes only seven minutes longer to travel from the CBD to Melbourne than to suburbs in the southwest of the city.   The Daily Telegraph last Wednesday put Sydney’s afternoon traffic to the test and discovered a person can travel 800km further in virtually the same amount of time than a commuter cursed to navigate our clogged streets. While one reporter negotiated a frustrating bumper-to-bumper trek to Ruse from the centre of Sydney, another was able to travel from Central Station to the airport, check in, enjoy a coffee in the waiting lounge and make it well into the descent over Tullamarine in the same amount of time.  It was a race of plane, train and automobile as the reporters took on two routes travelled by thousands each day.  The battle began shortly before 5pm with one reporter boarding a train at Central while the second drove out of a CBD parking lot.  The jet-setting reporter caught the train, checked into his flight and was taxiing down the runway at the same time the second journalist was crawling past Sydney Airport on Southern Cross Drive after 50 minutes of fighting traffic out of the city.  More than an hour after the journey began, our land-based reporter had reached the gridlock-inducing M5 tunnel and things really started to slow down. High above the daily grind, her colleague was airborne at nearly 1000km/h.  As Reporter One passed over the Snowy Mountains, Reporter Two inched closer to the outskirts of Campbelltown.  The pilot in the Virgin plane began a calm descent, but Reporter Two looked the goods. She pulled into the local shops at Ruse on Junction Road in first place. But just seven minutes later she received a text message from Reporter One as he swooped in over the runway.  The time was approaching 7pm and one reporter was in another state, with Sydney’s traffic lights and congested two-lane highways a distant memory. And if the driver had left the office after 5pm she would have still be sitting in traffic at 7.30pm. It's why when I had to work in the CBD, I always leave after 7pm and get home 40 minutes later.   (Taylor Auerbach and Sarah Crawford, The Daily Telegraph, October 27, 2014)

 

Comments

Cec: 5ptsFeatured
 And if the driver had left the office after 5pm she would have still be sitting in traffic at 7.30pm.  It's why when I had to work in the CBD, I always leave after 7pm and get home 40 minutes later.

Anonymous:  5ptsFeatured
Probably much the same if you were to do the same from Melbourne! Commute from Melbourne's Western or South-Eastern suburbs on the freeways and into the city during the morning. VERSUS. catching a flight from Melbourne Airport (Tullamarine) to Sydney Airport :D I mean getting out to the Airport on the Tulla Freeway in the morning peak is a joke anyway!

Riddley:  5ptsFeatured
Decades of traffic data across the United States shows that adding new road capacity doesn't actually improve congestion. The latest example of this is the widening of Los Angeles' I-405 freeway, which was completed in May after five years of construction and a cost of over $1 billion. "The data shows that traffic is moving slightly slower now on 405 than before the widening,"   The main reason is simple — adding road capacity spurs people to drive more miles, either by taking more trips by car or taking longer trips than they otherwise would have. It is the "fundamental rule" of road congestion: adding road capacity just increases the total number of miles traveled by all vehicles.  This is because, for the most part, drivers aren't charged for using roads. So it's not surprising that a valuable resource, given away for free, leads people to use more of it. Economists see this phenomenon in a lot of places, and call it induced demand.  If you really want to cut down on traffic, there's only one option: charge people to use roads when they're crowded, a policy known as congestion pricing.  Or better, build efficient alternatives like public transport for longer trips and bike infrastructure for shorter and local trips.

Saif:   5ptsFeatured
Sydney can't be a major city and have low car traffic at the same time. Look at other metropolises in the world: London, NYC, Tokyo.  Everyone there use trains/subway to commute. At least Sydneysiders can still commute via car, if they want...

Peter: 5ptsFeatured
And Abbott will only help out, if States sells their assets paid for by the taxpayer over many years, with building roads ZILCH on public transport.

Riddley: 5ptsFeatured
The photos of the roads tell the whole story. HUGE, ENORMOUS amounts of wasted space around each single commuter sitting in their individual car. Imagine that picture photoshopped to show only the people. You would laugh at the amount of space between each one. One train can take 800 cars off the road. If you want to fix the commute to Ruse, put a train line alongside the road, and subsidise it with road tolls.

Craig  5ptsFeatured
@Riddley
:  There is already a train line that runs parallel from the cbd to Campbelltown. The problem is that when people try to get to the station in their car, the car parks are full. Would also be good if more freight was moved by trains and the tolls for trucks doubled to encourage this situation.

 

ABC spends up to hurt online media rivals

THE ABC is spending tens of thousands of dollars to damage its commercial media rivals by buying Google rankings that lure internet users to stories on its own news website. Spending on “search engine marketing” ensures the ABC’s stories rank ahead of those written by other news organisations when users type in search terms such as “politics news”.

On Tuesday this week, the ABC outbid its commercial rivals to buy the term “Gough Whitlam” to ensure stories on its website ranked ahead of those by outlets such as News Corp (publisher of The Australian), Fairfax Media and the television networks. It spent an estimated $10,000. ­Higher-ranked stories typically attract significantly more readers. The ABC’s use of search engine marketing has drawn criticism from outlets including the Seven Network and Sky News, with Labor calling for an investig­ation and other media companies privately saying the public broadcaster should not be paying to buy internet traffic. While companies such as News Corp and Fairfax need to attract readers to help deliver advertising and subscription revenue, the taxpayer-funded ABC does not need either. Although the ABC Charter stipulates the corporation must “provide digital media services”, it says the ABC must “take account of the broadcasting services provided by the commercial and community sectors of the Australian broadcasting system”. The Australian can reveal that the ABC outspent all but one other news service on search engine marketing in August, helping it to rank as the nation’s fourth most popular news website.

The public broadcaster is also driving up the “cost per click” acquisition rate for publishers such as Fairfax, News Corp, Yahoo and Nine by buying search terms on Google. Media outlets typically pay Google a few dollars for each user who clicks through to a story from a sponsored link.Responding to a series of detailed questions from The Australian, ABC spokesman Nick Leys said only: “The ABC advertises its programming on a range of platforms, including online. The aim of such advertising is to increase audience awareness of ABC services.” Earlier this month, ABC director of news Kate Torney boasted that the corporation provided “one of the nation’s most popular online and mobile news services”. “News and current affairs content dominates the ABC’s online traffic and reaches an average of 2.6 million Australians a month,” she wrote on the ABC’s The Drum commentary website.  “Since the new mobile version of the site launched in July last year, the audience has increased by more than 40 per cent.”  Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who is demanding the ABC cut costs, declined to comment yesterday. But opposition communications spokesman Jason Clare called for an investigation into the matter after he was provided with the ABC’s response to questions about why it was competing with commercial media outlets.  “Minister Turnbull should investigate this,’’ Mr Clare said.  The spending to drive traffic to ABC online comes as managing director Mark Scott warns many of its top programs, including Lateline, are under review because of budget cuts.

Sky News Australia chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos, who recently hired veteran journalist Jim Middleton following his redundancy from the ABC, said yesterday it was “very disappointing that great ABC journalists are losing their jobs while others at the national broadcaster are wasting money with one aim: to damage other Australian media outlets”. “The ABC has an abundance of opportunities on radio, TV and online to promote its services, which it can all use for free,’’ Mr Frangopoulos said. 

Seven Network director of news Rob Raschke said the ABC’s strategy was odd given the public broadcaster had no commercial reason to attract online audiences. “It’s spending money to actively compete with commercial organisations who have a commercial imperative to attract audiences,’’ he said.  Former ABC chairman Maurice Newman described the practice as “unfair competition” that could diminish media diversity. “It does raise the whole question of the ABC’s competitive position in the media space and I would have thought taxpayers’ dollars weren’t really meant to drive away viewership and readership from the private sector,’’ he said.

“At a time when media organisations are seeking to get their revenue on the web, to the extent that a public broadcaster is paying to have traffic directed to it, away from the private sector, that would seem to be to be not competitive neutrality. I thought competitive neutrality was one of the planks of our form of government.”  Media proprietor Eric Beecher has questioned the ABC’s increasing dominance online, writing on Crikey this week that the ABC charter was a “fuzzy motherhood manifesto”, failing to provide detail about key directions or priorities. The ABC also declined to comment on its support of Google, which, despite reported revenue of $1.8 billion, paid only $7.1 million to the tax office for the 2013-14 financial year.  (Sharri Markson, The Australian, October 24, 2014)

 

Busting decades of myths on Gough Whitlam

GOUGH Whitlam was a political giant who had an enormous ­impact on Australia. It is right to speak respectfully of the recently dead. In retirement, Whitlam was a model of wit and propriety and I was one of many journalists who benefited from his capacious memories. I supported Whitlam against his defamers over East Timor and for a time we collaborated on this issue a good deal. But sentimentality, and the overwhelming power of the Labor myth-making machine, should not blind us to the central fact of Whitlam: he was the worst prime minister in our history. This is true in economic policy, foreign policy and processes of government. After three years in office, he lost the 1975 election by the greatest electoral landslide in Australian political history. He had another go as opposition leader in 1977 and was rejected by a similar margin. His foreign policy record was appalling, although it is here that the myth-makers have worked hardest because his economic ­record was even worse. Whitlam acted with conspicuous cruelty towards the Vietna­mese who had worked with Australian forces and Australian diplomats during the war between South Vietnam and North ­Vietnam.

His foreign minister, Don Willessee, wanted him to bring some of these people to Australia at the fall of Saigon in April 1975. Whitlam told him: “I’m not having these f..king Vietnamese Balts coming into the country with their religious and political prejudices against us.”  The quote is in Clyde Cameron’s memoir. Whitlam never ­denied the quote. Once, when I recounted the quote with one word mistaken, Whitlam rang me to correct the mistaken word and confirm the quote generally.  Later, when Vietnamese were fleeing the communists whose victory Whitlam had championed, he remarked: “Vietnamese sob ­stories don’t wring my withers.” More important than what Whitlam said was what he did. Australian transport planes left Saigon with rows of empty seats while those who had helped us there were left to their fate in the vast gulag of re-education camps the communists set up after their victory.  Or they were left to a worse fate.

Whitlam’s myth-makers are so impervious to the facts that they often claim his visit to China as opposition leader was a breakthrough in opening China to the west. In fact for most of the preceding years numerous Western nat­ions in Europe had full diplomatic relations with mainland China. It was as near as anything could possibly be to inevitable that Australia would eventually extend formal diplomatic recognition to Beijing. Once the Americans made their move, their Asian allies followed, although the US took some years after de facto recognition to achieve formal recognition. This is because the Americans were tough negotiators and were not going to sell out Taiwan. They would not recognise Beijing in a way that gave it licence to conquer Taiwan, which is de facto independent but which Beijing considers a renegade province. Harvard scholar Ross Terrill argues that Whitlam badly botched the negotiations with Beijing because he was desperate to afford recognition straight away. As a result he agreed to conditions that were punitive of Australian interests in Taiwan and effectively sold out the interests of Taiwanese people altogether. Most of Whitlam’s foreign policy decisions were wrong in principle and turned out badly in practice. Entirely gratuitously, he extended formal diplomatic recognition of Soviet sovereignty over the Baltic states. This was a blow to Australians of Baltic origin who yearned for human rights and self-determination in their countries of origin. And, as so often happened, history proved Whitlam wrong. The Baltic states are all independent of Russia today. The two most disgraceful episodes of Whitlam’s leadership concerned the Middle East. Most people remember the loans affair, but an even greater disgrace concerned Whitlam’s efforts to raise election funds for the ALP in 1975 from the Iraqi government.  With Stalinist efficiency, Labor myth-makers have almost entirely elided this episode from history. So let’s recount the facts. Whitlam authorised Bill Hartley, a far-left figure of the Victorian ALP who received subsidies from Arab dictators, to seek election funding of up to $2 million from the Iraqi government or the governing Iraqi Baath Socialist Party. Their agreed envoy, whom Whitlam met and authorised, was one Henry Fischer. In Iraq, Fischer met Saddam Hussein, then vice-president of Iraq.  He later intimated he could get half a million dollars from the ALP. Whitlam thought this was fine but wanted to keep it secret.  When news of it came out, in 1976, Whitlam was already in opposition. He was condemned, as leader, by the ALP national executive. John Wheeldon, who had been Whitlam’s social security minister and who later became associate editor of The Australian, resigned from Labor’s front bench in disgust and said he would never again serve with Whitlam.

Kim Beazley Sr, who had been Whitlam’s education minister, had already resigned over the issue. “It would be inevitable for the Australian Jewish community to regard any such (Iraqi) money as blood money that might be paid for, ultimately, in Israeli blood,” Beazley said.  That might have been an overdramatic judgment, but on any measure for an Australian political leader to seek secret electoral funds from one of the most brutal and bloodthirsty tyrannical regimes the 20th century ever saw was a monstrous moral failing. Imagine the endless outcry there would be if Malcolm Fraser had sought electoral funding for the Liberal Party from apartheid South Africa, or even from the Americans. For the record, Fraser says the Liberals never sought foreign funding from anybody. The more well-remembered loans affair involved Jim Cairns, then treasurer, and Rex Connor, then minerals and energy minister, seeking a $4 billion loan from Middle East sources for infrastructure in Australia, although there was a later plot to use this money to fund government if the Senate blocked supply.

Connor used the shady Tirath Khemlani to try to raise the money. The problem was that after Connor’s official authority was formally withdrawn, he kept using Khemlani, apparently with Whitlam’s tacit approval.  Whitlam’s view was if the money came through he would take it, however Connor got it. Both Connor and Cairns were sacked from the ministry in a government of utter chaos.  Whitlam’s economic record was ruinous. He produced massively increased unemployment, the highest level in Australia since the great Depression. Inflation got above 20 per cent at one stage. This was partly influenced by the international oil shocks but the outcome in Australia was much worse than in comparable countries. In 1974-75, government spending increased by 40 per cent, plainly a state of madness. Tax increased by 30 per cent. It wasn’t just that Whitlam was uninterested in economics, his economic policies were catastrophic and took many years to recover from.  Whitlam could not control his ministers, some of whom had pro-communist allegiances (read Mark Aarons’s book, The Family File) and made wildly ill-disciplined statements against the US alliance, which made his gov­ernment look incoherent and amateurish.  Whitlam did not support the invasion of East Timor, the only thing he is accused of by the Left but is innocent of.  Many of his social reforms had calamitous consequences or could not be afforded. Abolishing university fees made no discernible difference to the socio-economic profile of Australian undergraduates and was later reversed by the Hawke government. All this economic disaster ­ruined Australia’s international reputation. The tenor of commentary in British newspapers at the time was that while messing up the British economy was fairly easy, messing up the Australian economy took real determination.  The fact that modern Labor idolises Whitlam rather than Bob Hawke is one of the key causes of its policy malaise. Whitlam had grand ambitions. His government, though, on almost every measure, was an unmitigated disaster. (Greg Sheridan, The Australian, Oct 22, 2014)

 

Reform failure splits Young Labor

LABOR’S failure to embrace structural reform has deepened divisions in the party’s youth movement, sparking a farcical split at a national conference on the weekend where Left and Right factions held rival meetings. What was supposed to have been a convivial annual meet-and-greet turned sour when the organisation’s 50 Left faction members voted on a walkout to protest about lack of party reform. The Left’s co-convenor, Adam Clarke, accused some members from the Right of being too accepting of the party’s ­“archaic power structures” and said the walkout was designed to make the conference more relevant to its participants.  Held on the Australian National University’s campus, the conference saw Right and Left join for a reform workshop and a keynote speech by Labor’s leader of the lower house Tony Burke, but otherwise remain entirely separate.  “Members of the Young Left have said enough is enough,’’ Mr Clarke said. “The party is in desperate need of radical reform. We want to make sure we’re competitive; we need to see the youth of the party take the actions necessary to move democratisation.  “Currently Young Labor does not stand for that.”

