Current Events

Compromise in Washington—but the Problems Remain…

The Washington Post wrote on January 1, 2013:

“Congress approved a plan to end Washington’s long drama over the ‘fiscal cliff’ late Tuesday after House Republicans surrendered to President Obama’s demand to let taxes rise on the nation’s richest households… the vote came less than 24 hours after the Senate overwhelmingly approved the legislation…

“The bill will… shield millions of middle-class taxpayers from tax increases set to take effect this month. But it also will let rates rise on wages and investment profits for households pulling in more than $450,000 a year, marking the first time in more than two decades that a broad tax increase has been approved with GOP support. The measure also will keep benefits flowing to 2 million unemployed workers on the verge of losing their federal checks. And it will delay for two months automatic cuts to the Pentagon and other agencies that had been set to take effect Wednesday…

“Conservatives complained bitterly that the legislation would raise taxes without making any significant cuts in government spending. For much of the day, the measure appeared headed for defeat as Boehner contemplated tacking on billions in spending cuts, a move that would have derailed a compromise that the White House and Senate leaders had carefully crafted. In the end, GOP lawmakers decided not to take a gamble that could force the nation to face historic tax increases for virtually every American — and leave House Republicans to take the blame…

“The bill drew 85 votes from Republicans and 172 from Democrats, meaning well more than half of its support came from the Democratic minority. With 151 Republicans voting ‘no,’ the GOP tally fell far short of a majority of the GOP caucus. That broke a long-standing preference by Boehner to advance only bills that could draw the support of a majority of his Republican members. In a sign of the moment’s gravity, Boehner himself cast a rare vote: He supported the bill. So did Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the GOP’s vice-presidential candidate last year, who parted ways from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a potential 2016 presidential contender, who voted against the measure.

“But other top GOP leaders voted no, including Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.). Boehner was humiliated just two weeks ago when the Republican rank-and-file refused to support a GOP alternative that would have permitted taxes to rise only on income over $1 million a year. But when he scheduled a vote on the Senate bill, even some of the chamber’s staunchest conservatives agreed that giving up the fight was probably the best course…

“Obama… warned again that he would not negotiate with Republicans over the $16.4 trillion debt limit, which must be raised in the coming weeks… The measure will protect more than 100 million families earning less than $250,000 a year from significant income tax increases set to take effect this month — although their payroll taxes will rise with the expiration of a temporary tax cut adopted two years ago… Neither party was entirely happy with the bill.”

And they should not be. The problems were only delayed… not solved.

More Fights Ahead…

The Independent wrote on January 1:

“The ‘fiscal cliff’ was designed by Washington for Washington — it was intended to set up a scenario so severe that the president and Congress would, at last, have to take on the nation’s major tax and spending problems. Instead, lawmakers again found a way to sidestep many of the prickliest issues and in the process set up other, potentially more severe, showdowns in the new year… [The deal] will nevertheless give way to a nearly continuous series of fights that will consume the first part of the year, even as President Barack Obama might hope to shift Congress’s attention to immigration reform and gun control…

“The next big deadline is likely to come around the end of February, when the Treasury Department will exhaust the measures now in place to extend the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling. At that point, the government will not be able to pay its bills unless Congress votes to raise the nation’s legal borrowing limit. Republicans hope to use that moment to force Obama and congressional Democrats to agree to major spending cuts in return for the increase — in what could be a sequel to the contentious face-off over the debt limit in the summer of 2011… in early March [will] come another deadline: the $110 billion cut in spending, half from the Pentagon, delayed as part of this deal. A month or so later — on March 27 — a short-term measure that funds government agencies will lapse. Without a renewal, the government will shut down, setting up another possible showdown.”

Deutsche Welle wrote on January 2, 2013:

“Lawmakers now have two months, according to media reports, to follow up on the stop-gap measures with legislation, in particular on future budgetary cuts. This is likely to pit the Republican-dominated House of Representatives against Obama’s administration… In the words of one Twitter user: ‘To all of you who think it’s done. It’s not. It’s just been pushed back.’”

