Monday, January 30, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 30, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 30, 2012

Russia Sells Dozens of Combat Aircraft to Damascus

                                                  Yak 130
                                                  Story taken from

           In defiance of international efforts to topple President Bashar Assad, Russia announced on Monday it signed a $550 million deal to sell 36 combat aircraft to Syria.

According to a report in Russia’s Kommersant, the deal for the Yak-130 aircraft was signed in December.

Production is expected to begin once Syria makes its first payment for the planes.

Russia and Syria began negotiations over the possible sale of Yak-130 advanced fighter trainers in late 2010. The plane is operational in Algeria and Libya, and if delivered to Syria would likely replace its older fleet of L-39 trainers.

Syria would likely order an armed configuration of the aircraft so it can be used as to train pilots and bomb ground targets.

Moscow is one of Assad’s few remaining allies, and is still serving top arms customer Syria, while joining China in an October veto of a Western- crafted UN Security Council resolution that threatened an arms embargo.

Syra spent up to $700m. on Russian arms in 2010, some 7 percent of Russia’s total of $10 billion in arms deliveries abroad, according to the Russian defense think tank CAST. Russian Navy ships also recently docked in Tartus as another demonstration of support for the embattled Assad.

Russia recently completed the delivery of advanced supersonic Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria as part of a deal negotiated in 2007. In December, Syria test-fired one of the Yakhont missiles during a series of war games aimed at signaling Assad’s continued control over the Syrian military.

Earlier this month a ship full of ammunition from Russia was detained in Cyprus. The ship was released the next day and sailed to Tartus.

The United States said it raised concerns about the ship with Russia, but Moscow replied that it needs no justification for its defense trade with Syria as there is no internationally binding arms embargo in place.

Why Should I Pray for What Seems to be Impossible?

Why Should I Pray for What Seems to be Impossible?

Are Some Churches Going 'Too Far' to Reach the Lost for Christ?

                                Pastor Steven Bentley of the Bridge Church

                                                    Story taken from  

           With more and more of America’s youth leaving the church at a rapid rate, some ministries are crossing traditional boundaries to stay “culturally relevant.” But is there such a thing as going “too far” to attract believers to, and keep them engaged with, Christ?

In some extreme cases, churches have incorporated tattoo parlors into their ministries or founded “Christian” night clubs for believers who want to get their groove on in a non-secular setting. These moves, despite their good intentions, do not come without criticism. Some critics say such attempts to stay culturally relevant blur the boundary between Christian worship and a sinful lifestyle.

One ministry changing with the times is The Bridge church, located in Flint Township, Mich., which has incorporated the Serenity Tattoo Parlor into its community.

The parlor was opened when tattoo artist Ryan Brown, a recovering alcoholic, needed a place where he could practice his art while maintaining his moral code. Brown and fellow tattoo artist Drew Blaisdell work at Serenity by appointment or from noon to 8 p.m. most days.

The Rev. Steven Bentley, who leads The Bridge, and his wife, Katrina, feel that the church has become “ineffective in reaching the lost in our cultures," according to the church's official website.

As Bentley told The Christian Post, critics of the tattoo parlor have referred to the church as merely a “building.”

“The building is just a place, it really doesn't matter,” Bentley told CP, contending that Christ’s community is far more important than the building where the community worships.

Bentley says that he and The Bridge are trying to convey the message that they “don’t condemn” because “people are just scared of being rejected, judged, and condemned.”

He added that his ministry is trying to find a way to love everyone, because nowadays “the church of America is often known for what they are against, rather than what they are for.”

Similarly, in Great Falls, Mont., Faith Center Foursquare Church has recently installed a skate park in its youth center. The skate park is open to anyone in the community, and serves as a new venue for youth to visit during the winter months.

The church's youth pastor, Joey Petty, says the purpose of the skate park is to remind the youth that they are “loved regardless of the choices they have made.”

“When [the youth] come in, the premise is that you were thought about enough that people invested their time, their money, and their resources without any strings attached,” Petty told The Christian Post.

Most of these ministries will say they have been successful, but some have shown that staying current with the times does not come without its risks.

Mosaic church, an untraditional ministry in Chattanooga, Tenn., has been forced to relocate after a gang-related shooting occurred at its Christian nightclub, Club Fathom, during a Christmas party.

Mosaic will be leaving its current home by Jan. 31 “under the current mayor's administration and court rulings that gave us orders on how Mosaic is allowed to worship and what types of people we can or cannot allow at our worship services,” wrote the church's pastor, Tim Reid, in a Facebook comment.

“These orders make it impossible to live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ that teaches us to love and accept all,” he added.

The gang-related shooting occurred on Christmas Eve at neighboring Club Fathom, Mosaic Church’s urban youth outreach program.

The shootings occurred when the 400 participants of Club Fathom’s Christmas Eve party exited around midnight. Nine people were wounded in the shootings.

According to a press release from Mosaic church, the shooting that occurred outside of Club Fathom was not a result of gang rivalries, but rather were a result of a gang ambush on innocent youth members of the church.

“Our youth have chosen to walk away from the gang lifestyle, but they remain in harm’s way because of the violence of Chattanooga’s current gang members,” Pastor Reid wrote in a statement on Mosaic's website.

Reid vows to continue offering a safe haven for teens to practice their faith.

“Some people hate us and some people love us, but peel back all the sensationalism, hype and false statements we will still love those who the rest of the church ignores! God has purposed us to be pioneers in how to conduct ministry. The truth will come out in 2012!” Reid wrote on the affiliated Mosaic Arts Venue Facebook wall.

