This Week in the News

Escalation of Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran

Bloomberg reported on January 3, 2016:

“In a significant escalation of tensions, Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran and expelled the Islamic Republic’s diplomats, a day after its embassy in Tehran was attacked to protest the Saudis’ execution of a prominent Shiite cleric…

“[Saudi Foreign Minister Adel] Al-Jubeir announced the expulsion after Iranian protesters set the Saudi embassy on fire following the execution of Nimr al-Nimr, a critic of the kingdom’s treatment of its Shiite minority. He was one of 47 men executed for offenses that included terrorism and political activism…

“The escalation probably will undermine already-stumbling efforts to end the war in Syria, where Saudi Arabia backs largely Sunni militants and Iran supports the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The two OPEC members are also engaged in a proxy confrontation in Yemen…”

Saudi Arabia and Iran—“Two Murderous Theocracies”

Deutsche Welle wrote on January 4:

“The timing of the executions was no coincidence. The Saudi State knows full well what it does – and when. No one in Riyadh is naïve enough not to have considered the reactions to the mass executions ahead of time. But that also means: In ordering the executions the Saudis were sending, above all, a political message. The message read: No one should dare oppose us. No one inside and no one outside our borders. Whoever dares confront us must expect dire consequences…

“Of course, Iran’s reactions have been dubious as well: By allowing protesters to storm and vandalize the Saudi embassy in Tehran the Mullah regime has demonstrated that it is not interested in calming tensions… Iran has declared itself to be the protector of all Shiites inside and outside Iran.”

Military Conflict between Sunnis and Shiites on the Horizon?

Breitbart wrote on January 4:

“Bahrain and Sudan have joined their ally Saudi Arabia in formally severing diplomatic ties with Iran, while the United Arab Emirates has ‘downgraded’ its diplomatic team, recalling its ambassador from Tehran and announcing that it would reduce the number of diplomats assigned to Iran…

“Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics warned that the breach between Saudi Arabia and Iran ‘could easily spiral out of control,’ noting that the proxy battle between the Saudis and Iran – which is, in turn, a manifestation of the old conflict between Sunni and Shiite – has already produced violent clashes on the Arab street, plus armed conflict in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, and Lebanon.

“Another CNN analyst, retired Lt. General Mark Hertling, thought it was possible the conflict between Saudi Arabia, Iran, and their respective allies could become a direct military conflict. He echoed Gerges’ warning that ‘this is spiraling very quickly.’”

A Point of No Return?

The Telegraph wrote on January 4:

“The Persian Gulf has become a strategic tinderbox. Saudi Arabia’s drastic decision to behead the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr marks a point of no return in the bitter Sunni-Shia conflict engulfing the region. It is a dangerous escalation in the Kingdom’s struggle with Iran for regional hegemony. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has vowed swift and harsh revenge, promising to bring down the Saudi dynasty in short order to avenge this ‘medieval act of savagery’…

“The risk for the Saudis is that the execution of Sheikh Nimr for what is essentially peaceful political protest ignites a long-simmering revolt by an aggrieved Shia minority, who make up 15pc of the population and are sitting on top of the giant Saudi oil fields in the Eastern Province…

“Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington…said the mass executions have set in motion a fateful chain of events that nobody can now control. ‘It will likely trigger a bloody civil war that won’t end until the Saudi monarchy ceases to exist. This cycle of violence will not spare anyone or anything, including the coveted oil installations,’ he said…”

All the Actors in the Middle East Will Have to Choose Sides

The Times of Israel wrote on January 4:

“… nearly all the actors in the Middle Eastern arena now understand that… Tehran will try to… attack… the Saudi kingdom.

“Any revenge attack via Shiite actors will draw a Saudi response. Which means… the cold war will heat up suddenly into a… much more dangerous confrontation between the two countries.