No Victory for Anybody

On January 1, 2013, Newsmax reported:

“Media baron Rupert Murdoch doesn’t see the Senate’s fiscal cliff vote early Tuesday as a victory for anybody, especially President Obama. Indeed, he tweets, the deal overwhelmingly passed by the Senate is likely to tank the economy.”

The Drudge Report posted the following on January 1:

“According to the Congressional Budget Office, the last-minute fiscal cliff deal reached by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama cuts only $15 billion in spending while increasing tax revenues by $620 billion—a 41:1 ratio of tax increases to spending cuts. When Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush increased taxes in return for spending cuts—cuts that never ultimately came—they did so at ratios of 1:3 and 1:2.

“‘In 1982, President Reagan was promised $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes,’ Americans for Tax Reform says of those two incidents. ‘The tax hikes went through, but the spending cuts did not materialize. President Reagan later said that signing onto this deal was the biggest mistake of his presidency. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush agreed to $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax hikes. The tax hikes went through, and we are still paying them today. Not a single penny of the promised spending cuts actually happened.’”

The terrible game of all players involved and the fact that they could not even reach earlier, until the very last hour, some kind of an “agreement” or better compromise which does not satisfy many Republicans or Democrats, sends an awful and shocking signal to the rest of the world. The USA—a country which is supposed by many to lead the world—has manifested itself as being unable to solve its own problems in a decent and timely manner, let alone the problems of others.

Washington Damages the Country and Threatens the World

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote on January 2:

“The annual ritual of expiring deadlines and compromises in the middle of the night has long since become a tiresome farce that no one is interested in seeing any longer. … The political theater is damaging the country both domestically and abroad. Querulousness and anger are growing among the people because the national leadership in Washington isn’t in a position to solve the country’s biggest problems: the mountain of debt, the budget deficit, unemployment, the education crisis, aging infrastructure and the explosion of costs in the health care and pension systems.

“This political paralysis could stifle economic recovery. The national debt, which now exceeds the annual economic output of the country, also threatens national security. President Obama’s first term was characterized by procrastination and retreat when it came to foreign and security policy — from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya and Syria. And without Washington’s leadership, what is to become of the ‘peace process’ in the Middle East and the Arab Spring?…”

Die Tageszeitung wrote on January 2:

“Precious little has been gained… In Washington today, the main mission of politics is obstruction. All sides are acting as though the only conceivable form of politics is constantly relying on emergency measures in a panic.”

A Superpower Is Losing Its Way

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 2:

“The US has managed to avoid plunging off the fiscal cliff — for now. But the compromise is not meant to last and Washington will once again be faced with tough budgetary negotiations in several weeks… Washington’s last-minute compromise is far from being a breakthrough. And there will be many other last-minute negotiations in the coming months… In February, for example, the country will reach its debt ceiling; shortly after that, the austerity time bomb that was just now avoided will begin ticking again.

“We are, in short, witnessing a superpower losing its way in a maze of details… The Disunited States of America. And this despite the long list of tasks that urgently need addressing…”

Taxes Will Go Up…

American for Tax Reform ( reported on December 31:

“On January 1, regardless of the outcome of fiscal cliff negotiations, Americans will be hit with a $1 trillion Obamacare tax hike. Obamacare contains twenty new or higher taxes. Five of the taxes hit for the first time on January 1. In total, Americans face a net $1 trillion tax hike for the years 2013-2022, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“The five major Obamacare taxes taking effect on January 1 are as follows:

“The Obamacare Medical Device Tax: Medical device manufacturers employ 409,000 people in 12,000 plants across the country. Obamacare imposes a new 2.3 percent excise tax on gross sales – even if the company does not earn a profit in a given year. In addition to killing small business jobs and impacting research and development budgets, this will increase the cost of your health care – making everything from pacemakers to artificial hips more expensive.

“The Obamacare Flex Account Tax: The 30-35 million Americans who use a pre-tax Flexible Spending Account (FSA) at work to pay for their family’s basic medical needs will face a new government cap of $2500. This will squeeze $13 billion of tax money from Americans over the next ten years. (Currently, the accounts are unlimited under federal law, though employers are allowed to set a cap.)