Outgoing president Kerrie Kahlon, a proud member of the Right who says she favours party reform, said those of her peers who did not believe in reform were “ridiculous” and voiced concern about the senior party’s influence on Young Labor.  Ms Kahlon said this was a particularly difficult time for members, with internal rivalries making Labor membership “not a positive experience”.  “If we can’t come together and have an annual conference, that really concerns me,” she said. “We have a culture that is modelled off the senior party’s division (but) we should be idealistic and not have those issues seep into Young Labor. “We spend too much time fighting each other and not enough time fighting the opposition.”  Echoing recent calls by senior Labor figures for faction and union bosses to surrender power to its members, Mr Clarke and Ms Kahlon said the majority of Young Labor wanted to see a one-member-one-vote system. They said membership throughout the Labor Party would “churn and burn” until rank-and-file members had a greater say in internal decisions.  “The reality is we should be having a lot more people joining than we do,” Mr Clarke said. “We have a lot of people join but they stick around for a while and then leave. No one’s saying the Labor Party is going to die but, without reform, we will be the natural party of opposition.”  On the back of a disastrous result in the West Australian Senate election re-run — where Labor secured just 21.8 per cent of the vote — ALP president Jenny McAllister last week pushed for an end to union bosses and faction leaders choosing upper house candidates.  Party elder John Faulkner also proposed rule changes in NSW to prevent corrupt behaviour and “strengthen the future of our party and our capacity to govern”. Young Labor’s incoming president, Edward McDougall, said he would focus on taking the party to the people and campaigning on issues that matter to youth.  “People want to see that we’ve changed and we’re now working to improve society, rather than always fighting among ourselves,” he said.  A spokesman for Acting Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek did not answer questions about the divisions, but said: “If we want to change the government, we must change too. The young members of the Labor Party are committed to holding the Abbott government to account.”  (Rosie Lewis, The Australian, April 14, 2014)

 

The ins and outs of Labor’s internal intifada

IN February of 1974, Bob Hawke confided in his US embassy contact, codenamed Labbatt, that he was prepared to resign the presidency of the ALP in protest unless he could secure a formal show of support for Israel. He was concerned the pro-Arab group in the party, aligned with the socialist Left, was exercising too much influence. A declassified cable was sent from the US consulate in Melbourne to the US State ­Department in Washington.  The cable raised concerns Hawke had about Labor’s support for Israel a few months after the 1973 Arab Israeli War, which began when Arab states led by Egypt and Syria made a surprise ­attack on Israel.  The cable revealed Hawke had told Labbatt he would quit the presidency if the leftist ­influences were not dealt with.  He turned to the Friends of Israel group in the ALP to get active and to moderate the socialist forces in the party — a grouping of which Bob Carr has been a long-time member. 

Now, 40 years later, the issue of support for Israel is again tearing at the heart and soul of the ALP.

While Bill Shorten and Tony Abbott are united on the response to MH17 and Russia, a divide between Labor and the Coalition on other key foreign policy issues has been quietly growing ever wider and potentially more serious. Last week, in a move that went largely unreported, the government listed Hamas as a terrorist organisation under the UN charter. It was a significant and highly symbolic move. While the military wing of Hamas is listed under the criminal code in Australia, the political wing is not. This has given Hamas a legitimacy that many don’t ­believe it deserves. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop agreed to adopt UN Council Resolution 1373 from 2001 that lists Hamas as a terrorist ­organisation, but stopped short of proscribing it under our criminal code — just yet.

The effect of this was to ­reassure Israel that Australia supports its right to defend ­itself against rocket ­attacks from Gaza — which ­Israel has blamed for the current offensive into Gaza that has cost more than 1000 lives already.  It was also a signal to the US it was still a partner on Israel, following US anger at a UN vote to launch an inquiry into the Gaza conflict.

Support for Israel has long been a bipartisan position from Labor and the Liberals. But not anymore, it seems.

While the Coalition was out listing Israel’s enemies as terrorists, the NSW Labor state conference was at the weekend heading in the ­other direction.  The NSW branch of the Labor Party adopted a resolution critical of Israeli settlements and further reinforced support for a Palestinian state. Carr and others have been at pains to point out the resolution, effectively chastising ­Israel for the disturbing loss of life among Gaza’s civilians, was not a change in policy. But that’s not how Muslims in Western Sydney read it.  On Monday at the Lakemba mosque, to mark the end of Ramadan, the president of the Lebanese Muslim Association Samier Dandan delivered a speech attacking the Abbott government for its support of Israel and praising the Labor Party for its apparent about-face two days earlier.

The politics of marginal Western Sydney seats appears to be the driver of the change in Labor’s policy on Israel; namely, that the NSW Labor Right is concerned about the Muslim vote in Sydney.  But the ramifications of this will run much deeper. It may be a world away but no one should be under any illusion that the issue of Israel and the Palestinians is a political powder keg here, both internally in the Labor Party in particular, and for our strategic alliances.  Julia Gillard almost lost her job after being rolled on her plan for a no vote at the UN last year on a resolution of a Palestinian state. Again it was Carr who had whipped up the caucus and forced a shift in Labor policy on Israel.  Carr has again enraged several Victorian Labor MPs who are strong supporters of Israel — as has Labor leader Bill Shorten, historically. But even Shorten’s language over the conflict has shifted and his Victorian backers have noticed.

The issue of Israel and the Palestinians is a weather vane of Labor’s broader political ­direction.  When Hawke and Keating undertook the purging of the Labor Left in the late 70s in a bid to fashion a centrist position that could win government, Israel became a touchstone issue.  Hawke threatened to quit his presidency over it. In the end they got their way, and it stayed that way until last year.  What some in the right wing of the ALP now fear is the shift in policy on Israel marks a broader shift back to the left for the party as a whole.  The Israel issue raises two issues for Labor internally. If it is prepared to engage politics over principle on Israel, can it be trusted to stick with the government on the national security and counterterrorism legislation it has so far shown a degree of bipartisanship on?  What happens when parts of Western Sydney’s Muslim community start to raise concerns about this as well?  (Simon Benson,The Daily Telegraph, Aug 1, 2014)

 

Boys will be boys, but the ABC really should grow up and become accountable

IN the lead-up to Christmas I shared a few drinks with one of the Chaser boys who tried to explain the rationale behind their dog- humping joke which had aired on the ABC three months earlier. It was all about tempting fate, apparently. The Chaser boys thought it would be amusing to pretend they were responding to a critic of the ABC with such an outrageous slur that it would clearly blow back on them. Except there seemed to be no punch line, or humour.  The program simply did exactly as he suggested, without irony.

It slurred a critic, provoking a damaging response against the ABC. How ironic.

Whether you want to see it as the Chaser boys unwittingly making a joke at their own expense or getting caught by an irony ­rebound, the fact is their conceit has highlighted exactly the point critics like me have been making for years.  The ABC has become an ­expensive and unaccountable public broadcasting behemoth where individual units run as staff collectives and the managing ­director seems not to be in charge. The thriving green-Left bias is a worry but is not the most pressing problem. Rather it is the lack of responsiveness and accountability to its audiences and bankrollers — the taxpaying public.  During the public debate that developed after I launched legal action over the dog skit there were two noteworthy responses from ABC staff. First, it was revealing that only two on-air staff went public with criticism of the Chaser boys’ skit or support for me.  The rest were either united in a groupthink belief that the skit was acceptable, or they believe ABC critics invite such a depiction, or they are cowed into holding the company line. And I don’t know which would be worst. Second, and perhaps more ­illuminating, the private messages I received from senior on-air and managerial staffers were extremely critical of the Chaser boys and supportive of me, encouraging strength to my arm. The way these ABC loyalists expressed it, they were sick of the Chaser team being a protected species and taking no responsibility for the damage they inflicted on the broader ABC brand.  The Chaser boys are not all ­directly on the ABC payroll but supply programs to the public broadcaster under contract.  Presumably they dub themselves “boys” because they were fresh-faced graduates when the ABC started paying them to relay their undergraduate skits to a mainstream audience.  Yet as the Chaser boys have grown into middle age, successive waves of university pranksters have trod the boards in campus ­revues across the country without progressing to television.

That gig remains in the hands of these permanent rabble-­rousers.  Self-styled as the cliched provocateurs who tilt at the establishment, the Chaser boys are actually privileged private school boys (with one exception) who started clowning around at the prestigious Sydney University.  Sit the bar exam, join the family firm or get taxpayers to televise our university revues? They dared to ask the question and we get to pay the bills.  Which would be OK, I suppose, if they produced cutting-edge comedy and satire. And, to be fair, they probably did early on.  But where, for instance, the Late Show team matured into producing insightful satirical television drama, adult chat shows and even feature films, the Chaser boys are suspended in a kind of teenage diapause. And it must be hard to be edgy when you are a middle-aged, middle-class, publicly funded, comedic slave to the zeitgeist.  But no doubt it is good fun ­trying.  Someone at Ultimo must like the boys, however, because they have fronted up for unlikely gigs, from hosting serious current ­affairs and talkback programs to providing shows about shopping.  They even supplied a special television series in 2012 that was a sort of pop culture guide to the US presidential election.

It is an irritating question to ask on behalf of taxpayers — why have they been given this armchair ride and what value do we­ ­receive?  What are the accountability processes? Who vets the reportedly million-dollar-plus contracts? How long will these boys be boys at taxpayers’ expense? And does anyone at the ABC hold them to account?  It seems they found a good thing and have stuck to it. Yet plenty at the ABC are worried.  While the boys struggle to ­rediscover the edge of their undergraduate years — by mocking cancer patients, impersonating Osama bin Laden or showing me up a dog — their status as satirists depends on the public broadcaster. And, in turn, they influence the standing of the ABC, especially as they filter across into other more serious programs, such as Q&A and Radio National Breakfast, or as they try to demonstrate their evolution by switching from mocking politicians to analysing political events.

The Chaser boys attacked me because of my status as an ABC critic; slander this bloke, their skit effectively said, because he ­eschews our green-Left values. This was a classic example of the staff-run collective indulging itself at taxpayers’ expense.

Damaging someone’s reputation, undermining the ABC’s status or exposing it to a law suit? Pffft. We are cutting-edge performers and the ABC has a large legal department.  How such tosh could got to air is one thing but how the ABC management and Mark Scott could dig in, refuse to apologise and defend it is difficult to comprehend.  No wonder senior ABC staff hate being tarnished by the indulgences of this frat house (for there is not a woman among them) team. The Chaser boys and Scott could not have provided a better demonstration of the lack of common sense and accountability at the ABC.  They could not have offered a more obvious invitation for substantial funding cuts and management reform. Down boys, down; you’ve made your point.  (Chris Kenny, The Australian, June 07, 2014)

 

Union boss Tony Sheldon rejects call to cut party power

LABOR elder John Faulkner’s call to cut union influence in the ALP has been dismissed by Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon, who has signalled that he wants to enhance the role of ­unions in candidate selection.

After Senator Faulkner called for the power of unions and ­factional warlords in the party to be diminished, Mr Sheldon, an ALP vice-president and member of the national executive, said ­unions continued to have a legitimate representative voice in the ALP.  He believed their role should be enhanced with a say in rank-and-file ballots to preselect party candid­ates.  Mr Sheldon’s comments came as a senior Labor source said Senator Faulkner’s reform ideas were unlikely to win the backing of the party’s national conference in Melbourne next year.  On Tuesday, Senator Faulkner, a 25-year parliamentary veteran who co-wrote the party’s review of its 2010 election campaign, said that last year’s federal leadership ballot, which gave a 50 per cent vote to the rank and file, was only a first step of many to give ­increased participation to voting members at the expense of factional and union leaders.  Senator Faulkner said the party had to re-evaluate the role of factions, called for reform of electoral funding and for the party to modernise its structure. Bill Shorten said he appreciated Senator Faulkner’s contribution.  “Back in April, people might ­recall that I said that we need to be a membership-based party, not a faction-based party,’’ the Oppos­ition Leader said.  “We need to have the best-possible candidates from the broadest walks of life.  “We need to make sure that we have a party which is as modern, as open, as the society which we seek to present ourselves to, to vote for us at the next election.’’ He said progress had been made with nearly 10,000 extra people joining the Labor Party since April.

Western Sydney Labor MP Ed Husic said he opposed watering down the role of unions in the party further and that the balance was right.  “I actually think there is value in having some balance between the say that members have broadly, as well as what unions say, given the historical connection we have had with unions within the party,’’ Mr Husic said. Frontbencher Richard Marles told Sky News: “I think that the influence of unions in terms of the decision-making of the federal parliamentary Labor Party is vastly overstated.’’  He said Senator Faulkner made a reasonable point about opening up the party and having more people participate in it. But that was exactly what the leadership ballot had entailed.  Mr Sheldon said he strongly disagreed with Senator Faulkner’s view that it was “better to make the party smaller to make it bigger, by not having the representation of unions”.  Mr Sheldon, while welcoming Senator Faulkner’s addition to the reform debate, said he was concerned his proposals would lead to an “American, one-size-fits-all” system open to corruption with huge amounts of money spent to preselect individual candidates.  Factionalism would continue with power concentrated in fewer hands if union representation were further cut from 50 per cent to 20 per cent as Senator Faulkner wanted, Ms Sheldon said.

Reducing the ALP to a collect­ion of individuals would end up “shrinking the party to a smaller and smaller crowd” and new factions would spring up around individuals.  Mr Sheldon said he supported different preselection styles, such as one trialled in NSW — but with a difference. “I’d say add unions to rank-and-file ballots,” he said. (Sid Maher, The Australian, Oct. 09, 2014)

 

Jacqui Lambie backs Clive Palmer with warning of Chinese ‘invasion’

 

‘They shoot their own people.” Clive Palmer lets fly at the Chinese government.

 

THE Palmer United Party has intensified its attacks on China, with its Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie warning of the danger of an invasion of Australia, as she backed Clive Palmer’s criticism of “Chinese mongrels”.   Senator Lambie called for defence spending to be doubled to prevent Australians being enslaved by a “totalitarian foreign power” with a history of military aggression.  Hitting back following criticism of Mr Palmer’s initial remarks, Senator Lambie accused the two major parties of failing to defend the country against the rising threat.  “If anybody thinks that we should have a national security and defence policy, which ignores the threat of a Chinese Communist invasion — you’re delusional and got rocks in your head,” she wrote in an email to the media.  “The Communist Chinese military capacity and level of threat to the western world democracies is at an unprecedented and historical high.

“They come at a time when Australian military spending and capacity is at historic lows.  “Today China is controlled by an aggressive, anti-democratic, totalitarian government. We need to double the size and capacity of our military right now.  “Both Labor and the Liberals/Nationals have failed to build an Australian military that is able to defend us — and stop our grandchildren from becoming slaves to an aggressive, anti-democratic, totalitarian foreign power.”  Senator Lambie described as a “timely warning” Mr Palmer’s tirade on ABC television last night in which he called the Chinese government “mongrels” and “bastards” who “want to take over this country” and who “shoot their own people”.  The PUP’s China-born senator Zhenya Wang also backed his party leader, saying Mr Palmer’s remarks had been taken out of context and triggered by “provocative” questions on the Q&A show.  “From personal experience I have found Clive to be consistently respectful and supportive throughout our relationship in both the private sector and now in the political arena,” Senator Wang said in a statement. “There has never been the slightest suggestion on his part of a prejudicial view of members of the Chinese community.”