“It has to be said that this crisis, which is likely to lead to a clash of the two civilizations, Shiite and Sunni, does not come as much of a shock. In all, what’s come to light here is the depth of the loathing between the two local powers, which have for years been fighting behind the scenes… for regional hegemony. There’s hardly a country or a region in which the fingerprints of the hostility between Tehran and Riyadh cannot be seen; or more precisely, between the representative of Sunni Islam — Saudi Arabia — and Iran, its competitor in the Shiite world…

“From now on, the name of the game in our region is that every country or organization will have to choose a side…”

Boiling Over… Iran vs. Saudi Arabia

The Associated Press reported on January 7:

“Iran on Thursday accused the Saudi-led coalition battling Shiite rebels in Yemen of hitting its embassy in the capital, Sanaa, in an overnight airstrike, but there were no visible signs of damage on the building… Analysts have feared the dispute could boil over into the proxy wars between the two Mideast rivals in Yemen and in Syria…

“Meanwhile Thursday, Iran banned the import of goods from Saudi Arabia… Iran’s annual exports to Saudi Arabia are worth about $130 million a year and are mainly steel, cement and agricultural products. Iran’s annual imports from Saudi Arabia total about $60 million a year and consisted mostly of packing materials and textiles…”

Sunni and Shia’s 1,400-Year-Old Divide Explained

The Independent wrote on January 4:

“Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran fundamentally boil down to two things – the battle to be the dominant nation in the Middle East and the fact the countries represent the regional strongholds of two rival branches of Islam.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ruled by a Sunni monarchy known as the House of Saud, with 90 per cent of the population adherents of their leaders’ faith. The Islamic Republic of Iran, meanwhile, is overwhelmingly Shia, with up to 95 per cent of nationals belonging to the denomination…

“It is the theological divide that really drives the wedge between the two countries… with each unable to accept the legitimacy of the other nation’s dominant faith.

“The Sunni-Shia conflict is 1,400 years in the making, dating back to the years immediately after the Prophet Mohammed’s death in 632.

“The Prophet died without having appointed a successor leading to a massive split over the future of the rapidly growing religion – chiefly whether the religion’s next leader should be chosen by a kind of democratic consensus, or whether only Mohammed’s blood relations should reign. The arguments are complicated but essentially boil down to the fact that Sunni’s believe the Prophets’ trusted friend and advisor Abu Bakr was the first rightful leader of Muslims or ‘caliph’, while Shias believe that Mohammed’s cousin and son-in-law Ali was chosen by Allah to hold the title.

“Both men did eventually hold the title – Abu Bakr first until his death, and Ali fourth after two previous caliphs were assassinated – but the schism really hit over who should come next. While Sunni Muslims argue that their interpretation of Islam follows the Sunnah (ways of Mohammed), Shias argue that Ali was the rightful first caliph and only his descendants could claim to be the true leaders of Muslims.

“The tension is not eased by a Hadith in which the Prophet was quoted as saying: ‘My Ummah (community) will be fragmented into seventy-three sects and all of them will be in the Hell fire except one.’ Inevitably both Sunnis and Shias claim to be the one ‘pure’ Islamic sect. As with any division that lasts over a thousand years, the Sunni-Shia split led to each denomination developing its own unique cultures, doctrines and schools of thought…

“The vast majority of the Muslims in the world are Sunni, amounting to as much as 85% of the religion’s adherents. They are spread all over the globe – from Morocco to Indonesia – and make up the dominant religion in North Africa and the Middle East. Only lran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Bahrain have a Shia majority, although there are also significant Shia populations in Yemen, Lebanon, Kuwait, Syria and Qatar…”

America’s Questionable Support of Saudi Arabia

The Huffington Post wrote on January 4:

“The killing of Al-Nimr has sparked a massive reaction because he was a prominent religious leader who defended the Shia minority and criticized the abuses — both domestic and foreign — of the Saudi regime. He supported the 2011 anti-government protests in the Eastern Province, protests that erupted in the wake of the Arab Spring… Al-Nimr was arrested and imprisoned in 2012, then convicted of sedition, disobedience and bearing arms. He did not deny the political charges against him, but insisted he never carried weapons or called for violence…