“There is one group of FSA owners for whom this new cap will be particularly cruel and onerous: parents of special needs children. There are several million families with special needs children in the United States, and many of them use FSAs to pay for special needs education. Tuition rates at one leading school that teaches special needs children in Washington, D.C. (National Child Research Center) can easily exceed $14,000 per year. Under tax rules, FSA dollars can be used to pay for this type of special needs education. This Obamacare tax provision will limit the options available to these families.

“The Obamacare Surtax on Investment Income: This is a new, 3.8 percentage point surtax on investment income earned in households making at least $250,000 ($200,000 single)…

“The Obamacare ‘Haircut’ for Medical Itemized Deductions: Currently, those Americans facing high medical expenses are allowed a deduction to the extent that those expenses exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI). This tax increase imposes a threshold of 10 percent of AGI. By limiting this deduction, Obamacare widens the net of taxable income for the sickest Americans. This tax provision will most harm near retirees and those with modest incomes but high medical bills.

“The Obamacare Medicare Payroll Tax Hike: The Medicare payroll tax is currently 2.9 percent on all wages and self-employment profits. Under this tax hike, wages and profits exceeding $200,000 ($250,000 in the case of married couples) will face a 3.8 percent rate instead. This is a direct marginal income tax hike on small business owners, who are liable for self-employment tax in most cases.”

But we were told that Obamacare will serve the needy and that it is just and equitable. Surprise, surprise…

Bloomberg added on December 31, 2012:

“The budget deal passed by the U.S. Senate today would raise taxes on 77.1 percent of U.S. households, mostly because of the expiration of a payroll tax cut, according to preliminary estimates from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington… More than 80 percent of households with incomes between $50,000 and $200,000 would pay higher taxes. Among the households facing higher taxes, the average increase would be $1,635, the policy center said. A 2 percent payroll tax cut, enacted during the economic slowdown, is being allowed to expire as of yesterday.”

Warrantless Intercept Program Extended Behind Closed Doors

The Associated Press reported on December 31:

“President Barack Obama has signed into law a five-year extension of the U.S. government’s authority to monitor the overseas activity of suspected foreign spies and terrorists. The warrantless intercept program would have expired at the end of 2012 without the president’s approval. The renewal bill won final passage in the Senate on Friday. Known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the law allows the government to monitor overseas phone calls and emails without obtaining a court order for each intercept. The law does not apply to Americans. When Americans are targeted for surveillance, the government must get a warrant from a special 11-judge court of U.S. district judges appointed by the Supreme Court.”

At least this is what the law says…

America an Orwellian State wrote on December 28:

“Americans are living in an Orwellian state argue Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone and historian Peter Kuznick, as they sit down with RT to discuss US foreign policy and the Obama administration’s disregard for the rule of law. Both argue that Obama is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and that people have forgiven him a lot because of the ‘nightmare of the Bush presidency that preceded him.’… According to Kuznick, American citizens live in a fish tank where their government intercepts more than 1.7 billion messages a day. ‘That is email, telephone calls, other forms of communication.’

­“Oliver Stone [said:] ‘… we are going into the second administration that is living outside the law and does not respect the law and foundations of our system and he is a constitutional lawyer, you know. Without the law, it is the law of the jungle. Nuremburg existed for a reason and there was a reason to have trials, there is a reason for due process – “habeas corpus” as they call it in the United States… There has been a blind worship of the military and patriotism. I strongly believe in the strong military, but to defend our country, not to invade other countries and to conquer the world. I think there is a huge difference that has been forgotten: morality. Once you take the laws away, as Einstein once said famously, the country does not obey its laws, the laws would be disrespected. So it seems that the fundamental morality has been lost on us somewhere on the way recently and now it is what is effective… Does the end justify the means? No, it never did.

“[Peter Kuznick added:]  ‘Why are people so uninformed?… If people don’t understand their history, then they don’t have any vision of the future and what is possible. If they think what exists now – the tyranny of now – is all that is possible, then they can’t dream about the future. They can’t imagine the future that is different from the present… people have to understand the past because if you study the past then you can envision a future that is very different.’”