Senior government ministers warned Mr Palmer’s tirade would damage Australian trade and foreign relations, while West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said he would apologise for the mining magnate’s “highly offensive” remarks.

Julie Bishop said she planned to tell the Chinese embassy Australia’s parliament did not share Mr Palmer’s “abusive” views.

Joe Hockey warned the PUP leader to avoid letting his personal disputes with Chinese partners “bring down the rest of Australia” when employers were trying to lift exports to the rising Asian economy.  Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce linked Mr Palmer’s outburst to the negotiations over the budget with the Palmer United Party, saying the remarks gave voters an insight into the dealings with the politician.  Labor called the remarks “unhelpful” and “unacceptable” while Shanghai Chamber of Commerce president Peter Arkell went further, labelling them “bizarre” and “dangerous”. Mr Palmer lashed out at the Chinese government and Chinese companies during the ABC Q & A program last night when asked by host Tony Jones about allegations he used a $12 million payment from Chinese state-owned company Citic Pacific, meant to support a port operation, to pay for some of his election campaign.  “We’ve had three judgments in the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Western Australia and an arbitration against these Chinese mongrels,” he said of the business dispute.

“I’m saying that because they’re Communist, they shoot their own people, they haven’t got a justice system and they want to take over this country. And we’re not going to let them.” Mr Palmer said the Chinese government wanted to bring workers into Australia to “destroy” the wages system and extract iron ore without paying for it.  “I don’t mind standing up against the Chinese bastards and stop them from doing it,” he told the program. Mr Palmer sought to limit the damage this morning by saying his remarks were not aimed at the Chinese people.  “My #qanda comments not intended to refer to Chinese people but to Chinese company which is taking Australian resources & not paying,” he tweeted.  However, his televised remarks also seemed aimed at the Chinese government, with an apparent reference to the Tiananmen Square killings in 1989 when he mentioned the “Communists” who “shoot their own people”.  Mr Hockey said Mr Palmer’s comments would damage Australia’s relationship with China.  “I think it is hugely damaging for Mr Palmer to make those sort of comments because ultimately he is a big beneficiary of a Chinese investment partner, someone that has paid to help him develop his resources,” the Treasurer said.  “Now he is in a very obvious legal dispute with his Chinese partners.  “But I’d say to Mr Palmer: ‘please don’t bring down Australia as a result of your biases’.”  Mr Joyce said the remarks were not helpful to Australia’s relationship with China.  “He wanted to make a lot of money out of dealing with China,” Mr Joyce said of Mr Palmer.  “You can’t blame the Chinese for being tough business people — that’s what business is about. “But the emotive and colourful language is not the way you do business.”

Bill Shorten warned that Mr Palmer’s remarks could offend Australians as well as damaging the bilateral relationship.

“I think a lot of Chinese-Australians would understandably feel hurt by these comments,” the Labor leader said. “We’ve come a long way as a proud multicultural nation and these comments are unacceptable.”  Mr Barnett, a staunch advocate of Chinese investment, also said Mr Palmer’s comments could be “extremely damaging” to the mining industry and to Canberra-Beijing relations.  He said would write to the Chinese Embassy in Canberra to apologise.  “Mr Palmer is displaying the worst of Australia. He is damaging the international standing of Australia in Chinese eyes, both in investment and government circles.  “He is behaving improperly. He is an embarrassment.”

Former federal MP Pauline Hanson also criticised Mr Palmer for the remarks.  “I never said what Clive Palmer said, and Tony Abbott thought I was his biggest headache,” Ms Hanson told the Seven Network’s Sunrise program.  “I’ve always said clean up your own backyard before criticising other people.”  Chinese investor Citic Pacific is taking legal action against Mr Palmer and his companies over payments including $12 million intended for port services.  Asked at the National Press Club last month whether that money was used to fund his election campaign, Mr Palmer said: “That’s just not true.”  But The Australian revealed last month that court documents showed some of the money was paid to a company called Media Circus Network, a media agency involved in Mr Palmer’s federal election campaign.  Queensland Supreme Court records show that two Citic companies, Korean Steel and Sino Iron, have started proceedings with Clive Frederick Palmer named as the sole respondent.  Mr Palmer has denied any wrongdoing.  Jones asked Mr Palmer if he could promise that “not a cent of that $12 million” went missing under his watch, but Mr Palmer refused.

“I can tell you that those allegations are not true … we will be taking immediate action in the Supreme Court,” Mr Palmer responded. He is to face court next week.  The federal government is negotiating a trade agreement with China in the hope of striking a deal in November when Chinese president Xi Jinping visits Australia for the G20 summit, building on Tony Abbott’s visit to Beijing in April.  China is Australia’s largest trading partner, according to official figures showing the trade in goods and services was worth more than $150 billion in 2013.   (David Crowe, The Australian, August 19, 2014)

 

International

 

Opium wars left us fighting on two fronts, says Jack Straw

BRITAIN was wrong to lead international efforts to fight Afghanistan’s huge opium trade, Jack Straw has admitted. Mr Straw, who was Labour foreign secretary between 2001 and 2006, said he regretted the move, one of Britain’s starkest failures of the 13-year war, with poppy production in the country at record high levels this year.  “I do regret that. It was very much a diversion,” Mr Straw said as British forces handed over control of their last base in the country, Camp Bastion in southern Helmand.  Then prime minister Tony Blair made the need to stop Afghanistan from producing the heroin that ends up on British streets one of his key reasons for taking his coutnry to war against the Taliban in 2001.  Mr Straw acknowledged, with hindsight, that it was not possible to fight insurgents and the opium trade upon which so many livelihoods in southern Afghanistan rely.  The country produces more than 90 per cent of the world’s opium poppy, harvesting 211,650ha last year.  “You have got to make a choice about which front you fight on,” Mr Straw said.

Britain chose to be the lead nation for counter-narcotics in Afghanistan after the 2001 invasion, spending hundreds of millions of pounds on the well-meaning but doomed quest to persuade farmers in the south of the country to harvest crops other than poppy.  The crop remains one of the most lucrative forms of income in the impoverished nation.  The narcotics mission was a big factor in British forces being sent in 2006 to Helmand province, which rapidly became the most dangerous part of the country as the ill-prepared troops, thinking they were on a reconstruction mission, triggered a bloody insurgency. Mr Straw said he remained adamant that the Labour government was right to join the US to topple Mullah Omar’s Taliban regime after the September 11 attacks.  “We had no option but to take military action in the autumn of 2001. It was a war of necessity,” he said. “Although as with any other military action things didn’t work out quite as planned or as intended and we have been caught up in the fog of war, but Afghanistan is a better place on many metrics, including the education of women.”  He also said Britain was justified in leading the fight against Taliban insurgents in Helmand, a mission that has been widely criticised for being badly conceived and resourced.  “It could have been better planned,” Mr Straw added. “There should have been ... a further vote in the House of Commons.”  John Hutton, Labour defence secretary between 2008 and 2009, said Britain’s intervention in Afghanistan had been a success in combating the risk posed by al-Qa’ida of carrying out another 9/11-style attack from a safe haven within the country and also in building up a credible Afghan army and police force as part of the wider NATO-led mission.  “We paid a high price ... but I think this was a legitimate use of UK force and combined with the political and economic strategy will hopefully give some reasonable grounds for optimism over the future,” he added.  Rory Stewart, a Conservative MP and chairman of the Commons defence select committee, was less upbeat about Britain’s mission in a country that he knows better than most.  He was critical of how the government deployed the woefully prepared task force into Helmand, knowing very little about the area.  “Why did it go wrong? Why are we so bad at setting objectives? Why are we so bad at understanding the cultures of other countries? What is it that leads to these humiliations?” he asked, speaking more broadly about British defence and foreign policy.  “The answer is that we don’t invest properly in understanding the culture and politics of these countries.”  (Deborah Haynes, The Times, October 28, 2014)

 

Moral clarity about Islamic State needs zero tolerance of terrorism

IN Ottawa on Wednesday, a lone gunman rampaged in and around Canada’s parliament, killing a Canadian soldier before being killed. Authorities said he was a convert to Islam, radicalised to commit his act of terrorism.  That day in Jerusalem, a newborn girl was run down and killed in her pram when a vehicle intentionally rammed a crowded tram stop. The Palestinian driver, killed while fleeing, had an extensive ­arrest record for nationalistic violence and familial connections to Hamas. He was glorified on Hamas-affiliated websites as a martyr and a Hamas spokesman said his attack was only “natural”. In Australia, we looked in horror at a photo of an Australian child in Syria holding a severed head aloft like a hunting trophy, basking in his father’s pride.

This week, a baby-faced jihadist joined Islamic State, the militia responsible in Syria and Iraq for mass executions and beheadings of aid workers and journalists, filmed to shock the civilised world. The AK-47-toting teen taunted Tony Abbott in a video that might have been grimly funny if people weren’t losing their lives daily to such bloodthirsty zealots.  All these disparate incidents are linked by Islamist terror, but when the violence is perpetrated against Israel, there is a widespread tendency in the media to rationalise it, suggesting Israeli policies invited or caused the attacks. This rationalisation is unfair and harmful to Israelis in general and Jews in particular, but lessons learned by Islamist terrorists from this immoral exemption extend far beyond Israel.  Mainstream Islamic groups have rightly distanced themselves from those who they say have misappropriated an Islamic identity while distorting the tenets of the religion, and it is true that extremism, even violent extremism, is not unique to Islam. However, the actions of Hamas and Islamic State are products of the same broad totalitarian ideological movement — Islamism — which draws on elements of Islam and recruits from Muslims around the world. Popular support for militant Islamists often translates into substantive recruitment for Islamist terror groups, targeting civilians to sensationalise their cause.

Recent polls show that Islamic State is more popular overall — not just among Muslims — in some Western states than in most Middle Eastern ones. A poll by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found just 3 per cent of Egyptians expressed a positive opinion about it, as did 5 per cent of Saudis. In Lebanon, it was less than 1 per cent. Yet in a poll in Aug­ust by ICM Research, 7 per cent of British respondents had a favourable view of the group, as did 16 per cent of French polled — rising to 27 per cent in the 18-24 demographic. These numbers suggest large percentages of Western Muslims — and some non-Muslims as well — are attracted to the group’s ­violent totalitarian message despite, or because of, all its barbarism, beheadings, terrorism, mass executions, ethnic cleansing and selling women into slavery.  The message is chilling — Islamic State appears to have a tremendous ability to appeal to disaffected Muslims living in free societies in the West, more so than to populations within the Middle East, who perhaps have homes and families at stake, are more grounded in reality and less likely to be swept away by the hyped-up promise of a revolution.

This almost certainly also ­applies to some degree in Australia, as evidenced by the numerous Australians who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join up, and the positive view of this behaviour ­expressed by some of their peers. The allure of groups such as Islamic State should be understood as similar to that which drew people to past murderous totalitarian movements and their atrocities — Nazism, fascism, communism, Maoism. All claimed their violence and genocide were a justified self-defence against race, class or external enemies.  It begins with rationalisations that extreme violence is justifiable under the right circumstances, that terrorists are humans and their behaviour is understandable and motivated by injustice. Once that red line has been crossed, the distance from justification to embracing the violence, and then glorifying it, is short. There is a way back. We can begin by unblurring the lines, by defining terrorism consistently and ending the corrosive tendency to justifications for it and excuses. Only through a zero-tolerance approach can Western society restore to this growing quagmire the moral clarity it desperately needs. ( Ahron Shapio, The Australian, October 24, 2014) Ahron Shapiro is a policy analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.

 

Islamists Are Not Our Friends

WASHINGTON — A new fault line has emerged in Middle Eastern politics, one that will have profound implications for America’s foreign policy in the region. This rift is not defined by those who support or oppose the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or by conflict between Sunnis and Shiites and the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is characterized by a fundamental division between Islamists and non-Islamists. On one side are the Islamists — both Sunni and Shiite. ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood represent the Sunni end of the spectrum, while the Islamic Republic of Iran and its militias, including Hezbollah (in Lebanon and Syria) and Asaib Ahl al-Haq (in Iraq), constitute the other. Many of these Islamists are at war with one another, but they are also engaged in a bitter struggle with non-Islamists to define the fundamental identity of the region and its states. What the Islamists all have in common is that they subordinate national identities to an Islamic identity.  To be sure, not all are as extreme as ISIS, which seeks to obliterate sovereign nations under the aegis of a caliphate. But the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to the Umma, the larger Muslim community. One reason behind the popular revolt against its rule in Egypt was that the Brotherhood violated a basic principle of national identity: It was Islamist before it was Egyptian.

Now, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi sees his country engaged in an existential conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood. He is backed financially by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Mr. Sisi also collaborates closely with Algeria, and has support from Morocco and Jordan.  During the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, there were demonstrations against Israel in Europe — but not in the Arab states. Unlike Turkey and Qatar, which support the Muslim Brotherhood, the other Sunni states in the region wanted to weaken Hamas, the Brotherhood’s Palestinian wing. Those states were alienated when Washington turned to Qatar and Turkey as possible mediators of a cease-fire in the recent conflict. The Arab Awakening of 2011 did not usher in an era of democracy, nor could it. The institutions of civil society were too weak; the political culture of winner-take-all too strong; sectarian differences too powerful; and a belief in pluralism too inchoate. Instead, the awakening produced political vacuums and a struggle over identity. President Obama is right to note the old order’s disappearance in the region and the time it’s taking for a new one to emerge. The administration is struggling to define an effective strategy — but the Islamist vs. non-Islamist divide creates an opening.  The non-Islamists include the traditional monarchies, authoritarian governments in Egypt and Algeria, and secular reformers who may be small in number but have not disappeared. They do not include Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria; he is completely dependent on Iran and Hezbollah and cannot make decisions without them.  Today, the non-Islamists want to know that the United States supports them. For America, that means not partnering with Iran against ISIS, though both countries may avoid interfering with each other’s operations against the insurgents in Iraq. It means actively competing with Iran in the rest of the region, independently of whether an acceptable nuclear deal can be reached with Tehran. It means recognizing that Egypt is an essential part of the anti-Islamist coalition, and that American military aid should not be withheld because of differences over Egypt’s domestic behavior. America should also coordinate with Egypt and the U.A.E. when they bomb Islamist targets in Libya, or elsewhere. Coordination will make their military operations more effective, as well as provide America with greater ability to influence their actions. (And Washington would want to be able to head off military acts that it sees as ill-advised.)

The Obama administration worries about the consequences of excluding all Islamists. It worries, too, about appearing to give a blank check to authoritarian regimes, when it believes there need to be limits and that these regimes are likely to prove unstable over time. But as Egypt and the U.A.E. showed with the airstrikes on Islamists in Libya, some of America’s traditional partners are ready to act without us, convinced that the administration does not see all Islamists as a threat — and that America sees its interests as different from theirs. That is a problem.  These non-Islamists are America’s natural partners in the region. They favor stability, the free flow of oil and gas, and they oppose terrorism. The forces that threaten us also threaten them. The Obama administration needs to follow three principles in these partnerships.