These are not the only examples of churches heeding the call to stay culturally relevant. Youth ministry rock bands, ministry-sponsored camping trips and techno-themed sermons are just a few more examples of churches trying to keep in pace with the 21st Century.

Dr. Rusty Freeman, director of Youth Ministries at the Southwest Texas Conference, says that it is important for churches to stay culturally relevant, but “it may not always work,” adding that youth leaders must remember to ultimately focus on the leading of the Holy Spirit.

“It goes back to that basic relationship in ministry ... the relationship between the students and God,” Freeman told The Christian Post.

“I really do think God's spirit will lead those folks into knowing and discerning how best to be relevant in the community,” he added.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 24, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 24, 2012

Who's Winning in the Middle East? Everyone Outside the West Knows It's The Islamists


                                                     Story taken from

          Nawal al-Saadawi, now 80 years old, is a unique figure in Egypt. She is a pioneer feminist and a radical Arab nationalist. Al-Saadawi has lived in the United States but hates America and, of course, Israel. You can imagine that she also loathes the Islamists. So how does someone like al-Saadawi react to the Egyptian elections won by the Islamists?

She brands it an American conspiracy. "Democracy is not elections and America uses religion to divide Egypt," she said in a recent television interview. You are going to be hearing–or not hearing, if you depend on the Western mass media–a lot more of this kind of thing.

How often have I heard Iranian exiles complaining that the United States deliberately didn't help the shah in order to bring Ayatollah Khomeini to power? The Turkish opposition has been talking this way for years. In Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and probably soon in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, people will be saying: Why do we live under Islamist oppressive dictatorships? Answer: The Americans brought them to power.

It's an irony of history. Why do the Iranians hate us? The left tends to say that this is because the United States backed a coup in 1953 against the democratic regime of Muhammad Mossadegh (a regime that was already collapsing, in which the Communists were getting stronger, and the Islamic clerics supported the coup) and the Shah afterward. Now we are being told that America has been bad to back the dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia, though the United States opposed the far bloodier dictatorships in Iraq and Syria.

now the Obama Administration is backing new regimes that are also going to be rather nasty (though there's hope for Tunisia) and is failing to help democratic oppositions. It is pursuing a pro-Muslim Brotherhood policy. One day some future American president may be apologizing for that.

In contrast, the real Middle East isn't full of revolutionary Islamists who only want an American apology or a boost into power in order to be friends of the United States. It is full of a lot of people, maybe a majority in a number of countries, that would like not to live under radical and repressive dictatorships. It also has a number of governments that want Western help against what they see as their real enemies–Iran and revolutionary Islamists.

There are a hundred anecdotes I could tell but here are some from the last few hours, through personal sources. A Gulf Arab was asked about his country's strategic priorities. He replied that the Iranian regime, "hates everyone. We need more guns" to defend ourselves from Tehran. A close observer in another Arab country writes me that in contrast to the West, "Everyone inside the region seems to "get it," regarding the threat from Iran's government.

Funny how clear actual Middle Easterners are about what's going on–at least when they are talking to each other–compared to those across the seas whose interpretations are merely wrong-headed, bizarre, and soon proven to be wrong.

On the other side of the battle, the Islamists are very happy. In an interview with a British newspaper, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke frankly about his analysis of the situation. What he has to say tells more than all the analysis from all the Western talking heads, journalists, and politicians.

"The Palestinian cause is winning. With the Muslim Brotherhood part of the government [in Egypt], they [the Egyptians] will not besiege Gaza. They will not arrest Palestinians. They will not give cover to Israel to launch a war….Israel is disturbed by this. It knows the strategic environment is changing. Iran is an enemy. Relations are deteriorating with Turkey. With Egypt, they are really cold. Israel is in a security situation they have never been in before."

I don't agree with him that Palestinians are "winning" now and are those who gained most from the "Arab Spring." But there is much truth in what he says. Egypt will now let Hamas do pretty much as it pleases, including smuggling terrorists, money, and weapons across the border into the Gaza Strip or setting up bases in Sinai. The Brotherhood in Egypt will use the country's resources to help Hamas.

Why would anyone even think of making peace with Israel when they are enthusiastic believers in total victory, the idea that events are on their side for wiping out Israel? Everyone in the Middle East understands these attitudes are triumphing, no matter which side they are on. Few in positions of power in Europe or America do.

It is not true, though, that Israel has never faced such a situation before. That's precisely the way things were in the first three decades of Israel's existence and many elements of the contemporary situation are better than they were for Israel in the last three decades, following peace with Egypt. Still, this is quite different from the rosy picture of moderation breaking out all over that prevails in Western governing circles.

Haniyeh and the kind of people ruling Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya are not rolling over in the flower field of democracy and peace but rather exulting about how they are on the road to bloody victory over Israel and the West. If you actually listen to what they say most of the time it couldn't be more obvious.

The Brody File: Narrowing Down the GOP Candidates

The Brody File: Narrowing Down the GOP Candidates

How China is Advancing its Military Reach

                                      Chinese CS-5 MRBM Nuclear Missile

                                               Story taken from

             At the Pentagon recently, US President Barack Obama announced deep cuts to the US military and set out a shift in attention towards the Asia-Pacific region, in a thinly-veiled message to China.

a narrative of peaceful intent, China's leaders have struggled to reassure the US over the direction of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Both countries admit that their military dialogue falls well behind other aspects of the relationship.

So the shift has brought renewed scrutiny of the PLA's latest capabilities against US dominance in the Pacific.

In recent years the PLA has demonstrated impressive new capabilities at sea and in space, aimed at showcasing the success of its modernisation effort.

The obvious message is to deliver a powerful warning if Taiwan were to declare formal independence.

