Current Events

Pope Francis Takes a Stand wrote on September 5, 2013:

“Pope Francis has written a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, host of the G-20 summit that President Obama is attending, urging world leaders to oppose a military intervention in Syria.

“’To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” the Pope urged. ‘Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community.’

“The move is the latest in a series of efforts by the Holy See to prevent military action in the already civil-war torn region. On Sunday, the Pope declared in his Angelus teaching that Saturday Sept. 7 would be an day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria. The prayer rally will take place in St. Peter’s Square from 7 p.m. to midnight, on the vigil of the birth of Mary, the Queen of Peace. ‘Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love,’ the Pope asked people around the world. ‘She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children!’

“Next Pope Francis took his views on Syria to Twitter. On Monday he tweeted, ‘War never again! Never again war!’ and ‘How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake.’ On Tuesday, he tweeted ‘We want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out!’ and ‘With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons.’ Today his social media message was, ‘With all my strength, I ask each party in the conflict not to close themselves in solely on their own interests. #prayforpeace.’

“Cardinal Dolan and leaders of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops followed the Pope’s lead and wrote to every member of Congress today urging them to vote against military intervention in Syria. Yesterday the USCCB also wrote to President Obama, reminding him that the Pope and Middle Eastern Bishops ‘have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences.’ Dolan also asked Catholics to urge their representatives in Washington to vote against a military strike.

“The Vatican, which almost always stops short of taking sides in international issues, historically holds to just war theory, which requires a military defense meet a set of strict qualifications, including that ‘the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain,’ ‘all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective,’ and ‘the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.’

“Pope Francis’ response to Syria is in line with how his predecessors handled international conflicts. Pope Benedict XVI expressed concerns over the military intervention in Libya. Pope John Paul II continually and strongly spoke out against the US-led war in Iraq. The US and the Vatican squared off during the 1989 Panama invasion when dictator Manuel Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy.”

The Telegraph also reported on the Pope’s intervention in the debate on the Syrian conflict on September 5, 2013:

“Foreign ambassadors were summoned to a briefing by Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s foreign secretary, on Thursday, on the Pope’s appeals to halt hostilities in Syria.

“The Pope’s push for a peaceful solution in Syria includes a four-hour vigil to be held in St Peter’s Square on Saturday evening. The Vatican will station 50 confessors around the square. Bishops’ conferences around the world have announced local vigils.

“An official at the Vatican’s justice and peace office warned earlier this week that military action in Syria could spark a world war. In a tweet this week, the Pope wrote: ‘War never again! Never again war!’

“The Pope, who is a Jesuit, has been backed in his criticism of a military strike on Syria by the head of the Jesuits, Father Adolfo Nicolas.

“In an interview with the Independent Catholic News, posted on September 4, Father Nicolas said a strike would be ‘an abuse of power’.

“‘I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a country in a way that will certainly increase the suffering of the citizens of that country, who, by the way, have already suffered beyond measure,’ he said.

“In a stinging attack on the White House, he said: ‘The US has to stop acting and reacting like the big boy of the neighbourhood of the world. This leads inevitably to abuse, harassment and bullying of the weaker members of the community.

“‘We, Jesuits, support 100 per cent the Holy Father and wish with all our hearts that the threatened attack on Syria does not take place.'”

As Pope Francis begins to assert himself in world affairs, it will be interesting to note the support of the powerful Jesuits and the unifying influence this is already having on the Catholic Church. On the other hand, we might expect another power struggle to occur between the Pope and forces within the Vatican.

G-20 Leaders in Disarray

SPIEGEL ONLINE reported on September 6, 2013, on the recent summit:

“The G-20 summit ended worse than expected on Friday — with acrimony, division and name-calling over Syria. The conference, which was originally conceived as an economic forum, also failed to deliver results on global recovery.

“In the end, even a meeting between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin failed to deliver results. Participants at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg couldn’t manage to find a common position on Syria. The American president demanded that punitive action be taken against Syria, but his Russian counterpart stood between Obama and his allies. Now any decision on a possible military strike against Damascus will be up to the US Congress…

“One can certainly debate whether it makes sense to conduct a military strike. Critics correctly note that a limited bombing attack would do little change the situation in Syria. Besides, the European Union hasn’t even been able to agree to a common position. Countries like France and Britain support military efforts, even if the British will not be participating themselves now that the House of Commons rejected a direct role in Syria. And other European countries oppose any attempt by the United States to go it alone. A third group, which includes Germany, doesn’t want to commit…

“Though bringing Syrians to the table will be difficult, bridging the gap between Russia and the US will be equally complicated. Diplomatic relations between the two nations have hit rock bottom at this week’s G-20 summit. Not only did Putin openly call Secretary of State John Kerry a liar, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, said that Russia had contributed nothing to a solution in Syria. Verbal disarmament is unlikely — the discussion will only become more heated.”