First, focus on security and stability. Nothing, including tolerant, pluralist societies, is possible without it.  Second, do not reach out to Islamists; their creed is not compatible with pluralism or democracy. In Tunisia, the Ennahda party surrendered power only when it realized its policies had produced such a backlash that the party’s very survival was threatened. Islamists, even apparent moderates like those of Ennahda, must be left with no choice but coexistence.  Turkey is a special case because it is a NATO ally. There is much we can do with Turkey when it comes to fighting ISIS, but the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, should understand that his support for the Muslim Brotherhood limits what we will do with him and necessarily isolates Turkey from its neighbors.  Third, America’s support for non-Islamist partners does not require surrendering our voice or supporting every domestic policy. We should press them on pluralism, minority rights and the rule of law.  The new fault line in the Middle East is a real opportunity for America. Yes, the United States will face challenges and have to manage tensions between our values and our interests. No strategy is free of risk, but joining with our natural partners offers the best way forward.   (Dennis B. Rossept, International New York Times, Sept. 11, 2014)   Dennis B. Ross, a counselor and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was the United States chief negotiator for the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1993 to 2001 and a special assistant to the president for the Middle East and South Asia from 2009 to 2011.

 

'Terror is a Global Epidemic'

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman made a connection Thursday morning between the attacks that occurred in Jerusalem and Ottawa - both state capitals - on Wednesday. The comments were posted on his official Facebook page. "The terror attacks that took place yesterday, at almost the same time in both ends of the world, show that terrorism is a global epidemic that must be fought against with force and without compromises," Lieberman wrote. Lieberman stressed that "terrorism is not due to construction in Jerusalem, Ottawa, New York, Madrid, London or Mombasa - but is a result of radical Islam's struggle [to take over] the Western world." 

"We stand by our friends in Canada, who have demonstrated, in the last few days by joining the war against Islamic State (ISIS) and previously, in their strong support of Israel, that they do not give in to terrorism. We also will continue to stand firm and fight terrorism and terrorists."   In his remarks, Liberman referred to the terrorist attack in Jerusalem Wednesday evening, where a driver ran over a number of civilians at the Givat Hatachmoshet (Ammunition Hill) Light Rail stop. Chaya Zisel Braun, a 3-month-old baby, was killed, and 8 others were injured. The gun assault in Ottawa, Canada began when an uniformed soldier guarding the the National War Memorial was shot 4 times and injured by a gunman with a rifle. Medics took him by ambulance to Civic Hospital, nearby, where he later died from his injuries. The shooter, identified as Muslim convert Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, then apparently moved inside Centre Block, the main building of the Canadian parliamentary complex, where he was killed in an exchange of fire.  (Hezki Ezra, Cynthia Blank, israelnationalnews.com, October 23, 2014)

 

Zoabi Encourages Uprising Against Israel - on Hamas Website

MK publishes article encouraging all Arab countries to attack Judea-Samaria, uses 'Israel' in quotation marks.

 

Hanin Zoabi, Flash 90

MK Hanin Zoabi (Balad) took her campaign against Israel to a whole new level this week, Israel Hayom reports Friday - after she published an article on Hamas's official website encouraging an Islamist uprising against the Jewish state. Zoabi encouraged all Arab countries to help stoke a "popular uprising" against Israel, halt security coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA) police in Judea and Samaria, and lay siege to the region. Zoabi - who is a member of the Israeli Knesset - also put the word "Israel" in quotation marks for the entire article. The inflammatory piece also attacks Operation Protective Edge against Hamas, which seeks to protect her home country against the thousands of rockets already fired by the terror group on Israeli citizens. "There is no purpose to the military operation in Gaza," Zoabi writes. "Israel will in no way eliminate Hamas - neither the motivations behind the resistance nor the motivation to end the Occupation."   "Israel will in no way accomplish anything by brute military force, killing, and devastation," she added. "[Israel's] brutal aggression has no political policy other than fixing the current situation by continuing a series of crimes and violations against our people - stop that, and we will stop the rocket fire." "In order for 'Israel' to declare an end to the possibility of guarding its Occupation and deepening it, we must end the enemy's Trinity - the siege, the security cooperation, and the border [. . .] we must besiege 'Israel' instead of negotiating with it," she concluded. Last straw?   Hanin Zoabi has been linked to Hamas before, and is infamous for provocative speeches, including one in which she said that Israel has “no right to a normal life” and a later address claiming that “the Israeli occupation” was behind the murder of Israelis in Bulgaria. Recently, she declared that Israel should "thank her" for allowing Jews to live in the Jewish State. 

The anti-Israel MK was thrust back into the spotlight last month, after making a series of remarks defending Hamas's horrific abduction and murder of Israeli yeshiva high school students Gilad Sha'ar (16), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Eyal Yifrah (19), hy"d.  In the remarks, Zoabi refused to call their murderers "terrorists" and insisted that the abduction was a "legitimate" way to "fight the occupation." The latest salvo of verbal fire on Israelis resulted in both a personal and political backlash; Zoabi's family disowned her, passersby confronted her on the street and in restaurants, and the Knesset began several forms of legal proceedings for her ouster, in a bill dubbed "Zoabi's Law."  Before the last elections, the Central Elections Committee banned Zoabi, under a clause requiring candidates and parties not to work against Israel's character as a Jewish, democratic state. However, the Supreme Court later overturned the decision and allowed Zoabi to run - a decision Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon lamented in June. "I was able to reject [Zoabi's] candidacy for the Knesset in the [Central] Elections Committee, but the Supreme Court overturned the decision," Danon said. ''This is a fiasco which the Knesset has to stop."  (Uzi Baruch and Tova Dvorin, israelnationalnews.com, July 18, 2014)

 

Iran Conducted Nuclear Experiments at Parchin

Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said on Wednesday that Iran had conducted experiments with nuclear weapons at the Parchin military base, where the West believes suspicious nuclear activities have taken place based on satellite evidence.

According to a statement from Steinitz, quoted by the Reuters news agency, Iran used the Parchin military base as the site for secret tests of technology that could be used only for detonating a nuclear weapon. (israelnationalnews.com, Sept. 24, 2014)

 

Iranian Opposition Reveals Nuke Weapon Research at Secret Site

As Iran continues negotiations with world powers on its nuclear program ahead of a November 24 deadline, members of an Iranian opposition movement revealed Wednesday that the Islamic regime is continuing its nuclear weapon research at a secret location.  According to the Iranian resistance movement in exile Mujahedin-e Khalk, also known as MEK, Tehran is developing nuclear weapons after having relocated its research facilities to avoid detection, reports the Associated Press.

MEK cited unidentified Iranian government sources in saying that "in recent months" Iran's Organization of Defensive Information and Research (SPND) moved the most sensitive weapons research programs to a new Tehran location.

The opposition group named Mohsem Fakhrizadeh as being a Revolutionary Guard brigadier general who heads SPND.

When the US announced sanctions on SPND in August, the US named the group as being "primarily responsible for research in the field of nuclear weapons."  The revelation surfaces after reports on Monday said an explosion at the Parchin nuclear plant killed at least two, including an unnamed "nuclear expert."  When it finally released an official comment, Iran admitted there was an "incident" at the plant and two people were "missing," but refused to call the incident an explosion. The statement also claimed there was no nuclear work being done at the site.  However, the opposition Sahamnews outlet claimed the blast was so powerful it shattered windows some 15 kilometers away from the site. Iran has refused to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to access Parchin since 2005, and both opposition figures and others have accused the regime of using the site to house an illegal nuclear weapons program.  Last month, Israel's Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said he had "reliable information" that Parchin was being used for secret tests of technology that could be used only for detonating a nuclear weapon.  That assessment was backed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who in his recent tour of America told Fox News that Iran is "making bombs. That's what they're trying to do. That's what they're whole program is about, making bombs."

Regarding Iran's nuclear aspirations, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei back in January publicly revealed that the negotiations with the US about Iran's nuclear program are merely a tactic to stall international pressure and gain time to continue nuclear development.  (Ari Yashar, iraelnationalnews.com, Oct. 8, 2014)

 

PA Official Admits: Israel Follows International Law, We Don't.

Palestinian envoy to UN Human Rights Council says Hamas rockets are 'crimes against humanity', while Israeli strikes are legal. 

The Palestinian Authority's envoy to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has said the PA has no hope of pressing charges against Israel in international courts - because Palestinian terrorist groups are far worse violators of international law themselves. Since peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fell apart after the PA applied for membership in international agencies, many Palestinian factions and advocates have pushed for the PA to sign the Rome Statute and press charges against Israel in the International Criminal Court at the Hague (ICC).  But contrasting Israel's conduct during Operation Protective Edge to stop rocket fire from Gaza - in which Israeli forces always warn civilians before launching airstrikes - to the actions of Hamas and other armed groups, Ibrahim Khreisheh said any such move would surely backfire.  Noting concerns that Israel could launch legal offensives of its own against the PA should it sign up to the ICC, the presenter asked whether such a move would be realistic. The response was unequivocal. "The missiles that are now being launched against Israel - each and every missile constitutes a crime against humanity, whether it hits or misses, because it is directed at civilian targets," said Khreisheh. He went on to claim that Israel, too, was guilty of such crimes during the conflict, and also mentioned contested claims about the legality of Israeli building in Judea and Samaria. But he maintained that human rights abuses by Palestinian terrorist groups were far worse - particularly when it came to harming civilians.

In order to launch an appeal to the ICC, Khreisheh said, all "Palestinian factions" would need to commit, in writing, to refrain from targeting Israeli civilians - something which none of them are likely to do.  In stark contrast, he noted how "many of our people in Gaza appeared on TV and said that the Israeli army warned them to evacuate their homes before the bombardment."  "In such a case, if someone is killed, the (international) law considers it a mistake rather than an intentional killing, because (the Israelis) followed the legal procedures," he explained.  "As for the missiles launched from our side - we never warn anyone about where these missiles are about to fall or about operations we carry out."  Khreisheh did not mention other serious breaches of international human rights law by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including the widespread use of human shields.  (Ari Soffer, israelnationalnews.com, July 13, 2014)


       Gaza: Blame The Left For This War

I was watching the BBC. On came a former Israeli ambassador to explain Israel’s military action in Gaza, the place Hamas turned into Terrorist Central. This ambassador who used to be so good came weak and unprepared. So I won’t mention his name. He failed. He made no case for Israel. He made the case for the BBC.  As he sat there mostly dazed for half an hour, I found myself hollering, “Why don’t you simply tell how it all began? That is the crux of it all.”  That is the crux of the war taking place this very moment.  For in the beginning Gaza was not Hamas. In the beginning Gaza was Israel…and it was rich. In Gaza’s Gush Katif some 200 farms in 17 Biblically religious communities produced cutting edge organic agriculture serving nearly a third of Israel. Some 9,000 Israeli inhabitants employing about 4,000 Arabs served even Europe’s grocery needs. Everybody prospered from export revenues that totaled some $200 million annually. One day – kaput.  One day Israel’s hawk woke up a dove. The lion woke up to find himself a mouse. Kafka already wrote how this can happen, and it happened to Ariel Sharon, Israel’s prime minister along 2004-2005. The mystery persists – how the man whose strong hand in favor of expanded settlements suddenly went limp.  Sharon came to power a friend of Israel’s Middle and Israel’s Right, accounting for the vast majority of the Jewish State. He was scorned by the Left, which took him to be far too hawkish. For a time, this was true. Then after a time, something happened, something snapped. Sharon became obsessed.

He became obsessed with the task of diminishing Israel one step at a time. He became obsessed with Gaza’s Gush Katif. He wanted it gone from Jewish hands.  At first he tried some gentle persuasion to bring Israel around to his side. The Left now embraced him and quickly fell in. Yes, Jewish Gaza must go.  The Left had turned him around. The Left could always be counted to be more merciful than God.  They kept urging Sharon to act. There was no time to waste. Peace was at hand.  Sharon made the pitch, but the rest of Israel was not buying. So he found his inner bulldog and went rogue. He turned Israel into a one-man tyranny. His new friends on the Left could come and go as they pleased, say as they pleased, but no such luck for the rest of the people. Sharon clamped down on all whispers of dissent. Anyone who disagreed with his Gaza Withdrawal Plan was considered a traitor and harassed accordingly. He replaced his Cabinet as often as it would take to find agreeable votes. Public protests were met with force. The news media – newspapers, radio, television – were warned to play along – or else. Most did. Some did so out of fear. But most, being mostly Left Wing, agreed that vacating Gaza was a wonderful idea. Peace was surely at hand. Then it happened. One day the trucks arrived. The Jews of Gaza were ordered to pack up and leave, leave behind their homes, their schools, their synagogues, their businesses, their graves, but to take with them their shirts on their backs. So virtually overnight, a night of August 2005, Gaza was cleansed of Jews by a Jewish government.  

Merciful American Jewish philanthropists saw that these people needed help. No, not the homeless Israelis. Yes, millions of Jewish dollars went to the Arabs to build. Surely they would build justice, freedom, peace, stability and democracy. Arabs under the rule of the Palestinian Authority immediately moved in and immediately rioted, shot rifles in the air, and tore everything down – beautiful homes left behind, schools, libraries, industrial buildings, all were smashed and even the greenhouses were torched. They built smoldering hatred and resentment. Some two years later Hamas gained control of Gaza. Hamas quickly established itself in the import business. They imported rocket pads, rocket launchers and a million rockets, which they began firing at Israel. Non-stop. They built tunnels to import more weapons, which they used against Israel, and when Israel fired back, Hamas used children as human shields. What grievance could they have? Gaza was theirs?  Don’t ask me. Ask the Left. They started this war.   (Jack Engelhard, israelnationalnews.com, July 10, 2014)  

 

Trapped in Gaza: How Hamas punishes reporters for the truth

HAMAS is not just targeting Israel­i civilians, threatening Gaz­ans and using them as humans shields.

It has another terror tactic: intim­idating foreign journalists.  Journalists who have taken pictures of Hamas operatives preparing to shoot rockets from civilian structures and/or fighting in civilian clothing have been threatened by Hamas operatives and had their equipment confiscated.  Reporter Peter Stefanovic, of the Nine Network’s news, stationed in Gaza, received a surge of abuse and threats when he tweeted that he had seen rockets fired into Israel from near his hotel, in a civilian area.  Pro-Hamas tweeters said Stefanovic was “passing and fabricating information to Israel ... from GAZA”. Another account wrote: “You are a cretin. Are you working for the IDF” and “in WWII spies got shot”. John Reed, a reporter for Britain’s Financial Times, tweeted about seeing “two rockets fired toward Israel from near al-Shifa hospital (the largest in Gaza), even as more bombing victims were brought in”. He was also subject to threats and abuse.  The Wall Street Journal’s reporter Nick Casey fell foul of Hamas by reporting that Shifa hospital was Hamas’s control centre. On July 21, Casey posted a photo on Twitter of a chief Hamas spokesman being interviewed from a room in Shifa hospital in front of a makeshift backdrop of a photo of a destroyed house.  Casey tweeted the image with the caption: “You have to wonder (with) the shelling how patients at Shifa hospital feel as Hamas uses it as a safe place to see media.”  Almost immediately, Casey received a flood of online threats. Two days later, the tweet was deleted — yet pro-Palestinian Twitter accounts continued to attack Casey, including him on lists of “journos in Gaza (who) lie/fabricate info for Israel” and “must be sued for crimes”.  French-Palestinian journalist Radjaa Abu Dagga wrote that he was forcibly blocked from leaving Gaza and detained and interrogated by members of Hamas’s al-Qassam Brigade at a room in Shifa hospital next to the emergency room. His account of his treatment, in the French newspaper Liberation, also has since been taken down from the paper’s website at Dagga’s request.  His story highlights that reporters can be effectively trapped in Gaza, as Hamas makes it difficult to enter and leave areas under its control and that, while there, they are hostages to Hamas’s goodwill.