­Some of what is being said should be taken note of.

Controversial New Laws

NBC News wrote on January 1:

“The images out of Washington state toward the end of 2012 — all-night parties celebrating legalized pot and same-sex marriage — sparked hope among liberal activists that the tide has turned on these two issues… Beyond pot and same-sex marriage, Washington also allows physician-assisted suicide (as do Oregon and Montana) and was one of four states that decriminalized abortion before Roe v. Wade in 1971…

“Given their success in Washington and Colorado, Drug Policy Action is looking to push similar campaigns in California and Oregon in 2014 or 2016. Both states have legalized medical marijuana and in California, medical pot has becoming [sic] a booming business since it was approved in 1996. [It is] estimated that Californians consume one million pounds of pot a year…

“Washington may not be so far ahead of the rest of the country on social issues such as pot and same-sex marriage, according to Mark Smith, who teaches political science at the University of Washington…Smith said [:] ‘The whole nation is trending; we’re just further along than the rest of the country.’”

We are sometimes asked what the position of the Church is in those matters. Of course, we are not engaging in politics, but we strictly teach God’s viewpoint on social issues, as revealed in Scripture. The Bible does not allow for same-sex marriages, assisted suicide, abortion or health-damaging measures, such as consuming unclean meat or smoking. In regard to pot or marijuana, we ought to distinguish between medically-prescribed necessary treatments for certain illnesses (but even then, great caution is advised and it is the decision of the individual, after thorough investigation, whether or not to engage in such conduct) and the use of pot for non-medical reasons, which should not be done under any circumstance. Pot has a whole lot of negative press and that not without solid cause. Pot seems to be a drug that has led some into demonic experiences or exposure. The ingesting of pot is primarily through smoking, but regardless, it seems to be a drug that causes some bad and sometimes permanent problems.

Change in Global Order

The Guardian wrote on December 30:

“For Britain, a proud imperial power holding sway over vast territories spanning the globe, and for the other dominant European empires, 1913 was the year it all began to go wrong. Will 2013 bring similarly epic transformations in the current world order? As was the case a century ago, seeds of change can be discerned…

“Britain oversaw the biggest, wealthiest maritime empire ever known. London was the largest port in the world; Liverpool the second largest. Estimates suggest up to a fifth of the world’s population, and perhaps a quarter of its land mass, were under direct or indirect British rule…

“The first total or world war, which engulfed Europe the following year, may be said with hindsight to have changed everything. As generations of young men were slaughtered on the western and eastern fronts, old certainties and prejudices… crumbled… As was to happen again in 1941, the US found it impossible to stay out of the war, and Wilson sent his troops to France…

“The collapse of the old order proved irreparable. Three competing governance models – communism, fascism, and capitalism – produced another, even more murderous conflict only 20 years after the last. The second world war and its aftermath confirmed the passing of Britain as a global power and in effect entrenched the true heirs to the age of empire…

“Making predictions is a chancy business. But 2013, like 1913, could prove the precursor to another seminal turning point in the global order. China is rapidly approaching the point when the size of its economy will surpass that of the US. Its military capability is expanding hand over fist and so, too, is the confidence with which it asserts its sovereign and territorial claims… With overriding economic power inevitably comes political dominance, and the US, like Britain before it, will have to get used to the change…”

Even though China will play a dominant role in the years to come, the main power bloc will be a United States of core Europe under German leadership.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble Optimistic that the Worst Is Over for Europe

The Local wrote on December 28:

“German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said he believes the embattled eurozone is already past the peak of its three-year-long debt crisis, citing positive developments in Greece and France. He also expressed optimism about the pace of reform in fellow eurozone powerhouse France, saying Paris ‘was well aware that every country must constantly carry out reforms in order to stay competitive.’ Schäuble, 70, appeared more optimistic on what lies ahead for the eurozone than Chancellor Angela Merkel who has steadfastly refused to sound the all-clear… French President Francois Hollande has repeatedly said the eurozone crisis, which has at times threatened the very existence of the 17-country currency union, was past.”