But Pentagon planners are now concerned that the Taiwan contingency has been eclipsed by China's broader maritime territorial claims and demands for more international space to protect the arteries feeding China's growth.

'Unrestricted warfare'

China is developing a range of capabilities linked to the space and cyber domain in order to sidestep the overwhelming might of the US military in the Pacific region. The PLA calls this fighting "local wars under informationised conditions".

China took the first step towards a space station when it launched the Tiangong 1 module China recognised almost two decades ago that in the mid-term the PLA could be no match for US conventional forces. So it began working on what was dubbed "unrestricted warfare" - combining multiple methods to defeat a superior opponent.

At the same time party leaders launched adventurous civilian acquisition projects in the high-tech domain to increase Chinese competitiveness and to boost indigenous production capabilities.

The PLA has been running military projects mirroring these civilian acquisition ventures. Sometimes involving dual-use technologies, the military and civilian strands have often been indistinguishable.

China's space programme is a case in point. The recent successful docking manoeuvre between a Shenzhou module and the Tiangong Space station is as much a triumph for the PLA as it is for China's civilian space agency.

Space theatre

Should the US ever intervene in a cross-strait clash or challenge China's maritime claims, Beijing would employ a pre-emptive "sea denial" strategy alongside its conventional operations - preventing US battle carrier groups operating in or near its claimed territorial waters.

Its submarine-launched ballistic and cruise missiles are now a lethal force. China's long-range nuclear weapons systems have also undergone significant upgrades and its strategic rocket force, the Second Artillery Corps, is very much the pride of the PLA.

One of the most pressing concerns for the US navy is the threat posed by a "carrier killer" anti-ship missile with enhanced targeting capabilities facilitated from space. China very recently launched its own Beidou Positioning System, challenging the monopoly of the US Global Positioning System (GPS).

One of the PLA's most sensitive advances has been the secret deployment and testing of advanced anti-satellite (ASAT) and Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) weapons systems.

Two years ago, China successfully intercepted one of its own ballistic missiles as it streaked through space. This test coincided with the Pentagon's sale of Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) Patriot systems to Taiwan.

Some experts believe a Chinese ASAT campaign against a careful selected group of US satellites could have catastrophic effect on the US military.

This capability, combined with the potential for China to develop its own Ballistic Missile Defence umbrella, suggests that the space domain will be a new theatre for US-China rivalry.

Chinese ASAT capabilities are not exclusively reserved for "kill vehicles", like the one which obliterated an ageing Chinese weather satellite in 2007.

It is now believed that the successful 2007 "kill" was in fact the third test in a series. Previous tests had demonstrated an ability to manoeuvre in proximity to targeted satellites.

This would suggest that China has experimented with techniques which could be used for "space mining", where mines or mini-satellites armed with jamming technologies could be placed within the orbits of an opponent's spacecraft.

Carrier group

In addition to its "sea denial" and space warfare strategies, China is also expanding its conventional capabilities.

The PLA Air Force in recent years has extended its ability for offshore operations, enhancing an offensive capability. It is planning an overhaul of its ageing fleet with the deployment of over 3,000 new aircraft.

China first aircraft carrier began sea trials in 2011 For the most part China has relied on copying Russian fighter technology. However, the roll-out of the Chengdu J-20 Stealth fighter prototype raised eyebrows last year, carefully timed to coincide with a visit by the US defence secretary.

There have been some very significant developments in the deployment of Chinese submarines in recent years. Beijing possesses 10 Russian-built ultra-quiet Kilo class submarines possibly armed with 200km-range anti-ship cruise missiles.

Since 2006, when a Chinese submarine surfaced undetected within torpedo range of the US aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, China's submarine force has regularly marauded the US Navy and its allies in the Pacific.

It is thought that China plans to build three aircraft carrier battle groups, each armed with 40 fighters, up to eight warships, three nuclear-powered attack submarines and a number of support vessels. The PLA Navy's retrofitted Varyag carrier, currently under sea-trials, will serve as a training platform.

Even if the aircraft carrier would likely be a prestige piece and more directed at Chinese domestic pride, the prospect of a Chinese aircraft carrier will certainly cause ripples for the broader East Asian naval balance.

Uncertain factors

While much attention has been paid to the breakneck speed of Chinese military modernisation over the last decade, the events of 9/11 and the subsequent campaigns in the Middle East and Afghanistan provided a window of opportunity for China to accelerate development.

In some cases there may have been, quite literally, windfalls for the PLA. There is speculation that China acquired undamaged Tomahawk cruise missile components in the early stages of the Afghanistan campaign a decade ago.

When US special forces failed to completely destroy one of their stealth helicopters during Operation Geronimo, Pakistan's military may have allowed PLA counterparts to inspect the tail rotor.

The PLA must be congratulating itself on the impressive array of weaponry which has tilted the balance in the Taiwan Strait in its favour.

China's new-found capabilities combined with the opaque nature of its military modernisation create a formula for mistrust with the US.

There are perhaps three factors for uncertainty. Firstly, the Chinese military's confidence in its new equipment could lead to an overestimation of its capability as an emerging great power.

Secondly, the Chinese leadership could underestimate its ability to control an unexpected escalation of hostilities in the Pacific.

Finally, the domestic political factor - the PLA's external behaviour could become a reaction to internal nationalistic sentiment, instability or faction fighting as Beijing prepares for the fifth generation leadership handover this year.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 19, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 19, 2012

Iran: We'll Bring the War to Israel, and 'Beyond'

                                         Mahmud Ahmadinejad
                                            Story taken from

               Iran is preparing its own answers to the string of assassinations of Iranian scientists, a web site identified with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said Thursday – and those responsible had better start staying awake nights, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying.