“But instead of insisting on al-Nimr’s release during his years in prison and echoing Amnesty International’s condemnation of his ‘deeply flawed’ trial, the U.S. government was silent. Even after the execution, the U.S. refused to issue a strong denunciation. For decades, U.S. administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have backed the kingdom. The U.S.-Saudi alliance dates back to World War II, when U.S. officials started to see Saudi’s oil as a strategic advantage. Since then, the US has blindly supported the Kingdom in almost every political and economic effort, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia is an ultraconservative monarchy rife with human rights abuses.

“Saudi Arabia has consistently been ranked by Freedom House as one of the worst human rights violators in the world… [earning] the lowest possible score in all three categories of freedom, civil liberties and political rights…”

“Should Germany Stop Exporting Arms to Saudi Arabia?”

Deutsche Welle wrote on January 4:

“Despite official condemnation of Saudi Arabia’s executions, many wonder why Germany doesn’t take action against the kingdom. Critics think arms exports to the country should have been stopped a long time ago…

“In the first half of 2015 alone, Germany approved a number of arms exports to the Gulf region, despite concerns about conflicts and human rights violations. Among the exports approved were 15 patrol boats for Saudi Arabia. The latest report showed that the value of Germany’s arms sales, the world’s fourth-biggest arms exporter, was 3.5 billion euros ($4 billion) in the first six months of 2015 – compared to 2.2 billion euros in the first half of 2014…”

Massive Attacks on Men and Women in Cologne, Germany

Deutsche Welle reported on January 4:

“Police in the western German city of Cologne responded on Monday to outrage over a string of sexual crimes over New Year’s Eve. According to police, the series of assaults in one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares represented a ‘completely new dimension of crime.’… City police chief Wolfgang Albers said the crowd [of attackers] was composed of up to 1,000 heavily intoxicated men who gave the appearance of being ‘Arab or North African’ in background. The police chief told German news agency dpa that the incidents represented ‘an intolerable situation’ for Cologne…

“Speaking with local newspaper ‘Express,’ Ralf Jäger, the state interior minister for North Rhine-Westphalia, promised swift action. ‘We will not accept that groups of North African men gather expressly for the purpose of debasing women by sexually assaulting them,’ the paper quoted Jäger as saying… The leader of the North Rhine-Westphalia branch of Germany’s main police union, Arnold Plickert, called the crimes ‘a massive attack on basic rights’ and said justice must be seen through even if it has ‘politically uncomfortable’ consequences.”

Massive Cover-Up by German Police and Media?

The Local wrote on January 4:

“Men of ‘Arab background’ were likely responsible for sexual assaults on dozens of women in central Cologne over the New Year, police said on Monday – as a social media storm accused police and media of a cover-up…

“A group of around 500 men between the ages of 15 and 35 assembled at the central train station and in the area of the cathedral before throwing firecrackers into the masses of people celebrating the arrival of the new year. This appears to have been a means of causing distraction, as during the disturbance groups of young men entered the crowd where they sexually assaulted women and pick-pocketed revellers. Police then carried out a large-scale operation to clear the area of the miscreants…

“As the extent of the crimes emerged on Monday, the story became the central theme of Twitter… Many people accused the national media of engaging in a cover-up due to the ethnic background of the criminals, with many pointing to the fact that it took days before the details of the story reached national attention. One commentator wrote sarcastically that ‘it is fascinating that the event in Cologne on New Year made it through the media censorship.’…

“MP Steffan Bilger from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, meanwhile, claimed the events in Cologne were proof Germany needed to reduce its intake of refugees.