Italian reporter Gabriele Barbati tweeted on Tuesday: “Out of #Gaza far from #Hamas retaliation: misfired rocket killed children today in Shati. Witness: militants rushed and cleared ­debris.”  He was referring to a strike on Monday at al-Shati refugee camp which, together with a near-simultaneous hit on Shifa hospital, killed 10 people, including a number of children.

Israel vehemently denied responsibility and said it had proof via photos and radar that misfired Islamic Jihad rockets had caused the deaths.  In his tweet, Barbati backed up the Israeli version (the fast clean-up suggests a cover-up) — and implied that he would not have been free to say this had he been in Gaza.  Media coverage of the Gaza war also has been distorted by the use of biased statistics. Widely cited casualty figures for Palestinians, especially claims regarding the percentage of civilians, come from the Gaza Ministry of Health, which is under Hamas control. Some stories cite “UN figures”, but these simply repeat the ministry figures.  The Al Jazeera casualty list includes at least 33 to 42 duplicate names (according to different counts). Some of the names appeared with slight differences in spelling (yet the age and/or location confirm that it is the same person), some listed different loca­tions (yet the name and age are the same). Among the duplicate names are children, listed as fatalities multiple times.  According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre, out of 775 fatalities analysed (as of July 23), 229 were militants or terrorists, 267 were civil­ians, and 279 could not yet be classified.

The Meir Amit centre examines each reported casualty’s background on Palestinian websites and looks for details about their funerals to determine their occupation and to confirm or rule out any affiliation with terror groups, giving much greater accuracy about whether the person was a civilian.  This is in contrast to reports about civilian casualties not only from the Gaza Health Ministry but also from human rights organisations (such as B’Tselem, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and al-Mezan), which often rely on biased Palestinian sources or plain naivety.  PCHR recently reported that: “At approximately 11.55 (Friday), an Israeli drone fired a missile at a number of Palestinian civilians in al-Zanna area in Bani Suhaila village. As a result, 2 civilians were killed: Mohammed Khalil al-Buraim­, 25; and Mohammed Suleiman Hussein Sammour, 45’’.  In fact, Mohammed Khalil Samour al-Buraim is being celebrated as a mujahed by the Abdel-Qader al-Husseini Brigades. He was apparently a rocket-launcher.  Reporting from Al Jazeera should also be treated with extreme caution. Al Jazeera is funded by the Qatari government, which financially and politically backs Hamas and hosts its leader, Khaled Meshal, in its capital, Doha.  This partisan role is widely reported in the Middle East, yet the ABC and SBS continue to rebroadcast Al Jazeera extensively when less partisan material is available.  Reporting from Gaza is dangerous and difficult.  But our media should acknow­ledge the extent to which intimidation and lack of verifiable, or independent, information limit the completeness of the picture that Australians are getting of the conflict.  (Gabrielle Debinski, Avi-Guy and Tzvi Fleischer, The Australian, July 31, 2014)

 

All we are saying, is give war a chance

THE real message coming from the Gazan conflict is give war a chance. That’s right. All peace-loving people should be demonstrating in the streets and singing, “All we are saying, is give war a chance”.

If, as the Left says, the Palestinians want peace, then let Israel smash the terrorist group Hamas, which runs Gaza and uses Palestinian children as human shields. Get the terrorists out of the hospitals, get their rockets out of the schools (a third stockpile was found in a UN school earlier this week), get them out of their rat-run tunnels and away from the civilian population.  On the other hand, if the Left wants the terrorists to smash Israel, and that is the clear message from the Greens and Labor MPs who attend rallies where the flags of Hezbollah, Hamas and the jihadists fly, there will be no holding back terrorism around the world. Strip away the Al Jazeera propaganda that the ABC broadcasts and Fairfax media supports in its commentaries by erratic penny-a-line scribblers like Mike Carlton, and there is no other way to view the conflict. There is no moral equivalency argument to be had. Loss of civilian life is of course abhorrent. But in this conflict there is only one side which is going to great lengths in its attempt to avoid killing civilians. No, not Hamas, which enjoys the support of the anti-Israeli rallies staged by so-called peace groups and some deluded Christian churches here and elsewhere in the West, but Israel.

It is the Israelis who broadcast warnings, who shower potential targets with leaflets urging civilians to flee urgently, who even fire a so-called “warning knock” to alert householders to an impending attack.  It is Hamas which violates international laws of war by hiding its weapons and its fighters in hospitals, schools and homes and uses tunnels to infiltrate assassins into civilian areas to kidnap, torture and murder non-combatants. Nor is there any argument about proportionality. Hamas needs the Palestinian mortality rate to soar because it hopes to sway international opinion against Israel, it encourages civilians to remain in areas targeted by the Israelis and not seek shelter.  Israel has invested in an effective anti-missile defence system called Iron Dome, which has successfully protected its citizens from being killed.  This war, argues Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi, whose book Like Dreamers explores the different lives and politics of seven Israeli paratroopers who fought together in the 1967 Six-Day War, needs a definitive end.

The only way for peace in Gaza is for Israel to win a clear victory, not another no-win, no-lose settlement that gives succour to terrorism. Halevi, who is visiting Australia, is adamant the last thing the Israelis want is to occupy Gaza, but says they would like to send Hamas and its sponsors packing — an outcome that should be desired by every peace-loving person.  Terrorism is the enemy, not the Palestinians. Defeating terrorism in Gaza would be a severe setback to the Islamist extremists who are at war with each other in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa and elsewhere.  According to the idiotic logic of ABC Q & A guests, Hamas’s terrorist acts against Israel are justified because Israel has laid siege to Gaza. Halevi says the chronology defies that claim. He says Israel didn’t impose a siege on Gaza after its withdrawal from the region in 2005. Israel imposed the siege only after rockets started raining indiscriminately on its population after Hamas violently expelled the Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007.  To lift the siege now would permit rogue states like Iran and North Korea to send an unlimited supply of rockets to the terrorists.  Writing in the Washington Post last Thursday, Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US, said there is a cycle of violence, a pattern which emerged during previous rounds of fighting between Israelis and terrorist strongholds. In Lebanon in 2006 and in Gaza in 2008 and again in 2012.

He said: “Allowed to fight for several weeks, at most, Israel was eventually condemned and hamstrung by ceasefires. The terrorists, by contrast, could emerge from hideouts and begin to replenish and enhance their stockpiles. That is precisely the pattern established in the second Lebanon War and repeated in Operations Cast Lead and Pillar of Defense in Gaza. Hezbollah and Hamas sustained losses but, rescued and immunised by international diplomacy, they remained in power and became more powerful still. Israel, on the other hand, was forced to defend its right to defend itself. Jihadist organisations no different from the Islamic State and al-Qaeda gained regional legitimacy, while Israel lost it in the world.”  It would be easy to say Australia hasn’t got a dog in this fight and we should just sing kumbaya and think happy thoughts, but that would be to ignore the spots of cancer which are already active in our society.  The cesspits which spawned notorious Sydney jihadists Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar — who have posted boasts of beheading “infidels” and horrific pictures of themselves with severed heads — who warn of launching their jihad within Australia.

Marking the end of Ramadan this week, Labor MP Tony Burke, whose electorate of Watson has a large Muslim population, said: “There is a limit to what we can do as a nation, but we can speak the truth and we must speak the truth about Palestine.”

Yet, when one community leader Vic Alhadeff did speak the truth about Hamas — and the authenticity of his claims about the terrorists have not been disputed — the NSW government buckled to Muslim community pressure and accepted his resignation as chairman of the Community Relations Board in an act of supreme moral cowardice.  Those who objected to Alhadeff’s factual remarks have given support to Hamas, whether they like it or not. They have given succour to an organisation in a league with the murderous Islamic State, Boko Haram, al-Qaeda and every other pathologically homicidal terrorist group in the world.  If Premier Mike Baird cannot distinguish between those who want to kill all the Jews in the world and convert all the Christians to Islam at the point of a sword and the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, he should check his Christian credentials.  Hamas’s stated goal is eradicating Israel, which is the West’s sole bulwark against terror in the region.  Australia and every civilised nation has a vital interest in this struggle, just as we had interests in the struggles against totalitarianism in WWI, WWII and the Cold War. To think otherwise is to begin the slide into the abyss of moral corruption inhabited by supporters of international terrorism. (Piers Akerman, The Daily Telegraph, Aug 01, 2014)


ISIS Crucifies One of Its Own in Syria

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) on Friday executed and crucified one of its own men for corruption in Syria, a watchdog and jihadist sites said, according to AFP.  Photographs posted on websites showed the body and bloodied head of a bearded man with a placard reading: "Guilty: Abu Adnan al-Anadali. Sentence: execution and three days of crucifixion. Motive: extorting money at checkpoints by accusing drivers of apostasy."  The text is signed by "The prince of believers," thought to refer to ISIS chief Abu Baqr al-Baghdadi.  Before being crucified, the man was killed by three bullets to the head at Bab in the north of Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.  ISIS, the most radical jihadist group fighting in Syria, has been accused of countless atrocities since joining the civil war. These include torturing and murdering prisoners, among them children and teenagers, and forcing Druze men to convert to Islam or die.  Earlier this month, ISIS killed a 102-year-old man along with his whole family. In one case, members of the group beheaded a person they said was a member of an Iraqi Shiite militia fighting for Assad, only to discover they had accidentally beheaded a fighter belonging to an allied rebel group.  In March, the group live-tweeted the amputation of a hand of a man charged with theft in the northern province of Aleppo.  Over the past few weeks, ISIS has expanded its operations in Iraq, taking over several cities in the country and causing alarm over a possible regional war.  (Elad Benari, israelnationalnews.com, June 28, 2014) 

 

Iran Rejects West's 'Excessive Demands'

Talks between Iran and West once again end with no breakthrough, as Iranian Foreign Minister says there are "major disputes".  Iran informed the six major powers on Friday it would not accept their "excessive demands" after the latest talks on a permanent nuclear deal ended with no breakthrough, Reuters reports.  Iran and the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany are striving to turn an interim deal signed in November into a comprehensive settlement by July 20.  Under the interim deal, Iran committed to limit its uranium enrichment to five percent and is gradually winning access to $4.2 billion of its oil revenues frozen abroad and some other sanctions relief.  It looks like it will not be easy, as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday urged the six nations to "abandon excessive demands which will not be accepted by Iran."  "Still we have not overcome disputes about major issues," Zarif told reporters as five days of negotiations in Vienna wound up, according to Reuters.  "There has been progress, but major disputes remain," he added.  Zarif made clear there was no agreement yet between Iran and the six on a draft text of an agreement. A senior Chinese official said the two sides had put together a "textual framework", though gave no details.

"The fact that (we came up) with this text is progress ... in procedural terms," China's Wang Qun told reporters.  Diplomats from the six powers told Reuters earlier in the week that one of the most difficult issues in the talks was the number of centrifuges Tehran will be allowed to keep to enrich uranium under any deal.  Western officials say that the six powers want this number to be in the low thousands to prevent any Iranian dash to a nuclear bomb-making capability. Iran insists on tens of thousands of centrifuges to make fuel for what it says is a panned network of civilian nuclear power stations.  A spokesman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who coordinates the talks, would only say that the two sides had begun drafting the text of a deal during their fifth round of negotiations this year.  "We have worked extremely hard all week to develop elements we can bring together when we meet for the next round in Vienna, beginning on July 2," Michael Mann said in a statement. "We presented each other with a number of ideas on a range of issues, and we have begun the drafting process."  Zarif indicated this week that the sides have started drafting a comprehensive agreement but added “there are still many differences” over the text. The powers are seeking a settlement that would limit Iran's nuclear program. Throughout the talks, Iran has declared that it will never give up on what it sees as its right to uranium enrichment.  (Elad Benari, israelnationalnews.com, June 20, 2014)

 

Ukraine conflict: Vladimir Putin rattles nuclear sabre

Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin raised the spectre of nuclear war with the West on Friday as he defied international condemnation over his decision to send thousands of Russian troops and heavy armour into eastern Ukraine.  Accused by Europe and NATO of launching a full-scale invasion, he boasted to a group of Russian youngsters that "It's best not to mess with us".  In language not heard since the height of the Cold War, he told his audience: "Thank God, I think no one is thinking of unleashing a large-scale conflict with Russia. I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers."  Mr Putin's comments, made during a visit to a pro-Kremlin youth camp on the banks of a lake outside Moscow, will alarm Western governments. Even during the Cold War, few Kremlin leaders resorted to the direct mentions of Russia's nuclear arsenal.  Advertisement

Mr Putin made his remarks as European leaders were preparing to hold an emergency summit to discuss further sanctions. NATO believes there are more than 1000 regular Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

The soldiers are believed to be the backbone of a counter-offensive in which pro-Kremlin rebels in eastern Ukraine have seized back swathes of territory from Ukrainian government forces in the past few days, dramatically turning the tide in the four-month conflict.  A battle is now looming in the port city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian forces are braced for a full-scale assault by rebels backed by Kremlin's forces. The escalation in the conflict is the most serious since the pro-Russian uprising began, and has dashed Western hopes that sanctions had forced the Kremlin to abandon its support for the rebels.  "If it looks like a war, sounds like a war and kills like a war, it is a war," Poland's Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said. "The situation is now out of control," his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, added.   (Tom Parfitt and Colin Freeman, SMH, August 30, 2014)

 

Ukrainian FM: 'We Want Israeli Drones'

After deal for Israeli military hardware reported canned last month over Russian pressure, visiting Ukrainian diplomat makes another call.  Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on Thursday gave an interview to Israel's Knesset Channel, in which he said his nation is interested in expanding military ties with the Jewish state.  "We spoke about the importing of drones from Israel," said Klimkin after meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other officials. "That's really important in the supervision framework of the ceasefire (with pro-Russian separatists), but we are speaking with many countries about that and countries in the European Union in particular."  Klimkin continued "today we are holding a special cooperation with France and Italy. Therefore the topic of drones is not so controversial as it was two or three months ago when everything started."

Ukraine has been gripped by violence since its Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted last winter in a popular movement from the streets pushing for closer ties with the EU. That tension spiraled further after a de facto Russian military invasion of Crimea, and votes in several territories to separate from Ukraine and side with Russia.  The call for Israeli drones by Klimkin comes after reports last month that a proposed sale of Israeli weapons - including drones - to Ukraine had been blocked over fear of antagonizing Russia.  A Ukrainian delegation had visited Israel to acquire military hardware including drones to use against pro-Russian separatists, said the report on Channel Two. It said the Defense Ministry had approved the sale only to have the Foreign Ministry veto it for fear of such a move causing Russia to sell more weapons to Iran and Syria.  Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists signed a ceasefire on September 5, with tensions frequently threatening to spill over again since then.   (Hezki Ezra, Ari Yashar, israelnationalnews.com, Oct. 23, 2014)

 

The challenge to rein in Putin

ABOUT 40,000 combat-ready Russian soldiers are poised on Ukraine’s eastern border and Russian-speaking soldiers have been fomenting divisive uprisings in Kiev’s industrial heartland, as they did in Crimea. Amid such a state of play, urgent, effective action is needed by the West to deter Vladimir Putin from his course of extended territorial aggression. None of the measures taken in response to the Crimean invasion has made the latter day tsar in the Kremlin think again. So, when NATO and EU leaders meet this week to confront the gravest crisis in Europe since the end of the Cold War, they must be prepared to go further. Given Europe’s reliance on Russian gas supplies, Mr Putin obviously believes he is in a strong position. But he does not hold all the cards. It is imperative the EU and NATO leave him in no doubt that, if he persists with his apparent intention to tear Ukraine apart and make it ungovernable ahead of next month’s election, he will face damaging sanctions. As well as being aimed at the wider economy, these should be targeted at him personally, and the coterie of oligarchs who surround him and ship their wealth into Western real estate, commercial interests and financial assets.