With the foregoing articles in mind, what has since transpired regarding Syria is simply mind-boggling–as more recent news will show.

Putin to the Rescue!

The New York Times reported on September 9, 2013:

“President Obama woke up Monday facing a Congressional defeat that many in both parties believed could hobble his presidency. And by the end of the day, he found himself in the odd position of relying on his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, of all people, to bail him out.

“The surprise Russian proposal to defuse the American confrontation with Syria made a tenuous situation even more volatile for a president struggling to convince a deeply skeptical public of the need for the United States to respond militarily in yet another Middle Eastern country, this time in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons. It could make the situation even more precarious. Or it could give Mr. Obama an escape from a predicament partly of his own making.

“In effect, Mr. Obama is now caught between trying to work out a deal with Mr. Putin, with whom he has been feuding lately, or trying to win over Republicans in the House who have made it their mission to block his agenda. Even if he does not trust Mr. Putin, Mr. Obama will have to decide whether to treat the Russian proposal seriously or assume it is merely a means of obstructing an American military strike…

“The twists and turns in the Syria debate have whipsawed the nation’s capital and by some accounts imperiled Mr. Obama’s presidency. Democrats are mystified and in some cases livid with Mr. Obama for asking Congress to decide the matter instead of simply ordering one or two days of strikes and getting it over with.”

President Obama’s Classic Dilemma

DW wrote on September 10, 2013:

“US President Barack Obama’s zigzag course on Syria has not only strengthened his adversaries and weakened his supporters. He has failed at his most important task as president, writes DW’s Michael Knigge.

“Decisions on war and peace, over life and death, are a major part of the job description for the office of US president. President Obama made a point of pointing that out during his first term in office: ‘When a problem has a clear solution, it does not land on my desk. The only things I decide are the difficult things,’ he once said in an interview.

“However, as far as the crisis in Syria is concerned, Obama has not done that. It took months of violence before the president finally took a stand and demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down. Military intervention and arming the opposition were excluded. The consequences: none…

“To be sure: there are cogent reasons for and against a military strike, but there is no silver bullet. The risks outweigh the possible benefits in both alternatives. It is a classic dilemma.

“But that is exactly why US presidents are elected – for just these kinds of situations, where there are only bad options.

“And when someone goes about saying he is the man for the tough decisions, as Obama did, then one expects he will live up to this standard in a time of crisis.

“Obama has not done so.

“Since the start of the Syrian crisis two and a half years ago, Obama has waited and waffled and played for time. He has not been a leader; he has not acted, but only reacted, after pressure from his own Cabinet, the opposition, the British parliament and events in Syria. A real Syria strategy is not even remotely visible.”

A Hard Sell for Mr. Obama

CNN wrote on September 11, 2013:

“President Barack Obama tried Tuesday to sell a military intervention he never wanted to an American public that opposes it, telling the nation that he needed authorization to attack Syria as leverage in a newly emerged diplomatic opening from Russia.

“Calling the United States ‘the anchor of global security,’ Obama offered moral, political and strategic arguments for being ready to launch limited military strikes while trying to negotiate a diplomatic solution to what he called Syria’s violation of a global ban on chemical weapons.

“‘Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used,’ Obama said in making the case that the United States must act when dictators such as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ‘brazenly’ violate international treaties intended to protect humanity.”

At this point the second-guessing of the US President is rampant, but one inescapable fact does stand out–the United States is coming away from this misadventure with an eroded world position. The pride of our power is being broken!

Europe–the Global Player

EUObserver reported on September 4, 2013:

“Everything considered, Europe is still the most important global player in the Middle East.

“The US has armed forces and capacities. Russia and China have overt and covert interests, but Europe is the real player.

“Despite the criticism and the slowness, awkwardness and contradictory interests of its member states, it is still the only player truly changing and affecting the Middle East.

“No wonder then that most of the region’s peace initiatives have been linked to Europe, from Rhodes in 1949, via Madrid, to Oslo and the Geneva accord in 2003.

“The US is needed to close the deal, but without Europe nothing can be started. That is why, while all shallow glances are directed at US secretary of state John Kerry, well-informed observers instead look to Europe.”

The author of this article “was the speaker of the Knesset from 1999 to 2003 and is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organisation.”

EU Military Integration Coming!

EUObserver reported on September 4, 2013:

“Europe should create a civilian and military crisis operations HQ under EU command, according to a report by centre-right MEPs.