“Writing for the Huffington Post Deutschland, Anabel Schunke accused the police of covering up details about the suspected criminals in order to protect public order. Questioning why no details were given on the appearance of the suspects when police called for witnesses, despite plentiful CCTV footage, Schunke suggested that police chose to leave important details out so that the public would not make a connection between the crime and refugees.

“In its details, the case is reminiscent of the mass sexual assaults which took place in north Africa during the huge Arab Spring protests of 2011-2013, Schunke points out, writing of her concern that so many people are moving to Germany from ‘patriarchal, Muslim societies.’”

German Policy Confronted with Hard Questions

Breitbart added a few more uncomfortable questions, stating on January 4:

“Just five arrests have been made by German police after central Cologne was transformed into a war-zone on New Year’s Eve, as an estimated 1,000 migrants celebrated by launching fireworks into crowds and sexually assaulting German women caught up in the chaos.

“The sordid details of the horrifying sexual assaults and attacks made against ordinary Germans by large gangs of migrants in Cologne in the early hours of Friday morning are just now emerging.

“Far from a small number of sex assaults reported to have been made by German speaking men in initial reports on New Year’s Day, dozens of women are now reported to have been molested and ‘raped’, while dozens more men have been assaulted and robbed..

“A press conference hosted by Cologne’s chief of police Wolfgang Albers this afternoon confirmed the attacks had been perpetrated by migrants, all of whom were found to be carrying official immigration paperwork by police officers at the time…

“Despite dozens of men and women having been attacked, the area being comprehensively monitored by CCTV, and having thousands of potential suspects, Cologne police have arrested just five men so far in relation to the new year’s eve attacks. The police chief may yet have serious questions to answer on the attacks, which follow a year of record breaking migration, after it emerged that just ten officers were dispatched to the station after the report of a gang sex assault in the early hours of the morning, and unverified accusations started to circulate on-line of officers even ridiculing a victim for not having been vigilant enough to avoid being attacked…”

It is almost ironic that in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s traditional New Year’s address, she told Germans “they should see the arrival of thousands of migrants as ‘an opportunity’ and warned of divisions in German society” (EUObserver, December 31, 2015). However, it is becoming more and more obvious that Angela Merkel’s policy regarding migrants and refugees has been failing. Backlash is unavoidable. Notice the following articles which paint a really grim and disgusting picture on the situation in Germany.

Germany’s Official Version Vehemently Rejected by German Police 

Die Welt am Sonntag published an explosive article on January 7, stating that German police officers vehemently deny the official version that it is unknown as to who Cologne’s perpetrators and aggressors were. They say that some of them came from North Africa, but most of them were Syrian refugees who had just arrived in Germany. The police officers state that the migrants’ primary goal was to have some “sexual amusement,” and that robbing attendees was only their secondary goal. 

The police officers also declare that they arrested at least hundred migrants and checked their identities, and that this is the reason why they know that most of them were Syrians. They also state that many migrants arrived from outside Cologne, and that at least 2,000 aggressors were involved. But they also point out that many friendly and peaceful Arabs were in the crowd who even asked the police whether New Year’s Eve was always celebrated in Germany in such a brutal fashion, and that they were anxious to get out of the Cologne environment at the main train station.

It is obvious that somebody is lying. 

The Local added the following on January 7:

“A New Year’s Eve police report from Cologne showing the full extent of the sexual assaults against women in and around the city’s main train station appeared in German media on Thursday, causing fresh waves of consternation. ‘We were already informed of the conditions in and around the station as we were arriving at our positions by emotional members of the public with crying and shocked children,’ a high-ranking police officer wrote in a document seen by Spiegel Online and tabloid Bild. ‘On the square outside were several thousand mostly male people of a migrant background who were firing all kinds of fireworks and throwing bottles into the crowd at random.’