Washington has proposed a range of potentially highly effective banking sanctions that would play havoc with their wealth. These should now be approved in readiness for further moves by Mr Putin. Washington’s plan to expose the vast personal wealth Mr Putin reportedly holds in Western banks should also be enacted.  Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has paved the way, warning the City of London, Europe’s financial hub, to prepare for possible market volatility that would follow sanctions. “We are prepared to bear the economic price because the price of doing nothing is considerably higher,” he said. It is to be hoped other European leaders are similarly determined to confront Mr Putin as he attempts to use gas exports to blackmail Europe.  The EU relies on Russia for 30 per cent of its gas. But Russia, too, is vulnerable, oil and gas accounting for 80 per cent of its exports and 30 per cent of its GDP. Its petro economy relies overwhelmingly on sales to the EU. Without them, Russia’s economy would be in dire straits.  Mr Putin also needs to be reminded of his dependence on imports from the EU of heavy industrial equipment that Russia no longer produces. Blocking imports of Western-manufactured goods, in addition to financial sanctions, would hit Mr Putin’s economy hard and, potentially, even dent his soaring popularity.

NATO, too, must be prepared to expand its deployment of forces in the Baltics and Poland as a direct counter to the Russian troop moves. It could also provide greater direct military assistance to Ukraine so it is better equipped to confront Moscow’s forces.  A Russian invasion of Ukraine would be catastrophic. The looming crisis has become a fundamental test of perceptions that the Obama administration and the Western alliance are too weak to rein in Mr Putin. For the West, failing the test would hand the Kremlin a victory with far-reaching strategic consequences. (Editorial, The Australian. April 14, 2014)

 

Vladimir Putin celebrates 62nd birthday in Siberia as supporters compare him to Hercules 

RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin has marked his 62nd birthday in the Siberian wilderness as supporters compared his takeover of Crimea to one of the 12 Labours of Hercules and 100,000 marched in his honour in Chechnya. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Putin had taken a day off from his “extremely intense” agenda to celebrate his birthday in the depths of Siberia. “This place is some 300 to 400 kilometres away from the nearest settlement,” Mr Peskov told the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid on Tuesday, saying the president worked virtually around the clock and needed a breather. “He will rest,” he said, declining to say whether Mr Putin would have company in Siberia. The president is riding a wave of popular support following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March, with ordinary Russians, ex-Soviet leaders and Ukrainian separatists singing his praises on Tuesday.  More than 100,000 people, some carrying giant flags, marched in the president’s honour in the Chechen capital of Grozny, led by Kremlin-backed regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov who carried a portrait of Mr Putin.  Supporters in Moscow staged an exhibition of paintings designed to symbolise Mr Putin’s achievements, comparing them to the 12 Labours of Hercules, the demigod of Greek mythology renowned for his strength.  The paintings depict the takeover of Crimea, which is compared to capturing the Cretan Bull, fighting corruption (compared to the cleaning of the Augean Stables) and what supporters portray as the most difficult labour of all — standing up to the United States, which is compared to Cerberus, the multi-headed dog of mythology.

“Since Putin’s last birthday Russia under his leadership has made a leap into a political ‘terra incognita’,” the mass-circulation daily Moskovsky Komsomolets trumpeted, saying he would remain “indispensable” for the country.

Alexander Zakharchenko, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, praised Mr Putin for the protection of the “Russian world” and supporting rebels in the ex-Soviet country. But while this year’s festivities had all the slavish adulation that has marked Mr Putin’s birthdays over the past decade, not everyone was celebrating. His critics attacked him, while wits asked on Twitter whether Mr Putin could remain in the Siberian woods for good. Opposition magazine The New Times marked the day with a new dose of gallows humour, with jokes poking fun at life under Mr Putin.  In Ukraine, where contempt for Mr Putin runs high, the 1+1 television channel compiled a collection of profanity-laced Twitter messages and internet memes. “According to statistics, the average life expectancy for Russian men is 62 years,” read one tweet. (AFP, October 07, 2014)

 

Russian Diplomat’s Speech Depicts the West as Hypocritical

Russia’s foreign minister delivered a strident denunciation of the United States and its allies on Saturday, using his speech at the annual United Nations General Assembly session to depict the West as an arrogant and hypocritical arbiter of “what is good or evil.”  The speech by Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, a skilled diplomat who spent a decade as Russia’s United Nations ambassador, described the world’s acute conflict zones — Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan — in near polar opposite terms from the way the United States and Western European leaders have framed them.  He bluntly rejected their depiction of Russia as a scheming violator of the world order, equating such a view to what he called an inherent inability of the West to outgrow the stereotypes of Soviet times. On the contrary, Mr. Lavrov said, the deterioration of Russia’s relationship with the NATO alliance, particularly regarding the Ukraine crisis, had “made obvious the inability of the alliance to change the genetic code it embedded during the Cold War era.”

Russia did not illegally seize Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula six months ago, as President Obama and many other leaders have said, but rather only wanted to see the people of Crimea decide for themselves whether they would remain part of Ukraine after the political violence that ousted the pro-Russia president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. “The attempts to distort the truth and to hide the facts behind blanket accusations have been undertaken at all stages of the Ukrainian crisis,” Mr. Lavrov said. He reiterated the Kremlin’s view that the current Ukraine government, led by Western-friendly politicians, was the result of a coup d’état.

“Shouldn’t the General Assembly adopt a declaration on the inadmissibility of interference into domestic affairs of sovereign states and nonrecognition of coup d’états as a method of the change of power?” he asked. “The time has come to totally exclude from the international interaction the attempts of illegitimate pressure of some states on others.”  Countering the American-led position that Russia has resorted to force to get what it wants in Ukraine and arbitrarily redraw geographic boundaries, Mr. Lavrov said the reverse was true.  “Washington has openly declared its right to unilateral use of force anywhere to uphold its own interests,” he said. “Military interference has become a norm — even despite the dismal outcome of all power operations that the U.S. has carried out over the recent years.”  The Western alliance, Mr. Lavrov said, which “portrays itself as a champion of democracy, rule of law and human rights within individual countries, acts from directly opposite positions in the international arena, rejecting the democratic principle of sovereign equality of states enshrined in the U.N. Charter and trying to decide for everyone what is good or evil.”

Mr. Lavrov’s speech had been eagerly awaited, in part to see whether Russia would react to the newly formed American-led alliance of European and Arab states now conducting airstrikes on the Islamic State, the extremist group ensconced in eastern Syria that has seized parts of Iraq and has been universally condemned as a terrorist organization. The United States did not seek permission for those attacks from the government of Syria, a Russia ally, nor did it seek an authorization from the United Nations Security Council, where Russia, as a permanent member, has veto power.  While Russia may be quietly happy that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is now the target of American airstrikes, Mr. Lavrov took the opportunity to challenge the Obama administration’s decision as arrogant, arbitrary and contrary to the United Nations Charter. “The struggle against terrorists in the territory of Syria should be structured in cooperation with the Syrian government, which clearly stated its readiness to join it,” Mr. Lavrov said.  (Rick Gladstone, New York Times, Sept. 27, 2014)

 

Putin enlists Russian philosophers [and theologians] for backup on world stage

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"The tiger of quasi-religious nationalism, which Putin has been riding, may now take control." Photo: Getty Images

Even cynics like to feel moral. Even hard-eyed men who play power politics need to feel that their efforts are part of a great historic mission. So as he has been throwing his weight around the world, Vladimir Putin has been careful to quote Russian philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries such as Nikolai Berdyaev, Vladimir Solovyov and Ivan Ilyin. 

Putin doesn't only quote these guys; he wants others to read them. As Maria Snegovaya pointed out recently in The Washington Post, the Kremlin recently assigned three philosophic books to regional governors: Berdyaev's The Philosophy of Inequality, Solovyov's Justification of the Good and Ilyin's Our Tasks. Putin was personally involved in getting the remains of Ilyin - who died and was buried in Switzerland - reburied in Russian soil. In 2009, Putin went to consecrate the grave himself. The event sent him into a nationalistic fervour. ''It's a crime when someone only begins talking about the separation of Russia and Ukraine,'' he said on that day.

To enter into the world of Putin's favourite philosophers is to enter a world full of melodrama, mysticism and grandiose eschatological visions. ''We trust and are confident that the hour will come when Russia will rise from disintegration and humiliation and begin an epoch of new development and greatness,'' Ilyin wrote.  Three great ideas run through this work. The first is Russian exceptionalism: the idea Russia has its own unique spiritual status and purpose. The second is devotion to the Orthodox faith. The third is belief in autocracy. Mashed together, these philosophers point to a Russia that is a quasi-theocratic nationalist autocracy destined to play a culminating role on the world stage.  These philosophers often argued the rationalistic, materialistic West was corrupting the organic spiritual purity of Russia. ''The West exported this anti-Christian virus to Russia,'' Ilyin wrote. ''Having lost our bond with God and the Christian tradition, mankind has been morally blinded, gripped by materialism, irrationalism and nihilism.''  You can hear echoes of this moralistic strain in Putin's speeches. Citing Berdyaev, he talks about defending traditional values to ward off moral chaos. He says he is defending the distinction between good and evil, which has been lost in the outside world.  Most importantly, these philosophers had epic visions of Russia's role in the world. Solovyov argued that because Russia is located between the Catholic West and the non-Christian East, it has a historic mission to lead the way to human unification. Russia would transcend secularism and atheism and create a unified spiritual kingdom. ''The Russian messianic conception,'' Berdyaev wrote, ''always exalted Russia as a country that would help to solve the problems of humanity.''

Russia is frequently seen as a besieged fortress. The West is pitched as rotten to the core and weak yet so powerful that it can be blamed for everything that goes wrong. Russia has immeasurable spiritual potential yet is forever plagued by a lack of self-respect, lack of self-assertion and unmet potential.  In his 1948 essay, What Dismemberment of Russia Entails for the World, Ilyin describes the Russian people as the ''core of everything European-Asian and, therefore, of universal equilibrium''. Yet the West, he argues, is trying to ''divide the united Russian broom into twigs to break these twigs one by one''. The West is driven by ''a plan of hatred and lust for power''.  All of this adds up to a highly charged and assertive messianic ideology. If Putin took it all literally, he'd be a Russian ayatollah. Up until now, he hasn't taken it literally. His regime has used this nationalism to mobilise public opinion and to explain itself to itself. But it has tamped down every time this nationalistic ideology threatened to upend the status quo.  The danger is that Russia is now involved in a dispute in Ukraine that touches and activates the very core of this touchy messianism. The tiger of quasi-religious nationalism, which Putin has been riding, may now take control. That would make it very hard for Putin to stop in this conflict where rational calculus would tell him to stop.

Up until now, we have not been in a conflict of civilisations with Russia. But with passions aroused and philosophic zealotry at full boil, it may appear that we are.  The implication for Western policymakers is that we may not be dealing with a ''normal'' regime, which can be manipulated by economic and diplomatic carrots and sticks. Threatening exclusion from the Group of 8 or the freezing of assets may become irrelevant because the Russian regime will have moved up to a different level.  Russia may be motivated by a deep, creedal ideology that has been wafting through the culture for centuries and now has an unlikely, cynical and cold-eyed host.  (David Brooks, New York Times, March 5, 2014)

 

Russian media is blind to the truth

OLD habits are hard to break. For decades, the state-run Soviet media was Russia’s official source of misinformation. Presently, the Russian media is performing the same role. As US commentator Dennis Prager recently noted: “There is increasingly little difference between the Russian media and the Soviet media. Both were/are saturated with lies.” In the case of MH17, the lies began almost instantly.  One day after the jet was shot out of the sky, killing 298 people including nearly 40 Australian citizens and residents, one Russian television station claimed the disaster had been engineered by the CIA.  The lies have continued ever since, featuring abundant conspiracy theories that invariably “prove” the innocence of Russia and its ­separatist allies in Ukraine.

One of the more spectacular theories is that Ukrainians shot down the Malaysian Airlines jet because they mistook it for the jet used by Russian President Vladimir Putin.  As calmer analysts have pointed out, the two jets are barely in any way alike, apart from fuselage stripes. Besides which, as has also been pointed out, at the altitude flown by the Malaysian Airlines jet, aircraft are not readily identifiable by sight. Instead, they are identified by radar and other signals. Yet this conspiracy theory — and many others — has gained wide currency throughout Russia, thanks to repetition by a media that seems frightened of the truth. All of this should be kept in mind over coming days and weeks if an Australian Federal Police-led taskforce joins operations to help ­secure the MH17 crash site.  The ambitious Australian plan, one of several options under ­consideration by the federal ­government, is bound to be misrepresented by the Russian press and possibly by other media following Russia’s deceitful lead. English-language Russian media has a considerable following in Australia and elsewhere. It is a pity that those closest to events are determined not to provide an accurate picture, but rather to provide cover for their popular but reckless leader.  (The Daily Telegraph, Editorial, July 24, 2014)

 

Vladimir Putin ups the ante with reminders Russia is a nuclear power

New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, was enjoying some friendly banter with his Russian counterpart when they stumbled on to a distinctly unfriendly subject: nuclear war.  It was a lunch break at an international summit, as Key related to me earlier this year: "So we're having this joke exchange and one point I said to him: 'How long would it take a missile to get out from Moscow to NZ?' "  The Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, briefly consulted an aide, apparently without success, before turning back to the NZ leader. Key relates: "He said, 'Don't worry, I'll let you know before it happens'."  Key laughs heartily at the retelling. But jokes about nuclear weapons are an uneasy genre of humour. Russia's nuclear arsenal is the ultimate reality of its power. It sits at the back of every conversation and calculation about Russia. Advertisement

And since that exchange, the humour has drained away. Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, has put his country's 5000 nuclear warheads at the forefront. Three times in the past two months, he has raised the spectre of nuclear war as he confronts the West.

Most recently, he did it overnight Thursday Australian time while he was en route to a summit of 50 nations, the annual Asia-Europe Meeting, in Milan. "He's again threatened the West with nuclear weapons," says John Besemeres, a Russia expert at the ANU. It's a dramatic way to make an entrance to a summit. "It trumps an AFL shirt-fronting any day," quipped Andrew O'Neil, a professor of international relations at Griffith University.  "It seems like a masturbatory fantasy he can't go without," says Besemeres. These are references that haven't been heard since the era of the Soviet Union, and even then it wasn't this overt."  Nobody jokes with Putin about Russia's atomic arsenal. Even a prime minister of far-away, pacifist NZ: "Putin is a lot more buttoned-down," Key agreed. And yes, Russian missiles do have the range to strike NZ. Or Australia.  "There is a low probability that Russian nuclear weapons are aimed at Australia, with one possible exception," says Peter Jennings, formerly head of strategy at the Australian Defence Department and now head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.  "That would be the joint facilities" – the US-Australian satellite tracking bases at Pine Gap and Nurrungar from which US spy satellites over eastern Russia are controlled. "The joint facilities are the only thing that may be relevant to the US ability to launch an attack on Russia."  Soviet officials bluntly told Australian defence officials during the Cold War that warheads were aimed at the joint facilities.  And today, "they are certainly on the Russian target list," says O'Neil, who is knowledgeable on Russian nuclear policy.  On August 14, Putin told members of Russia's Duma that he soon planned to "surprise the West with our new developments in offensive nuclear weapons about which we do not talk yet".