However, as Deutsche Welle reported on December 31, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is less optimistic. In her New Year’s address, she stated: “I know that many are also heading into the new year with trepidation. And indeed, the economic environment next year will not be easier, but more difficult. That should not discourage us, but – on the contrary – serve as an incentive.” The Local added on December 31 that Mrs. Merkel also said: “The crisis is a long way from being beaten…  it has been possible this year to have the lowest unemployment and the highest level of employment since reunification…  the reforms that we have decided are beginning to work. However, we still need more patience. The crisis is a long way from being overcome.”

There may still be tough times ahead for Europe, but it is absolutely certain that the euro will survive and become one of the strongest, if not THE strongest currency in the world. Please view our new StandingWatch program, “Trouble Ahead—May God Help Us!”

Euro Pessimists Like Krugman Proven Wrong

The Globe and Mail wrote on December 28:

“Back in May, as the euro zone veered deeper into crisis, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman penned one of his gloomiest columns about the single currency, a piece in the New York Times entitled ‘Apocalypse Fairly Soon’. ‘Suddenly, it has become easy to see how the euro – that grand, flawed experiment in monetary union without political union – could come apart at the seams,’ Mr. Krugman wrote. ‘We’re not talking about a distant prospect, either. Things could fall apart with stunning speed, in a matter of months, not years.’

“Mr. Krugman was far from being alone in predicting imminent doom for the euro in 2012. Billionaire investor George Soros told a conference in Italy in early June that Germany had a mere three-month window to avert European disaster. Then in July, Willem Buiter, chief economist at Citigroup and former Bank of England policy maker, raised the probability that Greece would leave the euro to 90 per cent, even going so far as to provide a date on which it might occur. Mr. Buiter’s D-Day – Jan. 1, 2013 – falls next week. And yet no one now believes a ‘Grexit’, or catastrophic implosion of the euro zone for that matter, is just around the corner.

“Half a year ago the chorus calling an end to the euro reached a crescendo. Among the chief doom-mongers were some of the world’s leading economists and investors, many of them based in the United States. Fast forward six months and their prophesies look ill-judged, or premature at the least. The euro has rebounded against the U.S. dollar. The bond yields of stricken countries like Greece, Spain and Italy – a market gauge of how risky these countries are – have fallen back. Even the gloomiest of the gloomy are revising their forecasts, although they warn of more trouble ahead. ‘Europe has surprised me with its political resilience,’ Mr. Krugman admitted earlier this month…

“With the benefit of hindsight, it seems clear that many simply underestimated the political will in Europe to keep the euro together, and the impact that a series of policy shifts in the second half of 2012 would have on sentiment. The most important of these were European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s July promise to do ‘whatever it takes’ to defend the euro – which led to the ECB’s commitment to buy euro zone government bonds in sufficient amounts to shore up the currency bloc – and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s late-summer shift on Greece…

“‘There may be a logic to Greece leaving, but the mechanics are too disruptive for both Greece and its neighbours,” said Barry Eichengreen, an economist at U.C. Berkeley, who has long argued that the euro is irreversible. ‘An appreciation of European politics makes you realize that everything will be done to prevent a breakup of the monetary union. It would be intensely catastrophic, economically and politically.’

“Capital Economics, a U.K.-based consultancy that forecast one or more countries would leave the single currency bloc by the end of 2012, now concedes that it underestimated the ECB’s determination to save the euro and the market’s faith in the bank’s promises… Prominent investors have also paid a price for betting against the euro zone this year. Earlier this month celebrated U.S. hedge fund manager John Paulson blamed big losses suffered in 2012 on his bets that the sovereign debt crisis would worsen. For those who placed their chips on the other side of the table, there were stellar returns of around 80 per cent to be had on 10-year Greek and Portuguese government bonds this year.