“The police vans were themselves the targets of thrown fireworks as they pulled into their parking spaces, and people immediately rushed to the officers to report thefts, violence and sexual assaults against women… ‘State and federal police officers were repeatedly fired on with fireworks and had bottles thrown at them during the clearance,’ the report read. But the chaos around the station continued, with the officer recording ‘numerous crying and shocked women reporting sexual assaults by several male migrants or groups.’ ‘The officers on the ground couldn’t gain control of all of the events, attacks and crimes – there were simply too many at the same time for that to be possible.’

“At some points officers were too busy even to be able to record crimes people were trying to report. The report also notes that many of the perpetrators were mocking police throughout the night and saying they knew they would face no consequences for their actions. Crowds at times prevented officers from reaching people crying out for help and were seen threatening them as they tried to report crimes to the police…”

Attacks in Other German Cities As Well

Breitbart wrote on January 6:

“Although on a smaller scale to the unrestrained and un-policed sex attacks in Cologne, the Berliner Morgenpost has now reported on assaults taking place on the street ‘in front of the Brandenburg gate’ [in Berlin]. The revelation may prove difficult for the German media, which until now has stressed in most reports on the new year’s rapes that Berlin was not caught up in the scandal.

“The paper reports four separate incidents around the city, including a tourist being sexually assaulted by a group of ‘three to five men’, and two women being ‘sexually harassed’ by men from Pakistan and Iraq…

“More analogous to the Cologne attacks were events in Hamburg, where groups of ‘southern or Arab appearance’ men aged between 20 and 40 sexually assaulted dozens of women… [One attacked] girl told Spiegel she thought [the attackers] were [of] ‘foreign origin’.

“In Stuttgart two 18 year old women were assaulted and robbed by a gang of 15 men reports the Stuttgarter Zeitung, as well as an unspecified number of other ‘mostly young women’ victims. Düsseldorf saw at least eleven sexual assaults in the historic city centre by ‘North African’ men…”

The Local added on January 6:

“In scenes similar to those in Cologne, several women have reported New Year sexual assaults to police in Frankfurt… The men were of north African appearance who spoke in broken English with strong Arabic accents, police said… Police in Cologne have received around 90 reports so far, with more from other cities including Hamburg and Stuttgart under similar circumstances taking the total up to 118…

“With no… leads so far, authorities are struggling to make themselves heard when they insist there is no known link to recently arrived refugees… for many conservatives and people on the far-right, news of the events in Cologne has confirmed rumours coursing online in recent months of increasing numbers of sexual crimes by Muslims in Germany.”

Does the Spin in Germany Continue?

The Local reported on January 5, 2016:

“Recently-elected mayor [of Cologne] Henriette Reker… insisted that there was ‘no evidence that we are dealing with people who have received accommodation here in Cologne as refugees.’… Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, meanwhile, said ‘that such a large number of people, apparently from a migrant background, could have carried out these attacks, is a new departure.’”

Infowars reported on January 5:

“German authorities are being accused of covering up a mass sexual assault at Cologne train station on New Years Eve, during which Arab and North African migrants molested dozens of women after fireworks were thrown into a crowd…

“Critics have also pointed to the fact that the story has been ignored by many large German news outlets. In general, English-language mainstream media has also failed to report on what happened, although BBC News did cover the story. ‘Many people accused the national media of engaging in a cover-up due to the ethnic background of the criminals, with many pointing to the fact that it took days before the details of the story reached national attention,’ reports the Local…

“This is not the first time that authorities in Germany have been accused of covering up crimes committed by migrants. After a 13-year-old girl was raped at a migrant camp in Detmold, police buried the incident, fearing it could lead to ‘right wing demonstrations.’ ‘Although the rape took place in June, police kept silent about it for nearly three months, until local media published a story about the crime,’ wrote Soeren Kern. ‘According to an editorial comment in the newspaper Westfalen-Blatt, police are refusing to go public about crimes involving refugees and migrants because they do not want to give legitimacy to critics of mass migration.’

“As the Gatestone Institute documents, reports of migrants raping women in and around migrant camps in Germany have exploded since the country opened its borders to around a million ‘refugees’ last year.”