And six weeks ago: "I want to remind you that Russia is one of the leading nuclear powers … It's best not to mess with us."

Summarises Besemeres: "Putin's Russia is heading towards a police state internally and a rogue state externally. It's a very worrying combination."  Putin's aim is to restore Russian national pride after the humiliation of the Soviet Union's collapse, an event he has called "the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century".  Through the force of his own will, Putin's project is hardening into the reality of Russia itself, at great cost to the Russian economy and to the stability of the world. "Today, a single man personifies the entire Russian political system," says Moscow-based Fyodor Lukyanov, head of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, an adviser to the government. There is no way back for Putin, he says. "For Putin, the question is not simply one of winning or losing a tactical position in a game. At stake is his own political survival and, by extension, Russia's future political landscape. With the stakes that high, why would anyone expect him to make serious concessions, especially knowing that he can never restore relations with the West?"

Australia's immediate concern with Russia's evolving bellicosity is narrower. It is Russian obstructionism over MH17 and the 298 civilians, including 38 Australian residents, who died when it was shot from the sky without warning as Russian-backed rebels fought to dominate the Ukrainian territory below.  It was the moment that brought Australia into the middle of the extraordinary reality that a land war is under way in Europe as Russia seeks to dominate its smaller neighbour.

The Labor leader, Bill Shorten, wanted to show Australian disgust by removing Putin from the guest list at the G-20 summit in Brisbane next month.  However, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop points out that "no one country has the authority to rescind an invitation to another member" of the G-20.  "What I said was that I would test the attitude of the other countries; I've done that. You certainly wouldn't get consensus for a withdrawal of the invitation to Russia. There are countries in the G-20 that are supportive of Russia."  These include China, Brazil and India, Russia's partners in the so-called BRICs grouping of large countries with emerging economies.  "Others, including the US and the UK, don't think he should attend," Bishop says, "and if he does, that we should take the opportunity to raise the issue of Ukraine and for him to face directly the concerns of the countries involved in MH17."

Germany, Britain and Indonesia are the other G-20 nations whose citizens died that day above Ukraine.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott made plain his frustration: "I'm going to shirt-front Mr Putin,"' he said this week. "I am going to be saying to Mr Putin 'Australians were murdered'. There'll be a lot of tough conversations with Russia and I suspect the conversation I have with Mr Putin will be the toughest conversation of all."  Yet, as Bishop points out, "we will need Russian co-operation" to finish searching the crash site and to establish responsibility.  "We still don't have free and unfettered access to the crash site," she says. There has been recent fighting in the area and "we're advised it's not safe".  The remains of 36 of the 38 Australian residents have been identified so far.  And, as Harvard's Joe Nye, a former top US official, points out: "It is natural to feel angry at Putin's deceptions, but anger is not a strategy."  He was not addressing Abbott's seething frustration specifically but the reaction of the West more broadly, but he might well have been.  Bishop met her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, overnight Thursday, Australian time, at the Milan summit to ask that "Russia use its influence with the rebels to allow safe access to the crash site", in accord with the United Nations Security Council resolution 2166.   Does Bishop think Abbott's public promise of a shirt-fronting will make Putin more likely to co-operate, or less?  Bishop neither endorses nor repudiates her leader's remark, but tells me: "My focus is on the repatriation of remains and the investigation" into responsibility for the destruction of the aircraft."

Analysts have remarked in recent weeks that Putin seems to be seeking to re-engage with the wider world. With Western sanctions biting Russia's economy and NATO indignation finally roused, Putin was thought to be looking to ease the pressure.

There are signs he is. By choosing to attend the Asia-Europe summit, he signalled diplomatic re-engagement. This leads to the expectation he will attend the G-20 summit in Brisbane.  And, by announcing the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, he seemed to be conceding to NATO pressure.  But is it so? Bishop is sceptical of the supposed Russian withdrawal: "The troops that weren't there were told to withdraw from where they weren't?" she poses archly, referring to Putin's many denials that the troops were there in the first place. "Jacqui Lambie will tell you that's a sign he's a man of peace.

"Putin has announced the withdrawal about three times; but we are told that troops remain."  Among the volumes of evidence that Russia has been waging a covert war in eastern Ukraine was a report in London's Financial Times in August of a secret memorial service in Moscow.  "In an anonymous military classroom," the newspaper reported, "12 portraits in identical tortoiseshell frames stand on a metal bench placed on a dais. In front of each picture is a bunch of six roses, red and pink. "The dead, according to a source who showed the Financial Times photographs of last month's quiet memorial – an individual with intimate knowledge of the Kremlin's intelligence community – were operatives of Russian special forces. All 12 died in Ukraine in recent weeks. Officially, they were all on holiday."

Other evidence shows that the elite spetsnaz forces, in unmarked uniforms, have been directing the Russian rebels in Ukraine in their use of Russian-supplied armaments.  Yet are these signs that Putin might be seeking to take the hard edges off his confrontation with the West? Should Abbott expect a possible conciliatory gesture from Putin?  "He's a tough, hard bastard," says Paul Dibb, an intelligence chief during the Cold War and former head of strategy at the Defence Department. "Putin is complicit. These were Russian-supplied SA11s that fly at Mach 3 speed with a 70-kilogram warhead and, more importantly, they are a relatively sophisticated bit of kit.  "They would have had to be trained in how to use it. It takes three people to operate the launcher. Putin will have ordered the assassination of the people who pressed the button. It's classic KGB. No fingerprints."   Dibb, an authority on Russian doctrine and a professor emeritus at ANU, says Abbott should not expect any concessions to the truth or to Australia's interests: "He's KGB trained. He's a former KGB colonel. He's not going to blink. He's a man trained in the perfect lie. In masking – maskirovka – in disinformation – dezinformatsiya. I know these bastards from Soviet times." 

The economic sanctions are inflicting pain on Russia, but Russia experts say the world should not expect Putin to yield. He is forging economic deals with China. He has his people behind him, with approval ratings consistently at or above 80 per cent. A recent art exhibition devoted to Putin as a modern Hercules showed him fighting bravely the hyrda-headed beast of Western sanctions.  "Investors have learnt that, for Mr Putin, economic growth is not a priority," says a Russian economist at the Paris university Sciences Po, Sergei Guriev. "If he has to choose between growth and Crimea" the Ukrainian territory he seized, "he will choose Crimea."  So what is the best strategy for dealing with Putin's Russia? The man advising against anger, American Joe Nye, doesn't have any real suggestions. And there are clear limits to the pressures that can be applied to Russia. As the head of the state-owned news network Russia Today, Dmitry Kiselev, considered to represent the Kremlin view, tells his audiences, Russia is "the only country in the world capable of turning the US into radioactive dust". The Russians might be kidding about their nukes, but it might be a joke with an expensive punchline. Putin is counting on it.  (Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 18, 2014)

 

Putin and the Pope

Reading the papers these days I find that the two world leaders who stir the most passion in me are Pope Francis and Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia. One is everything you’d want in a leader, the other everything you wouldn’t want. One holds sway over 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, the other over nine time zones. One keeps surprising us with his capacity for empathy, the other by how much he has become a first-class jerk and thug. But neither can be ignored and both have an outsized influence on the world today.

First, the pope. At a time when so many leaders around the world are looking to promote their political fortunes by exploiting grievances and fault lines, we have a pope asking his flock to do something hard, something outside their comfort zone, pushing them to be more inclusive of gays and divorced people.  Yes, Francis was rebuffed by conservative bishops at a recent Vatican synod when he asked them to embrace the notion that “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community,” adding, “are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities?” But, as an editorial in this paper noted: “The very fact that Francis ordered church leaders to address these challenges seems a landmark in Vatican history.” The pope asked that rejected language be published for all to see, while also cautioning against “hostile inflexibility — that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God.”  “Hostile inflexibility?” Whose leadership does that describe? Look at Putin’s recent behavior: His military was indirectly involved in downing a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine and his K.G.B. has not only been trying to take a bite out of Ukraine but is nibbling on Estonia, Georgia and Moldova, all under the guise of protecting “Russian speakers.”

I opposed NATO expansion because I believed that there are few global problems that we can solve without the help of Russia. By expanding NATO at the end of the Cold War, when Russia was weak, we helped to cultivate a politics there that would one day be very receptive to Putin’s message that the West is ganging up on Russia. But, that said, the message is a lie. The West has no intention of bringing Ukraine into NATO. And please raise your hand if you think the European Union plans to invade Russia. Yet Putin just exploits these fears for two reasons. First, he has a huge chip on his shoulder — no, excuse me; he has a whole lumberyard there — of resentment that Russia is no longer the global power it once was. But rather than make Russia great again by tapping its creative people — empowering them with education, the rule of law and consensual politics to realize their full potential — he has opted for the shortcut of tapping his oil and gas wells and seizing power from his people.  And instead of creating a Russia that is an example to its neighbors, he relies on the brute force that his oil and gas can still buy him. While he rails against NATO, he is really afraid of European Union expansion — that Ukrainians would rather embrace the E.U. market and democracy rules than their historical ties to Russia because they know that through the E.U. they can realize potentials that would never be possible with Russia. By seizing Crimea and stoking up nationalism, Putin was not protecting Russia from NATO. He was protecting himself from the viruses of E.U. accountability and transparency, which, if they took hold in Ukraine, could spread to Moscow, undermining his kleptocracy.

Normally, I wouldn’t care, but when the world is dividing between zones of order and disorder, and the world of order needs to be collaborating to stem and reverse disorder, the fact that Putin is stoking disorder on Russia’s borders, and not collaborating to promote order in the Middle East, is a real problem. What’s more worrying is that the country he threatens most is Russia. If things go bad there — and its economy is already sagging under Western sanctions — the world of disorder will get a lot bigger.  That is why Putin’s leadership matters, and so does the pope’s. I’m focused on Putin because I think he is making the world a worse place for bad reasons, when he could make a difference in Europe and the Middle East with just an ounce more decency and collaboration. America, too, has plenty to learn from the pope’s humility, but say what you will, we’re still focused on trying to strengthen the global commons, whether by protecting people from jihadists in Iraq or fighting Ebola in Africa. We could do more. Putin needs to do a lot more.  “The best leaders don’t set timid and selfish goals that are easy to meet but instead set bold and inclusive goals that are hard to achieve,” remarked Timothy Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics, who has just written a book on leadership, “Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most.” “We’re all looking for ways to make sense of a world without a center, but we’ll only find that in people who lead with authentic humility and reckless generosity.”  (Thomas L. Friedman, International Herald Tribune, Oct. 21, 2014)

 

 

Wake Up, Europe

Europe is facing a challenge from Russia to its very existence.

Neither the European leaders nor their citizens are fully aware of this challenge or know how best to deal with it. I attribute this mainly to the fact that the European Union in general and the eurozone in particular lost their way after the financial crisis of 2008. The fiscal rules that currently prevail in Europe have aroused a lot of popular resentment. Anti-Europe parties captured nearly 30 percent of the seats in the latest elections for the European Parliament but they had no realistic alternative to the EU to point to until recently. Now Russia is presenting an alternative that poses a fundamental challenge to the values and principles on which the European Union was originally founded. It is based on the use of force that manifests itself in repression at home and aggression abroad, as opposed to the rule of law. What is shocking is that Vladimir Putin’s Russia has proved to be in some ways superior to the European Union—more flexible and constantly springing surprises. That has given it a tactical advantage, at least in the near term. Europe and the United States—each for its own reasons—are determined to avoid any direct military confrontation with Russia. Russia is taking advantage of their reluctance. Violating its treaty obligations, Russia has annexed Crimea and established separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. In August, when the recently installed government in Kiev threatened to win the low-level war in eastern Ukraine against separatist forces backed by Russia, President Putin invaded Ukraine with regular armed forces in violation of the Russian law that exempts conscripts from foreign service without their consent. In seventy-two hours these forces destroyed several hundred of Ukraine’s armored vehicles, a substantial portion of its fighting force. According to General Wesley Clark, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, the Russians used multiple launch rocket systems armed with cluster munitions and thermobaric warheads (an even more inhumane weapon that ought to be outlawed) with devastating effect.*

The local militia from the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk suffered the brunt of the losses because they were communicating by cell phones and could thus easily be located and targeted by the Russians. President Putin has, so far, abided by a cease-fire agreement he concluded with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on September 5, but Putin retains the choice to continue the cease-fire as long as he finds it advantageous or to resume a full-scale assault.  In September, President Poroshenko visited Washington where he received an enthusiastic welcome from a joint session of Congress. He asked for “both lethal and nonlethal” defensive weapons in his speech. However, President Obama refused his request for Javelin hand-held missiles that could be used against advancing tanks. Poroshenko was given radar, but what use is it without missiles? European countries are equally reluctant to provide military assistance to Ukraine, fearing Russian retaliation. The Washington visit gave President Poroshenko a façade of support with little substance behind it. Equally disturbing has been the determination of official international leaders to withhold new financial commitments to Ukraine until after the October 26 election there (which will take place just after this issue goes to press). This has led to an avoidable pressure on Ukrainian currency reserves and raised the specter of a full-blown financial crisis in the country. 

There is now pressure from donors, whether in Europe or the US, to “bail in” the bondholders of Ukrainian sovereign debt, i.e., for bondholders to take losses on their investments as a precondition for further official assistance to Ukraine that would put more taxpayers’ money at risk. That would be an egregious error. The Ukrainian government strenuously opposes the proposal because it would put Ukraine into a technical default that would make it practically impossible for the private sector to refinance its debt. Bailing in private creditors would save very little money and it would make Ukraine entirely dependent on the official donors.  To complicate matters, Russia is simultaneously dangling carrots and wielding sticks. It is offering—but failing to sign—a deal for gas supplies that would take care of Ukraine’s needs for the winter. At the same time Russia is trying to prevent the delivery of gas that Ukraine secured from the European market through Slovakia. Similarly, Russia is negotiating for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to monitor the borders while continuing to attack the Donetsk airport and the port city of Mariupol. 

It is easy to foresee what lies ahead. Putin will await the results of the elections on October 26 and then offer Poroshenko the gas and other benefits he has been dangling on condition that he appoint a prime minister acceptable to Putin. That would exclude anybody associated with the victory of the forces that brought down the Viktor Yanukovych government by resisting it for months on the Maidan—Independence Square. I consider it highly unlikely that Poroshenko would accept such an offer. If he did, he would be disowned by the defenders of the Maidan; the resistance forces would then be revived.  Putin may then revert to the smaller victory that would still be within his reach: he could open by force a land route from Russia to Crimea and Transnistria before winter. Alternatively, he could simply sit back and await the economic and financial collapse of Ukraine. I suspect that he may be holding out the prospect of a grand bargain in which Russia would help the United States against ISIS—for instance by not supplying to Syria the S300 missiles it has promised, thus in effect preserving US air domination—and Russia would be allowed to have its way in the “near abroad,” as many of the nations adjoining Russia are called. What is worse, President Obama may accept such a deal.