Naming Israel specifically, the Rajah News website said that Israel wasn't the only country that could undertake long-distance proxy wars. “We too can send our agents to kill people in their sleep,” the site quoted the unnamed official as saying.

“None of those responsible will escape, none of them should feel safe,” the official told the website. “We will take the war beyond the borders of Iran, and beyond the borders of the region.”

Israeli commentators said that the statement was an implied threat that Iran could target American Jews in response to what it perceives is a covert war by Israel to halt Iran's nuclear program. Several months ago, the FBI announced the arrest of a terror gang connected to Iran that had planned to attack synagogues in the U.S., and to blow up the Saudi embassy in Washington.

An Israeli official quoted in the New York Times, while not confirming that Israel was behind the recent string of assassinations of Iranian scientists – including Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, killed Wednesday in Tehran – said that the assassinations were likely part of a “cold war” against Iran.

“I think the cocktail of diplomacy, of sanctions, of covert activity might bring us something. I think it's the right policy while we still have time,” the official said.

The U.S., meanwhile, successfully convinced Japan to cut its oil imports from Iran, as part of the mounting worldwide boycott of Iranian oil. After a meeting with visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Japanese officials promised to cut imports of Iranian oil. Japan is one of Iran's biggest customers.


Perfect Treasure in Flawed Vessels

Perfect Treasure in Flawed Vessels

Nearly Half of Churchgoing Americans Say Church Doesn’t Have an Effect on Their Lives


                                                 Story taken from

          Church is widely regarded as a regular action that can assist one in cultivating his or her faith, while subsequently experiencing personal benefits. While this characterization may hold validity for some, there’s a new study out that shows that, for nearly half of attendees, church isn‘t doing anything to impact or change individuals’ lives.

According to the Barna Group, an evangelical company that studies faith in America, nearly half (46 percent) of churchgoing Americans report that their lives have not changed at all as a result of attending church. While this is startling, 26 percent of individuals who reported having been to church before said that their lives had been changed or impacted “greatly” by the experience; 25 percent said that church was “somewhat” influential.

In addition to seeking changes in life, individuals also attend church so that they can connect with God. Most people do, indeed, feel like they have had “a real and personal connection” with the Almighty while sitting in the pews. Despite this majority find, nearly one-third of individuals report not having ever felt God’s presence while attending church. Barna has more:

One-third of all adults in the country report connecting with God at least monthly (35%) via a congregational setting. Among those who attend church every week, 44% said they experience God’s presence every week and 18% do so on a monthly basis.

There’s no doubt that Christians — like adherents of other faiths — go to church so that they can educate themselves on their faith, while building a relationship with God. One’s life, in the context of faith, likely won‘t change if he or she doesn’t better grasp the tenets of the system which they are a part of.

Considering the large portion of churchgoers who felt no impact on their lives as a result of attending, the fact that most people can‘t recall gaining new spiritual insights isn’t entirely surprising. Six-in-ten church attenders, when asked to recount their last visit to a house of worship, couldn’t remember any significant insight they gained related to their faith. Even more startling, among those who attended church in the past week, half said that they couldn’t recall any spiritual tidbits.

These results offer an overall picture that should concern pastors and faith leaders, but there were some positives. The majority of people feel connected to their church community. Additionally, people see their churches as caring for and being engaged with the poor — an important facet of Biblical teaching.

Barna Group president David Kinnaman reports that many Christians do, indeed, see the benefits that churches offer of connecting with God and other believers.

“Yet, the research results are also a reminder that faith leaders cannot take these things for granted,” Kinnaman said. “Millions of active participants find their church experiences to be lacking.”


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 18, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 18, 2012

The Light Of Life

                                                  By Michael Plemmons

     The Calendar tells us we have entered a new year. Never can I remember when so many voices have been clamoring to be heard. Ancient mystics like the Mayans tell us that this year is going to end in catastrophe. Still others fear an economic meltdown. The signs of potential disasters can readily be seen all around us in this hour.

I also believe these are dangerous times, and yet in these days of unprecedented worldwide alarm and concern, we of the Christian church are being called by our Father to humble ourselves before him.

The church of Jesus Christ and our world are entering its most critical hour. The signs in our world all point out serious concerns to which government leaders in nation after nation have no answers. In this hour where so many are having their hearts consumed with fear, is there someone in whom we can believe and trust?

Over two thousand years ago someone entered our world on a divine mission. He came to bring freedom and liberty to the world of man. At thirty years of age he answered the call of God on his life. Over the next three years he by his words and deeds brought a demonstration of love and compassion that changed the world.

His were hands of tenderness. His message brought hope to the thousands. He laid hands on the sick and oppressed and brought life into their lives. At the end of his life he who had walked in the power and demonstration of God, willingly laid down his life to bring freedom from darkness into the hearts of all people everywhere and for all time.

In the two thousand plus years since his resurrection his heart has remained the same. He is still calling out to all those hurt and wounded in our world. To that individual on a quest for truth, he claimed to be the very embodiment of all that truth is. He also said he was the way to truth and within him he had the ability to bring life into the human heart.

Sometimes we of the Christian faith forget just how simple the message of Jesus Christ is. We serve a living God and savior. His call to the church of Jesus Christ is to be filled with his love and passion for the hurting all around us. We are to lift holy hands not just in praise and worship, but to be a voice of life and light to a lost and hurting world.

Our hearts are to be filed with the compassion of God. His mission has never changed and all who would follow him must put others before themselves. Our call in this hour is to bring hope and love to the hurting and the desperate. He said we the church of Jesus Christ are the light of the world. Never has that light been more needed than now.