Tough Questions for German “Legal” System

Deutsche Welle wrote on January 6:

“There is no doubt about who the perpetrators were: they were young, male and looked North African or Arab. Unfailingly, this has brought the migration and refugee debate to a new level… The sexist assaults only became public much later than New Year’s Eve. And it wasn’t the police who made the incredible events public either: It was the female victims whose criminal complaints got the ball rolling, bringing to light an issue that is a massive threat to the city’s social peace.

“The night of the uncontrolled male mob in the vicinity of Cologne Cathedral is closely linked to the all-encompassing refugee topic. It polarizes German society like nothing else has in a long time… That’s the last thing we need after an historic 2015, when more than 1.1 million refugees were so enamored with Germany that they wanted to be evacuated to nowhere else but here – all within a single year…

“Cologne, too, now faces a change in mood. Once prejudices against ‘the foreigners’ begin to dominate the public debate, warnings against simplification will barely be heard. Agitation against refugees and asylum-seekers on the Internet could hardly be more aggressive than it is now. Xenophobia is fashionable again…

“This phenomenon, however, shouldn’t divert attention from the fact that the problem of criminals migrating to Germany along with other refugees went unnoticed for a long time. Surely, the refugees aren’t all well-behaved fathers. The perpetrators in Cologne were young and male – as is the vast majority of the refugees that entered Germany in 2015.

“Other masculinity norms legitimizing violence have arrived in Germany along with the refugees, a problem that has become more real than ever before. A growing population thanks to migration from Muslim countries calls for novel ways of thinking and new action…

“It defies common sense that delinquent refugees, perhaps even repeat offenders, can’t be deported. Bars ban drunks who go on a rampage from their premises; people who light pyrotechnics are banned from soccer stadiums. But refugees and asylum-seekers would have to commit murder before they’re deported. In the wake of the Cologne incidents, the number of Germans who understand this legal situation is bound to dwindle.”

Backlash from the Right

Deutsche Welle wrote on January 6:

“The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has been one of several groups to seize on the attacks as fuel for its anti-migrant rhetoric. ‘Here we see the appalling consequences of catastrophic asylum and migration policies on Germany’s everyday realities,’ said party leader Frauke Petry.”

Donald Trump wrote the following on Twitter: “Germany is going through massive attacks to its people by the migrants allowed to enter the country. New Years Eve was a disaster. THINK!”

The mass tabloid Bild and Stern Online responded in typically ridiculous fashion: “Trump poebelt gegen Deutschland” (“Trump abuses (or attacks) Germany.”)

Breitbart reported on January 6:

“German counter migration movement the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) have called a mass protest for this Saturday afternoon at the square outside the railway station where the attacks happened. Announced within the past few hours, the march is likely to attract thousands, and not just of long-standing PEGIDA members, but also of ordinary Germans and the citizens of Cologne.

“For many, the realisation that the German mainstream media and government have been apparently colluding in the cover-up of migrant sexual violence has provided a sudden and rude political awakening. PEGIDA protests in the past have fielded upwards of 30,000 marchers to protest the Islamisation of Europe, and have been characterised by the broad cross section of society who have joined their ranks…”

Did North Korea Develop a Hydrogen Bomb?

The New York Times wrote on January 6:

“North Korea declared on Tuesday that it had detonated its first hydrogen bomb. The assertion, if true, would dramatically escalate the nuclear challenge from one of the world’s most isolated and dangerous states… The North’s announcement came about an hour after detection devices around the world had picked up a 5.1 seismic event along the country’s northeast coast. It may be weeks or longer before detectors sent aloft by the United States and other powers can determine what kind of test was conducted…

“The North is believed to have enough plutonium for eight to 12 weapons, and several years ago it revealed a new program to enrich uranium, the other fuel for a nuclear weapon. But if the North Korean claim about a hydrogen bomb is true, this test was of a different, and significantly more threatening, nature…”

China’s Stock Market Plummets

The Los Angeles Times wrote on January 4:

“On Monday, the new year’s first day of trading, China’s benchmark Shanghai composite index fell 6.9% to 3,296.66, its lowest level in nearly three months. The Shenzhen composite plunged 8.1%, marking its worst day in nine years. The drop triggered ‘circuit breakers’ for both markets, closing them early to halt the panicked slide…

“Economists expect China this year to record its lowest growth rate in a quarter of a century, as the country struggles with excess capacity, piles of government debt and weakening demand for key commodities.”