That would be a tragic mistake, with far-reaching geopolitical consequences. Without underestimating the threat from ISIS, I would argue that preserving the independence of Ukraine should take precedence; without it, even the alliance against ISIS would fall apart. The collapse of Ukraine would be a tremendous loss for NATO, the European Union, and the United States. A victorious Russia would become much more influential within the EU and pose a potent threat to the Baltic states with their large ethnic Russian populations. Instead of supporting Ukraine, NATO would have to defend itself on its own soil. This would expose both the EU and the US to the danger they have been so eager to avoid: a direct military confrontation with Russia. The European Union would become even more divided and ungovernable. Why should the US and other NATO nations allow this to happen?  The argument that has prevailed in both Europe and the United States is that Putin is no Hitler; by giving him everything he can reasonably ask for, he can be prevented from resorting to further use of force. In the meantime, the sanctions against Russia—which include, for example, restrictions on business transactions, finance, and trade—will have their effect and in the long run Russia will have to retreat in order to earn some relief from them.

These are false hopes derived from a false argument with no factual evidence to support it. Putin has repeatedly resorted to force and he is liable to do so again unless he faces strong resistance. Even if it is possible that the hypothesis could turn out to be valid, it is extremely irresponsible not to prepare a Plan B.  There are two counterarguments that are less obvious but even more important. First, Western authorities have ignored the importance of what I call the “new Ukraine” that was born in the successful resistance on the Maidan. Many officials with a history of dealing with Ukraine have difficulty adjusting to the revolutionary change that has taken place there. The recently signed Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine was originally negotiated with the Yanukovych government. This detailed road map now needs adjustment to a totally different situation. For instance, the road map calls for the gradual replacement and retraining of the judiciary over five years whereas the public is clamoring for immediate and radical renewal. As the new mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, put it, “If you put fresh cucumbers into a barrel of pickles, they will soon turn into pickles.”  Contrary to some widely circulated accounts, the resistance on the Maidan was led by the cream of civil society: young people, many of whom had studied abroad and refused to join either government or business on their return because they found both of them repugnant. (Nationalists and anti-Semitic extremists made up only a minority of the anti-Yanukovych protesters.) They are the leaders of the new Ukraine and they are adamantly opposed to a return of the “old Ukraine,” with its endemic corruption and ineffective government.  The new Ukraine has to contend with Russian aggression, bureaucratic resistance both at home and abroad, and confusion in the general population. Surprisingly, it has the support of many oligarchs, President Poroshenko foremost among them, and the population at large. There are of course profound differences in history, language, and outlook between the eastern and western parts of the country, but Ukraine is more united and more European-minded than ever before. That unity, however, is extremely fragile.  The new Ukraine has remained largely unrecognized because it took time before it could make its influence felt. It had practically no security forces at its disposal when it was born. The security forces of the old Ukraine were actively engaged in suppressing the Maidan rebellion and they were disoriented this summer when they had to take orders from a government formed by the supporters of the rebellion. No wonder that the new government was at first unable to put up an effective resistance to the establishment of the separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine. It is all the more remarkable that President Poroshenko was able, within a few months of his election, to mount an attack that threatened to reclaim those enclaves.

To appreciate the merits of the new Ukraine you need to have had some personal experience with it. I can speak from personal experience although I must also confess to a bias in its favor. I established a foundation in Ukraine in 1990 even before the country became independent. Its board and staff are composed entirely of Ukrainians and it has deep roots in civil society. I visited the country often, especially in the early years, but not between 2004 and early 2014, when I returned to witness the birth of the new Ukraine.  I was immediately impressed by the tremendous improvement in maturity and expertise during that time both in my foundation and in civil society at large. Currently, civic and political engagement is probably higher than anywhere else in Europe. People have proven their willingness to sacrifice their lives for their country. These are the hidden strengths of the new Ukraine that have been overlooked by the West.

The other deficiency of the current European attitude toward Ukraine is that it fails to recognize that the Russian attack on Ukraine is indirectly an attack on the European Union and its principles of governance. It ought to be evident that it is inappropriate for a country, or association of countries, at war to pursue a policy of fiscal austerity as the European Union continues to do. All available resources ought to be put to work in the war effort even if that involves running up budget deficits. The fragility of the new Ukraine makes the ambivalence of the West all the more perilous. Not only the survival of the new Ukraine but the future of NATO and the European Union itself is at risk. In the absence of unified resistance it is unrealistic to expect that Putin will stop pushing beyond Ukraine when the division of Europe and its domination by Russia is in sight.  Having identified some of the shortcomings of the current approach, I will try to spell out the course that Europe ought to follow. Sanctions against Russia are necessary but they are a necessary evil. They have a depressive effect not only on Russia but also on the European economies, including Germany. This aggravates the recessionary and deflationary forces that are already at work. By contrast, assisting Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression would have a stimulative effect not only on Ukraine but also on Europe. That is the principle that ought to guide European assistance to Ukraine.

Germany, as the main advocate of fiscal austerity, needs to understand the internal contradiction involved. Chancellor Angela Merkel has behaved as a true European with regard to the threat posed by Russia. She has been the foremost advocate of sanctions on Russia, and she has been more willing to defy German public opinion and business interests on this than on any other issue. Only after the Malaysian civilian airliner was shot down in July did German public opinion catch up with her. Yet on fiscal austerity she has recently reaffirmed her allegiance to the orthodoxy of the Bundesbank—probably in response to the electoral inroads made by the Alternative for Germany, the anti-euro party. She does not seem to realize how inconsistent that is. She ought to be even more committed to helping Ukraine than to imposing sanctions on Russia.  The new Ukraine has the political will both to defend Europe against Russian aggression and to engage in radical structural reforms. To preserve and reinforce that will, Ukraine needs to receive adequate assistance from its supporters. Without it, the results will be disappointing and hope will turn into despair. Disenchantment already started to set in after Ukraine suffered a military defeat and did not receive the weapons it needs to defend itself.

It is high time for the members of the European Union to wake up and behave as countries indirectly at war. They are better off helping Ukraine to defend itself than having to fight for themselves. One way or another, the internal contradiction between being at war and remaining committed to fiscal austerity has to be eliminated. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Let me be specific. In its last progress report, issued in early September, the IMF estimated that in a worst-case scenario Ukraine would need additional support of $19 billion. Conditions have deteriorated further since then. After the Ukrainian elections the IMF will need to reassess its baseline forecast in consultation with the Ukrainian government. It should provide an immediate cash injection of at least $20 billion, with a promise of more when needed. Ukraine’s partners should provide additional financing conditional on implementation of the IMF-supported program, at their own risk, in line with standard practice.  The spending of borrowed funds is controlled by the agreement between the IMF and the Ukrainian government. Four billion dollars would go to make up the shortfall in Ukrainian payments to date; $2 billion would be assigned to repairing the coal mines in eastern Ukraine that remain under the control of the central government; and $2 billion would be earmarked for the purchase of additional gas for the winter. The rest would replenish the currency reserves of the central bank.  The new assistance package would include a debt exchange that would transform Ukraine’s hard currency Eurobond debt (which totals almost $18 billion) into long-term, less risky bonds. This would lighten Ukraine’s debt burden and bring down its risk premium. By participating in the exchange, bondholders would agree to accept a lower interest rate and wait longer to get their money back. The exchange would be voluntary and market-based so that it could not be mischaracterized as a default. Bondholders would participate willingly because the new long-term bonds would be guaranteed—but only partially—by the US or Europe, much as the US helped Latin America emerge from its debt crisis in the 1980s with so-called Brady bonds (named for US Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady).  Such an exchange would have a few important benefits. One is that, over the next two or three critical years, the government could use considerably less of its scarce hard currency reserves to pay off bondholders. The money could be used for other urgent needs.  By trimming Ukraine debt payments in the next few years, the exchange would also reduce the chance of a sovereign default, discouraging capital flight and arresting the incipient run on the banks. This would make it easier to persuade owners of Ukraine’s banks (many of them foreign) to inject urgently needed new capital into them. The banks desperately need bigger capital cushions if Ukraine is to avoid a full-blown banking crisis, but shareholders know that a debt crisis could cause a banking crisis that wipes out their equity.  Finally, Ukraine would keep bondholders engaged rather than watch them cash out at 100 cents on the dollar as existing debt comes due in the next few years. This would make it easier for Ukraine to reenter the international bond markets once the crisis has passed. Under the current conditions it would be more practical and cost-efficient for the US and Europe not to use their own credit directly to guarantee part of Ukraine’s debt, but to employ intermediaries such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the World Bank and its subsidiaries.

The Ukrainian state-owned company Naftogaz is a black hole in the budget and a major source of corruption. Naftogaz currently sells gas to households for $47 per thousand cubic meters (TCM), for which it pays $380 per TCM. At present people cannot control the temperature in their apartments. A radical restructuring of Naftogaz’s entire system could reduce household consumption at least by half and totally eliminate Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for gas. That would involve charging households the market price for gas. The first step would be to install meters in apartments and the second to distribute a cash subsidy to needy households.  The will to make these reforms is strong both in the new management and in the incoming government but the task is extremely complicated (how do you define who is needy?) and the expertise is inadequate. The World Bank and its subsidiaries could sponsor a project development team that would bring together international and domestic experts to convert the existing political will into bankable projects. The initial cost would exceed $10 billion but it could be financed by project bonds issued by the European Investment Bank and it would produce very high returns.

It is also high time for the European Union to take a critical look at itself. There must be something wrong with the EU if Putin’s Russia can be so successful even in the short term. The bureaucracy of the EU no longer has a monopoly of power and it has little to be proud of. It should learn to be more united, flexible, and efficient. And Europeans themselves need to take a close look at the new Ukraine. That could help them recapture the original spirit that led to the creation of the European Union. The European Union would save itself by saving Ukraine. (George Soros, The New York Review of Books, October 23, 2014 Issue) US Still At Odds With China

For more than a decade, the United States has been watching nervously to see how China would choose to wield its formidable and growing economic, political and military powers. The hope, as Robert Zoellick said in 2005 when he was a deputy secretary of state, was that Beijing would become a “responsible stakeholder” in the international system, working cooperatively to foster economic integration and the peaceful resolution of global tensions. A more assertive China under President Xi Jinping, however, has emerged in the past year, raising doubts about its commitment to peaceful evolution and severely straining its relationship with the United States. High-level talks between Chinese and American officials in Beijing last week were minimally productive, but they left largely unresolved profound differences on major issues that, if not managed carefully, could have damaging consequences. To take one prominent example, the two sides remain far apart on China’s aggressive efforts to assert sweeping claims over islands and waters in the South China Sea and East China Sea — claims disputed by Japan, the Philippines and others in the region. Secretary of State John Kerry’s plea that China agree to a legally binding code of conduct to govern navigation and prevent unilateral territorial grabs appears to have fallen on deaf ears.

This has become an urgent matter. Ships and fishing boats from China and other claimant countries confront each other regularly and risk stumbling into conflict. Chinese and Japanese jets have also been playing chicken in the skies. Amid concern that China is taking control over islands and waters bit by bit, the Americans are rightly considering new ways, including more surveillance flights and diplomatic proposals, to discourage such action and reduce tensions. Managing maritime claims through a transparent and rules-based process should be in China’s interest as much as anyone’s. The United States and China also did not close the gap over charges that Chinese hackers are stealing industrial secrets and costing American companies billions of dollars. It is especially shortsighted that China refused to revive an espionage working group shut down in May after the Obama administration charged five Chinese military officers with hacking. For a long time, it seemed as if the wisest diplomatic course was to downplay worries over China’s growing strength and focus instead on cooperation. American officials still do that publicly, as Mr. Kerry did on Thursday when he sought to reassure his hosts that the administration’s network of alliances in Asia is not part of a “strategy to try to push back against or be in conflict with China.” But there are many reasons to question whether China really is committed to peaceful coexistence and to hope that the United States and its allies in the region will act more firmly to protect their interests in freedom of the seas and an open political and economic order.  Getting American policy right is essential. Cooperation between the United States and China, the world’s two largest economies, is vital to global stability. There is nothing to be gained by pushing China, which has its own concerns about America’s role in Asia, into a corner. At the same time, China must be made to understand that nothing good can come of its bullying, which frightens other Asian nations and inevitably draws them closer to the United States.

Both sides spoke soothing words. Mr. Xi acknowledged that a conflict between China and the United States would “definitely be a disaster for the two countries and the world.” Mr. Kerry said no side wants to fall into the trap of “zero-sum competition.” The challenge, as always, will be translating these fine sentiments into action. (The Editorial Board,  International Herald Tribune, July 12, 2014)

 

 

 

NY Israel Day Concert Will Denounce 'Two-State Delusion'

Dr. Paul Brody, chairman of concert featuring senior politicians speaking, says message will be 'not one inch of Israel.'  The 21st Annual Israel Day Concert in Central Park will be held next Sunday in New York, delivering a strong message of support for Israel, topping off of the Annual Israel Day Parade earlier in the day.  Arutz Sheva managing editor Ari Soffer got a chance to speak with Dr. Paul Brody in New York. Brody, along with his wife Drora, are chairpersons of the concert. 

Brody noted that the concert aims to deliver several messages, primary among them that "Jerusalem is ours, meaning it's part of Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel), it will remain undivided lanetzah, forever."  Another message of the concert, which was founded 21 years ago as a response to the Oslo Accords, is to declare the resolution "not to give up one inch" of the land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is another topic the concert intends to stand up against. Brody noted that three groups supporting BDS are marching in the Israel Day Parade, a fact that has led several groups to boycott the parade.

Finally, the concert is meant to express firm opposition to the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran.

US Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), a potential Republican presidential candidate for the 2016 elections and staunch supporter of Israel, is slated to speak at the concert, along with former United Nations (UN) Ambassador John Bolton, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, and other senior figures.  (Ari Yashar, IsraelNationalNews.com, May 29, 2014)

 

Islamists at Al-Aqsa: Liberate Jerusalem from 'Jews Filth'

The Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir calls upon the army of Pakistan and the Islamic nation to liberate Jerusalem from “Jewish filth”.  Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic organization which aims to have all Muslim countries unify as an caliphate ruled by Islamic law, held a mass rally at the Al-Aqsa Mosque last week, in which members of the group called upon the army of Pakistan and the Islamic nation to liberate Jerusalem from “Jewish filth”.  Excerpts from footage of the rally were posted on the internet and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).  The same group last year released a video which shows Palestinian Arab children at the Al-Aqsa Mosque calling for the “liberation of Palestine”. These two videos are only two examples of the anti-Israel incitement which is prevalent in the Palestinian Authority (PA).  Such incitement ranges from the glorification of Nazism and the lionization of Adolf Hitler, to programs on official PA television featuring heavily-stereotyped Jews as villains (and encouraging violence against them), and various TV and radio shows which literally wipe the Jewish state off the map.  In April, an imam from the Al-Aqsa Mosque participated in a conference in Milan, where he called on “Arab legions” to attack Jaffa and Haifa.  (Elad Benari, IsraelNationalNews.com, May 5, 2014)

 

Iran Threatens to Annihilate Israel if U.S. Attacks

Senior Iranian commander says that any American attack on Iran will result in “the annihilation of the Israeli regime”.