Russia: Attack on Tehran is Attack on Moscow

                             Russian Deputy Prime Minister
                                Dmitry Rogozin
                              Story taken from

      Russia has given Iran its bear hug and warns Israel and the West that an attack on Tehran would be considered an attack on Moscow. The threat heightens the prospect of World War III in the event of a military strike on Iran.

“Iran is our neighbor,” Russia's outgoing ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, told reporters in Brussels. “And if Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.”

Kremlin Security Council head Nikolai Patrushev accused Israel of provoking the United States towards war against Iran, the Russian Interfax news agency reported Friday. “But at the same time, we believe that any country has the right to have what it needs to feel comfortable, including Iran," he added.

Rogozin warned on Friday that more attacks on Iran could cause "a scorching Arab Summer."

Russia also has come to the defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, warning Western nations not to intervene in Syria with military forces. Russia is a major arms supplier to Syria and has a heavy investment in Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Japan also is drifting towards Iran, backtracking from its promise last week to back American sanctions aimed at persuading Iran to halt its unsupervised nuclear development.

Last week’s assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist has aroused more “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” protest rallies in Iran, where the scientist was buried on Friday.

Iranian state radio said the 32-year-old scientist was involved with enriched uranium, a key ingredient for a nuclear weapon.

U.S. Warns Israel On Strike

Leon Panetta
Story taken from

            U.S. defense leaders are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran, over U.S. objections, and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard U.S. facilities in the region in case of a conflict.

President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top officials have delivered a string of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the dire consequences of a strike. The U.S. wants Israel to give more time for the effects of sanctions and other measures intended to force Iran to abandon its perceived efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Stepping up the pressure, Mr. Obama spoke by telephone on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv next week.

The high-stakes planning and diplomacy comes as U.S. officials warn Tehran, including through what administration officials described Friday as direct messages to Iran's leaders, against provocative actions.

Tehran has warned that it could retaliate to tightened sanctions by blocking oil trade through the Strait of Hormuz. On Thursday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to punish the perpetrators of the assassination—blamed by Iran on the U.S. and Israel—of an Iranian scientist involved in the nuclear program.

The U.S. denied the charge and condemned the attack. Israel hasn't commented.

Covert efforts by Israel's intelligence service to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons have been credited with slowing the program without the high risk of military conflict that could be sparked by an airstrike. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful uses.

But Israel has declined to rule out a strike, as has the U.S.

"It is the policy of the Israeli government, and the Obama administration, that all options remain on the table. And it is crucial that the ayatollahs in Tehran take this policy seriously," said Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the U.S.

Mr. Netanyahu said in a recent interview that Iran has begun to "wobble," a signal some U.S. officials believe suggests he is willing to follow the current U.S. strategy, which seeks to avoid a military confrontation with Iran.

"Recent comments by the Israelis show they understand how tough the sanctions we've put in place are and are giving them time to work," said a senior Obama administration official.

The U.S. military is preparing for a number of possible responses to an Israeli strike, including assaults by pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, according to U.S. officials.

The U.S. believes its embassy and other diplomatic outposts in Iraq are more vulnerable following the withdrawal of U.S. forces last month. Up to 15,000 U.S. diplomats, federal employees and contractors are expected to remain in Iraq.

In large measure to deter Iran, the U.S. has 15,000 troops in Kuwait, and has moved a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf area.

It has also been pre-positioning aircraft and other military equipment, officials say. Arms transfers to key allies in the Gulf, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have been fast-tracked as a further deterrent, officials say.

Israeli officials said Mr. Netanyahu's government continues to closely coordinate with the U.S. in responding to the Iranian threat. "Israel believes that heightened sanctions combined with a credible military threat may dissuade the Iranian regime from developing nuclear capabilities," Mr. Oren said.

Mr. Panetta and other top officials have privately sought assurances from Israeli leaders in recent weeks that they won't take military action against Iran. But the Israeli response has been noncommittal, U.S. officials said.

U.S. officials briefed on the military's planning said concern has mounted over the past two years that Israel may strike Iran. But rising tensions with Iran and recent changes at Iranian nuclear sites have ratcheted up the level of U.S. alarm.

"Our concern is heightened," a senior U.S. military official said of the probability of an Israeli strike over U.S. objections.

Tehran crossed at least one of Israel's "red lines" earlier this month when it announced it had begun enriching uranium at the Fordow underground nuclear facility near the holy city of Qom.

The planned closing of Israel's nuclear plant near Dimona this month, which was reported in Israeli media, sounded alarms in Washington, where officials feared it meant Israel was repositioning its own nuclear assets to safeguard them against a potential Iranian counterstrike.

Despite the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel, U.S. officials have consistently puzzled over Israeli intentions. "It's hard to know what's bluster and what's not with the Israelis," said a former U.S. official.

Inside the Israeli security establishment, a sort of good cop, bad cop routine, in which Israeli officials rattle sabers amid a U.S. scramble to restrain them, has assumed its own name: "Hold Me Back."

Some American intelligence officials complain that Israel represents a blind spot in U.S. intelligence, which devotes little resources to Israel. Some officials have long argued that, given the potential for Israel to drag the U.S. into potentially explosive situations, the U.S. should devote more resources to divining Israel's true intentions.


Christian World News: January. 13, 2012

Christian World News: January. 13, 2012

Judge: Following Christian Beliefs Is Wrong

                                            Story taken from

           A ministry that follows the dictates of its faith is engaging in wrongdoing, according to a New Jersey judge who recommended today that the state Division on Civil Rights find the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association violated the state’s nondiscrimination law.

“The respondent violated the [Law Against Discrimination] when it refused to conduct a civil-union ceremony for Ms. Bernstein and Ms. Paster,” wrote Solomon Metzger, an administrative law judge whose determination will become final if not overturned by the Division of Civil Rights.