“The proposal, contained in a policy paper published on Tuesday (3 September), by deputies from the European People’s Party, the largest group in the assembly, said EU ‘heads of state and government have to start building stand-by forces under Union command.’

“It called for EU leaders to commit themselves to defining the union’s security interests, prioritising its strategic objectives and linking these with operational deployments.

“They said this should include a definition of European defence interests and its geographical priority zones.”

This new military combine will arise much more swiftly than even its planners now conceive–especially, in light of the fading role of America!

NSA Spying–No Privacy!

News Republic posted on September 8, 2013:

“Just when it seemed the biggest NSA-related revelations were over, a new report says the U.S. intelligence agency has had direct access to private smartphone data for years.

“Germany’s Spiegel Online claims it has seen documents that detail the NSA’s ability to tap into leading smartphone platforms, including Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android and BlackBerry. In fact, based on the documents referenced, the agency has even set up separate teams dedicated to working on each operating system.”

The growing sense that the US is operating outside of its own laws–without our normal “checks and balances”–is proving to be a profound shock to Americans and to the rest of the world.

The Goal–A Third Temple in Jerusalem

JTA wrote on August 27, 2013:

“No praying. No kneeling. No bowing. No prostrating. No dancing. No singing. No ripping clothes.

“These are the rules that Jews must abide by when visiting the Temple Mount, the site where the First and Second Holy Temples once stood, located above and behind the Western Wall in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City.

“Although the area is under Israeli sovereignty, the mount — known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif — is controlled by the Islamic Wakf, a joint Palestinian-Jordanian religious body. As the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, whose golden dome overlooks the city, the Temple Mount attracts daily crowds of Muslim worshipers.

“Under Wakf regulations, Jews may only access the mount for 4 1/2 hours per day and are forbidden from praying there…

“Ahead of Tisha b’Av, the fast day next week that commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples, the institute released a video showing Jewish children donning tool belts and leading their fathers out of synagogue to begin construction of the Holy Temple.

“’Our goal is to fulfill the commandment of “They shall make a Temple for me and I will dwell among them,” ‘ Richman says, quoting Exodus. ‘”The basis of a Torah life is action.”’

“Following the Second Temple’s destruction in 70 C.E., most rabbis adopted the position that Jewish law prohibits reconstructing the Holy Temple prior to the age of messianic redemption, or that the law is too ambiguous and that the messiah must come first”…

“The institute isn’t shy about advocating what many see as a radical goal: replacing the mosque at the Dome of the Rock with a new Jewish Holy Temple. A painting in the institute’s exhibition depicts this scenario, with the city’s light rail line taking residents to the Temple Mount. The Temple Institute is dedicated to laying the groundwork for this vision.

“The organization has formulated a program for where the temple will stand and what its vessels will look like, aided by 20 men who study Temple law full-time. The products of this research — 40 ritual objects — are on display in Plexiglas cases at the institute’s headquarters in the Old City.

“Silver trumpets to be blown by priests and a wooden lyre are perched next to two deep pans with long handles — one for collecting blood from small sacrificial offerings and another for large sacrifices like the Passover lamb.

“In another room, mannequins with beards wear the respective vestments for deputy priests and the high priest. The high priest’s outfit, with azure weaves, gold thread and a breastplate with 12 precious stones, took 11 years of research and $150,000 to complete. Next to it stands a massive 12-spigot sink with electric faucets — technology that Richman says will be permitted in the Third Temple.

“The institute’s crowning achievement — the Temple’s golden, 200-pound, seven-branch menorah — stands outside in a case overlooking the Western Wall. Unlike art or history museums, the institute’s goal is to remove the objects from their cases and bring them to the mount for use as soon as possible.

“Many Israelis view the goal as a danger to the status quo that has kept this site holy to Muslims and Jews from turning into a tinderbox.”

As improbable as this “goal” might seem in present circumstances, the Bible strongly indicates that the Jews will somehow be able to build a “third Temple”–including on the location where previous Temples have stood!

Arctic Ice cap Has Grown

MailOnline reported on September 7, 2013:

“A chilly Arctic summer has left nearly a million more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year – an increase of 60 per cent.

“The rebound from 2012’s record low comes six years after the BBC reported that global warming would leave the Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013.

“Instead, days before the annual autumn re-freeze is due to begin, an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia’s northern shores.

“The Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific has remained blocked by pack-ice all year. More than 20 yachts that had planned to sail it have been left ice-bound and a cruise ship attempting the route was forced to turn back.

“Some eminent scientists now believe the world is heading for a period of cooling that will not end until the middle of this century – a process that would expose computer forecasts of imminent catastrophic warming as dangerously misleading.”

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