China’s stock market crash affected markets around the world, with Asia and Europe down -3 percent and U.S. markets down 1.7 percent. CNBC wrote that the Dow Jones closed down triple digits, with the “worst opening day in 8 years.” Express wrote that Britain experienced the “worst stock market start of the CENTURY” and that its “top stock market lost billions of pounds today, prompting fears over invested pension savings.”

Chinese Stocks Collapse Again

The Huffington Post wrote on January 7:

“Chinese stock markets packed enough drama for a few months into a spectacularly condensed half-hour collapse on Thursday. And as they did earlier this week, U.S. stocks are also falling. China’s CSI 300 stock index plummeted 5 percent in the first 10 minutes of trading…”

Bloomberg added on January 7:

“The worst start to a year in global stocks since 2000 extended to a fourth day, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing more than 200 points, as turmoil emanating from China spread around the world and billionaire George Soros warned that a larger crisis may be brewing.”

Most Americans One Paycheck Away from the Street

Market Watch reported on January 6:

“Americans are starting 2016 with more job security, but most are still theoretically only one paycheck away from the street. Approximately 63% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair… Faced with an emergency, they say they would raise the money by reducing spending elsewhere (23%), borrowing from family and/or friends (15%) or using credit cards to bridge the gap (15%).

“This lack of emergency savings could be a problem for millions of Americans. More than four in 10 Americans either experienced a major unexpected expense over the past 12 months or had an immediate family member who had an unexpected expense…

“Why aren’t people saving? Millions of Americans are struggling with student loans, medical bills and other debts… Indeed, personal savings rates as a percentage of disposable income dropped from 11% in December 2012 to 4.6% in August 2015… and now hover at 5.5%.

“… the amount of wealth held by the middle class is shrinking. The share of income held by middle-income families has plunged to 43% of households in 2015 versus 62% in 1970…”

Harvard Professor Fired by Hospital for His Critical Views on LGBT

The Blaze wrote on December 31:

“Can a hospital fire a physician who doesn’t support LGBT views and practices? One Boston hospital just did. After a legal battle that lasted more than 10 years, Dr. Paul Church of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) lost his final appeal to the hospital’s Board of Directors to reconsider the center’s decision to fire him and revoke his medical privileges.

“Church, a urology professor at Harvard University, disagreed with BIDMC’s institutional endorsement of LGBT causes. The hospital ordered his expulsion after discovering that Church had expressed concerns about the health dangers related to same-sex activity on the hospital’s internal online portal…

“‘Celebrating sexual perversions is highly inappropriate, especially in the context of a medical center that should be aware of the negative health consequences of high risk behaviors,’ Church wrote in 2013…

“Church said that he intends to continue his medical practice elsewhere while striving to fulfill his professional duties ‘by advocating for healthy and moral choices.’”

Vast Majority of Brainwashed Scientists and Teachers Believe in Unbiblical Evolution

The Washington Post wrote on December 17:

“… the National Science Teachers Association strongly supports the teaching of evolution (and only evolution)… Although 98 percent of scientists connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science say they believe that humans evolved over time, only 66 percent of Americans surveyed by Pew believe that science has reached a consensus on the issue.

“Nearly a third of Americans reject evolution entirely, and around half of those who accept it as good science still believe that a higher power played a part in the process…”

As the article strongly suggests, scientists do NOT even believe in a “theistic” evolution (although that concept is not biblical either). The scientists’ concept of evolution is totally atheistic.