“Respondent opposes same-sex unions as a matter of religious belief, and in 2007 found itself on the wrong side of recent changes in the law.”

The seaside location has been popular for years for weddings, but the association, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, determined it could not biblically allow same-sex ceremonies to take place on its property.

So when Harriet Bernstein and Luisa Paster signed up for such a ceremony, they were turned down. They filed the discrimination complaint, and the state’s Division on Civil Rights joined their cause.

“The government should not be able to force a private Christian organization to use its property in a way that would violate its own religious beliefs,” said Jim Campbell, a litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

“Religious groups have the right to use their private property in a way that is consistent with their beliefs. That right, protected by both the New Jersey and U.S. constitutions, obviously trumps any law enacted by the state’s legislature.”

ADF, which represented the ministry, said would it consider the next step in the case, but its argument is that the ministry is exercising its constitutionally protected right to use its private property in a way consistent with its beliefs.

The women made their request in 2007, and the association declined because such an event would have violated its religious convictions.

ADF had argued that the association’s evangelistic goals include even classical concerts and Saturday-night family entertainment.

“Through these events, the association connects with people who might not attend its worship services and encourages them to attend those services in the future. For example, the association begins its Saturday-night family entertainment events with a brief prayer and typically a quick promotion of its upcoming religious services and events. These are just some of the diverse ways that the association strives, in all its programs, to reach the entire community with the love and Gospel message of Jesus Christ.”

Allowing various events at its pavilion, a wood-framed, open-air structure overlooking the Atlantic, was part of such an outreach, the arguments said.

Metzger’s opinion noted that since the dispute erupted, the state denied a portion of the organization’s tax exemption relating to the piece of property, because it “was not available on an equal basis.”

Ocean Grove then requested and obtained a tax exemption for the property under a different application standard.

“As a religious organization that deems same-gender unions sinful, respondent is loath to be associated with such ceremonies and maintains that compelling this through the LAD violates its right of expressive association, free speech and free exercise of religion,” Metzger said.

But he wrote, “That it had never before declined a wedding, other than for scheduling conflicts, only means that it had never before been asked to permit a same-gender service.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 17, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 17, 2012

Israel Could Take Out Iran’s Nuclear Infrastructure ‘In Two Days’

                                  GBU-27 Bunker Buster Bomb

                                      Story taken from

             Israel could destroy Iran’s nuclear infrastructure with three combat air squadrons, a report said.

A report by a leading aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israel Air Force could destroy most of Iran’s infrastructure in two days. The report by Yoaz Hendel, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, said air strikes could be augmented by naval operations.

The Israel Air Force deploys an arsenal of munitions, including the U.S.-origin GBU-27 and GBU-28 laser-guided bunker-buster bombs that could penetrate Iranian nuclear facilities. “The Israeli Air Force is capable of striking the necessary targets with two to three full squadrons of fighter-bombers with escorts to shoot down enemy aircraft,” the report titled “Iran’s Nukes and Israel’s Dilemma,” said. “However, most of the escorts will require refueling to strike the necessary targets in Iran. In addition, the Israelis can make use of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles from their Dolphin-class submarines.”

The report, published by the Philadelphia-based Middle East Quarterly, was the first by a senior Israeli government official. The publication said Hendel wrote his report before his recent appointment by the prime minister.

Hendel, a military historian, asserted that Israel was expected to target at least five main Iranian nuclear facilities. He cited the Bushehr light-water reactor facility, heavy-water plant in Arak, uranium conversion plant in Isfahan, the uranium enrichment facility in Qom and the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.

“Military planners may also feel compelled to attack Teheran’s centrifuge fabrication sites since their destruction would hamper the efforts to reestablish its nuclear program,” the report, released in late December 2011, said. “However, it is believed that the Iranians have dispersed some centrifuges to underground sites not declared to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency]. It is by no means clear that Israeli intelligence has a full accounting of where they are.”

Hendel stressed that Iran has already fortified most of its nuclear facilities. He said Natanz was mostly underground and surrounded by Russian-origin TOR-M1 air defense batteries. Qom, designed to accommodate 3,000 centrifuges, has been built into a mountain.

“The Israelis may also choose to bomb Iranian radar stations and air bases in order to knock out Teheran’s ability to defend its skies, particularly if multiple waves are required,” the report said.

Hendel said the Israel Air Force deploys an arsenal of munitions, including the U.S.-origin GBU-27 and GBU-28 laser-guided bunker-buster bombs that could penetrate Iranian nuclear facilities. He said the Air Force was training for deep strike missions since at least 2009 that included air and rapid ground refueling.

In all, Israel might have to attack as many as 60 targets in Iran. The report, citing Israeli electronic warfare capabilities, envisioned few aircraft losses and cited possible attack routes, including flying over Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

“The difficulties also depend on the precise goal of the air strike,” the report said. “A short-term, financially costly degradation of Iran’s nuclear program can be achieved in one wave of attacks, but Israeli defense analysts have estimated that a decisive blow could require hitting as many as 60 different targets with return sorties lasting up to two days.”

The analysis marked the latest effort by Israel to enhance deterrence against Iran. Middle East Quarterly said Hendel’s report reflected his personal view, but diplomats said the study was released in coordination with the Israeli government.

Hendel also envisions that Israel would target Iran’s energy sector in an attempt to prevent a massive counter-attack. He said Iran was likely to use both Hizbullah and Syria in any war with Israel.

“The Israelis will ultimately have to choose between launching an attack likely to spark a large-scale regional conflict and allowing Iran to go nuclear with dire long-term implications,” the report said.