“Nouriel Roubini, the New York University economist whose bearish forecasts earned him the nickname “Dr. Doom”, has been in the gloom camp from the beginning, predicting as far back as 2010 that countries would be forced to abandon the single currency. Now he says the risks of a near-term catastrophe have been reduced. Reflecting the more cautious view of many of his colleagues, Roubini believes 2013 will be another year in which European politicians ‘muddle through’, avoiding catastrophe…

“Mr. Krugman, while expressing surprise at Europe’s ability to avert disaster in 2012, isn’t backing off his predictions of gloom… In his recent blog post ‘Bleeding Europe’, he likens the austerity imposed on countries like Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland to ‘medieval medicine’ in which patients were bled to treat their ailments. When the bleeding made them sicker, they were bled some more. Even if the euro has defied forecasts of its demise, the economics of austerity, Mr. Krugman says, are playing out ‘exactly according to script.’”

And so, Mr. Krugman and the other self-proclaimed economic prophets of doom and demise of the euro will be proven wrong once again. They might have underestimated Europe’s will to succeed, but they most certainly did not consider God’s Will in the matter. God has prophesied long ago—in the pages of the Bible—that Europe will become one more time, in these last days, a most powerful entity—economically, politically and militarily—which necessitates a common currency. And we are far too late in the time line of biblical prophecies as to observe the abandonment of the euro and the reinvention of the entire wheel of European unification.

Piers Morgan and the Bible

The Daily Mail wrote on December 28:

“CNN host Piers Morgan has said he believes the Bible and the U.S. Constitution are ‘inherently flawed’ and that the Bible needs an amendment changing its stance on same-sex marriage. The bold statements come days after the British journalist divided America with his strict stance on gun laws following the Sandy Hook massacre, even sparking e-petitions to deport him.

“While interviewing Pastor Rick Warren on his CNN show, he said: ‘Both the Bible and the Constitution were well intentioned but they are basically, inherently flawed. Hence, the need to amend it.’ Warren, who is against same-sex marriage replied: ‘Not a chance. What I believe is flawed is human opinion, because it constantly changes’…

“His remarks sparked anger among conservatives, including Paul Kengor, the executive director of The Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College. ‘It’s remarkable to watch secular liberals like Piers Morgan assume unto themselves the extraordinary authority to divine what in the Bible is true and what is not, what is flawed and what is not, and where certain “amendments” supposedly need to occur,’ he told Fox News.”

Even though Piers Morgan had a point when advocating gun control of assault weapons, he is terribly wrong when it comes to his understanding of the Bible. Unfortunately, Pastor Warren’s responses were not of great help, either. When reading the entire transcript, he seemed to be distinguishing between the “moral law” (the Bible never uses this term) and other laws, without explaining which is which. For a better understanding, please read our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…”

Interreligious Marriages

Al Jazeera wrote on December 31:

“Islam is the United Kingdom’s fastest-growing religion, and the country’s Muslim population has nearly doubled in the past decade. As the number of British Muslims increases, some are deviating from the faith’s traditional norms. Many Muslim women in the UK now walk a tightrope between their Islamic culture and British identity.

“Britain’s diversity has spawned financially independent Muslim women who appear to be challenging their cultural and religious boundaries. Radically, challenging their boundaries has meant that growing numbers are choosing to marry out their faith…

“Most religious scholars agree that Islam permits Muslim men to marry ‘women of the book’ – Christians or Jews – thus expanding the number of potential partners to choose from. Muslim women, on the other hand, are forbidden to marry a non-Muslim unless her partner converts to Islam, say purists. Some men nominally convert to Islam in order to appease their partner’s family.

“Imam Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford is an exception… he argues: ‘There is no verse in the Holy Quran that bans Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. Almighty God would have revealed explicit directives if Muslim women were not allowed to marry outside the faith,’ he says. ‘As Muslim men are entitled to marry women from the People of the Book who are not Muslim [Surah al-Maidah 5:5], the same right must be afforded to Muslim women as Islam is a gender-equal religion.’”

While interfaith marriages become more common among Muslims, Jews and Christians, the Bible specifically tells us that a converted Christian is to marry “only in the Lord”—that is, only a converted Christian (1 Corinthians 7:39).

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