Attempted Abortion a Crime, Successful Abortion Not a Crime?

CBS News reported on December 17:

“A Tennessee woman is charged with attempted first-degree murder for what investigators say was a failed abortion attempt… [The woman, 31] filled a bathtub with water and attempted to self-abort with a coat hanger. She began bleeding and became worried about her safety…

“Her boyfriend took her to the hospital where doctors delivered a 24-week-old baby weighing just 1.5 pounds. Doctors told investigators the child will need medical support for the rest of his life because of the injuries he sustained.”

This is indeed a very tragic situation. But this question must be allowed: If a woman can be charged with attempted murder for trying unsuccessfully to abort her baby, how in the world can the law allow a woman to successfully abort her baby and not being charged with murder? Clearly, there is something awfully rotten in our legal system.

Why Is January 1 Celebrated as New Year’s Day?

The Washington Post wrote on December 31:

“Starting the new year on the first of January feels counterintuitive. We mark a fresh beginning in the dead of winter, when the days are shorter and the nights are colder…

“Jan. 1 isn’t the only New Year’s Day; many religious and cultural communities also observe their own calendars. But much of the world abides by the Gregorian calendar’s solar dating system…

“When the Romans used a lunar calendar, the year began in March, on the day the new consul took office. But by 153 B.C., with the addition of some months, consuls assumed office on Jan. 1.

“There’s also some religious significance, as January had a festival for Janus, the god of gates, or beginnings. As the Greek-born historian and philosopher Plutarch wrote, one explanation invoked the legendary first king of Rome, Romulus, ‘a warrior and a lover of battle, and was thought to be a son of Mars,’ who preferred March, named after … Mars.

“But then a king named Numa, ‘a lover of peace and whose ambition was to turn the city towards husbandry and to divert it from war, gave precedence to January,’ named after Janus ‘a statesman and husbandman rather than a warrior.’

“How do you feel about Roman gods and kings helping dictate your calendar circa 2016?… even Plutarch acknowledged the arbitrary nature of picking the start to the Roman calendar…

“This Roman system had some problems. By the time Julius Caesar came onto the scene, the lunar-based Roman calendar had fallen out of sync with the seasons, creating an organizational mess. So with the help of an Alexandrian astronomer, and using the Egyptian solar calendar as a foundation, Caesar introduced what’s now known as the Julian calendar in about 46 B.C. Like its Roman predecessor, it started in January…

“By the 1500s, the vernal equinox fell back 10 days… Pope Gregory XII commissioned a reform to fix the problem… It also codified Jan. 1 as the official start of the new year, keeping with its predecessor… Though Catholic states adopted it, Orthodox churches and Protestant states initially rejected the timetable in favor of the ‘Old Style’ Julian calendar. Many Orthodox churches strictly observed the Julian calendar until World War I; some still adhere to a version of it… It wasn’t until 1752 when the Brits gave in to the Gregorian calendar and changed the New Year’s Day to Jan. 1…

“Even though Gregorian is how most of us function day-to-day, many religious communities and cultures have their own calendars. There are religious calendars, such as from the Muslim, Hindu and Jewish traditions, that dictate holiday observances and fasts and begin anew at many different points throughout the Gregorian year.

“For instance, the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah comes between September and October on the Gregorian calendar [Our comment: Rosh Hashanah or the Feast of Trumpets marks the beginning of a new year according to the CIVIL calendar. The religious new year begins in March/April according to the Hebrew calendar.] The Coptic Church also observes new year in September. The Islamic new year fluctuates…

“Doesn’t spring — the very season of renewal — feel like a more natural time to kick off a year?…”

The Church of God follows the Hebrew calendar in determining the annual Holy Days, as commanded by God. For more information, please read our free booklets, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days,” and “The Meaning of God’s Fall Holy Days.” 

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