“Notwithstanding some disagreement about the immediacy of the threat and possible repercussions, the large majority of Israelis favor military action over living with the ubiquitous threat of nuclear annihilation.”

The Dangers of Shariah Law - Rick Joyner with special guest Frank Gaffney Video | Prophetic Perspective on Current Events

The Dangers of Shariah Law - Rick Joyner with special guest Frank Gaffney Video Prophetic Perspective on Current Events

World's First 'Inter-Religious' University Concludes First Semester

                                                   Story taken from

               A Southern California academic institution that prides itself on being “the world’s first inter-religious university” has completed its first semester since opening its door.

Claremont Lincoln University, once a Methodist seminary, has decided to add other religious schools to its program, including most recently several Eastern religions.

Tammi J. Schneider, a professor of Hebrew Bible at Claremont School of Theology at Claremont LFloveincoln University, said that she had a favorable opinion of Claremont’s direction.

“I am a big fan of religious diversity,” said Schneider, who is also dean of the School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University, unofficially affiliated with Claremont Lincoln.

“I think people learn more about themselves and their own religion when they learn about how others do it.”

In June 2010, Claremont School of Theology’s president, the Reverend Jerry Campbell, announced the seminary will be partnering with Jewish and Islamic schools to offer training to seminarians of various faiths.

In September 2011, the schools launched Claremont Lincoln University. The name was a combination of the name of the theology school and the last name of a trustee who donated $50 million to the interfaith project.

By late 2011, Claremont Lincoln further expanded its interfaith campus to include Eastern religious views such as Buddhism and Jainism.

In an earlier interview with CP, Claremont School of Theology’s Director of Public Relations Claudia Pearce stressed that the university and the seminary were different.

“It’s important to distinguish between Claremont Lincoln and the individual religious schools here. In particular, Claremont School of Theology will continue to include evangelism in its curriculum,” said Pearce.

“However, when our Christian students take classes with the other faiths through Claremont Lincoln, they are instructed to refrain from proselytizing during class discussions…”

Although teaching at the multi-religious campus, Schneider admits that her classes have not been reflective of the increasingly diverse religious environment.

“Since I teach Hebrew Bible, and especially students getting PhDs in it and therefore are rather specialized classes, I have not seen much of a shift, at least not last semester,” said Schneider.

Schneider also said that as “there have been a few occasions where some things happened and the groups seemed to be talking past each other because the two sides simply did not even understand what the issue was for one side.”

Without going into specifics, Schneider nevertheless did not consider these issues to be “’problems’ per se.”

Grace Yia-Hei Kao, associate professor of ethics at Claremont Lincoln, said that she also believes there were issues as different religious groups interacted at the campus, but she also considered them “all resolved and resolvable.”

While Claremont Lincoln continues to look towards expansion of its many theology schools, other United Methodist seminaries are less willing to take such a route.

Jan Love, dean and professor of Christianity and world politics at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, said that her seminary has also experienced “the new demographic reality.”

“Christians increasingly live next door to, go to schools with, and share hospital and other community facilities with people of other faith traditions,” said Love.

“The Claremont Lincoln University decision to teach leaders of various faith traditions together in the same classroom is one way to respond. It's certainly not the only way to respond.”

Love explained that one way Candler responds is by having a curriculum requiring Master of Divinity students to take a class in a world religion other than Christianity.

“Candler likely will not ever respond to the new demographic reality the way that Claremont Lincoln University has responded,” said Love. “Candler has a clear, uncontested Christian identity that we enthusiastically embrace.”

The Brody File: South Carolina Primary and Beyond

The Brody File: South Carolina Primary and Beyond

Doomsday Clock Ticks Closer to Midnight

                                                Cover of the Bulletin for
                                                       Atomic  Scientists               

                                                    Story taken from

             By at least one measure, the world just got that much closer to apocalypse.

The Doomsday Clock, a figurative timepiece used as a barometer of humankind’s fate, was moved one minute closer to midnight on Tuesday, the first time it has been nudged forward since 2007. It is now 11:55, five minutes before the appointed hour.

The re-setting of the clock has become something of a gimmick in recent years, carried out by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a group established to raise awareness about the perils of nuclear weaponry, and aimed at warning the public about various catastrophic dangers.

But the process involved in deciding the time is a deeply serious one, overseen by a venerable board of scientists, Nobel laureates and others and concluded with a symposium in Washington. The setting of the clock is no longer based only on the proliferation of nuclear arms, but also on threats such as climate change and biological weaponry.

In moving the clock ahead on Tuesday, the BAS cited the failure of world leaders to achieve significant progress on the reduction of nuclear weapons and in developing a comprehensive response to climate change. Just two years ago, following global talks on climate change in Copenhagen and international pledges to reduce nuclear stockpiles, the BAS moved the clock backward by a minute.

Robert Socolow, a professor at Princeton University and a member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, during an event announcing a reset of the Doomsday Clock. (Saul Loeb — Getty Images)

“Faced with clear and present dangers of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, world leads are failing to change business as usual,” said Lawrence Krauss, co-chairman of the group’s board of sponsors.

“As we see it,” Krauss said, “the major challenge at the heart of humanity’s survival in the 21st century is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate ... and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons — and in fact setting the stage for global reductions.”

Since being unveiled in 1947, the clock has been reset 20 times. It came closest to doomsday in 1953, when the start of the nuclear arms race pushed its hand to two minutes to midnight, and moved the farthest away in 1991, when the signing of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) by the United States and the Soviet Union gave the world 17 minutes until midnight.

Despite the passage of various nonproliferation treaties, including the New START treaty under the Obama administration, the United States and Russia remain the chief reasons for concern when it comes to nuclear weaponry, according to Kennette Benedict, the BAS’s executive director. The United States and other major powers have not yet ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. There has also been little progress on a treaty that would prohibit further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

“Overall, there’s just really no new thinking,” Benedict said.

Monday, January 16, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 16, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 16, 2012

New US Military Policy Turns Focus To China

                                                    Story taken from

         The new military strategy President Obama announced Thursday marked a shift of priorities toward America’s biggest 21st Century rival: China.

In an unprecedented presidential announcement from the Pentagon briefing room, Obama affirmed that the U.S. would emphasize the Asia-Pacific region as well as the Middle East as “the tide of war is receding” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The move will push the U.S. into further competition with China, which has advanced its military strength in the past decade and emerged as the region’s biggest player.

Even as the U.S. prepares for Pentagon budget cuts of more than $450 billion over the next decade, Obama said that the military will grow in the Pacific.

“As I made clear in Australia, we will be strengthening our presence in the Asia Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of that critical region,” Obama said Thursday, referencing a speech he gave while visiting the country two months ago.

In Australia, Obama announced 2,500 U.S. Marines would be stationed in Darwin, Australia, in one of the first signals of the new U.S. position toward the Pacific.

“All of the trends, demographic trends, geopolitical trends, economic trends and military trends are shifting toward the Pacific,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday. “So our strategic challenges in the future will largely emanate out of the Pacific region.”

Reacting to Thursday’s announcement, an editorial in Global Times, the newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said China should “remain sober” in response to the U.S. shift.

“China should try to avoid a new cold war with the U.S., but by no means should it give up its peripheral security in exchange for U.S.' ease in Asia,” the newspaper wrote. “The U.S. must realize that it cannot stop the rise of China and that being friendly to China is in its utmost interests.”

The 12-page strategic document outlining the new U.S. military strategy said the “maintenance of peace, stability, the free flow of commerce, and of U.S. influence in this dynamic region will depend in part on an underlying balance of military capability and deterrence.”

The document said the U.S. would continue to project power despite anti-access and area-denial threats from “states such as China and Iran,” which includes cyber warfare, ballistic and cruise missiles and advanced air defenses.

Lumping China together with Iran, top U.S. military officials emphasized they are not going to be abandoning the Middle East with the end of the Iraq war and a drawdown in Afghanistan.

The U.S. also has a watchful eye on another country in East Asia that could upend security: North Korea.

But with budget cuts on the horizon, the focus on Asia and the Middle East will come at the expense of other regions. While the Pentagon is waiting until the budget comes out in a few weeks to get into specifics, defense analysts expect European U.S. military presence in particular will be reduced. The Pentagon’s policy document said the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan has created an opportunity to “rebalance the U.S. military investment in Europe.”“The question until Thursday was would the administration make tradeoffs or would they cut across the board, and they decided they would indeed make some priorities,” said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia Program at the Center for a New American Security. “It’s not unexpected, but it wasn’t absolutely a certainty either.”

Obama has branded the new military policy as his own, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted that his involvement in formulating the strategy was “truly unprecedented.”

As Obama heads into reelection, Republican presidential hopefuls have criticized the president for not taking a harsher stance against China. Former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) has said he would “clamp down on China” and label the country a currency manipulator on his first day in office.

“It’s time to let a conservative businessman take the reins of government to make sure America, not China is the economic powerhouse of the world,” Romney said at the Values Voter Summit in October.

An enhanced military presence in the Pacific doesn’t mean military conflict is on the horizon, and the move is as much about economics as it is security.

“Our two countries have a strong stake in peace and stability in East Asia and an interest in building a cooperative bilateral relationship,” the Pentagon document says. “However, the growth of China’s military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region.”

For the military, a shift to the Pacific means a shift toward air and sea power, at the expense of ground forces. Troop reductions are expected for the Army and Marine Corps, as the U.S. discontinues its policy of being ready to fight two ground wars at once.

Of course, while Thursday’s announcement gave broad policy direction, the details of the new shift won’t really be known until the Pentagon budget is released. Officials say that will happen soon after the president’s State of the Union later this month.

Islamic Control in America - Rick Joyner with special guest Frank Gaffney Video | Prophetic Perspective on Current Events

Islamic Control in America - Rick Joyner with special guest Frank Gaffney Video Prophetic Perspective on Current Events

Military Buildup in Persian Gulf Continues

                          Russian Carrier Admiral Kuznetfov heads for Syra  
                                                Story taken from                

            US, Russian French and British air and naval forces streamed to the Syrian and Iranian coasts over the weekend on guard for fresh developments at the two Middle East flashpoints.

The Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov anchored earlier than planned at Syria's Tartus port on the Mediterranean Sunday, Jan. 8, arriving together with the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and frigate Yaroslav Mudry.

To counter this movement, France consigned an air defense destroyer Forbin to the waters off Tartus.

debkafile's military sources report a buildup in the last 48 hours of western naval forces opposite Iran in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea in readiness for Tehran to carry out its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.

Britain has dispatched the HMS Daring, a Type 45 destroyer armed with new technology for shooting down missiles, to the Sea of Oman, due to arrive at the same time as the French Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier.

Our sources report too that Saturday, the giant RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV, took off from the USS Stenning aircraft carrier for surveillance over the coasts of Iran. The Stennis and its strike group are cruising in the Sea of Oman at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz after Tehran announced it would not be allowed to cross through.

This was the first time the US has deployed unmanned aerial vehicles over Iran since its RQ-170 stealth drone was shot down by Iran on Dec. 4. It was also the first time the huge drone was ordered to take off from an aircraft carrier for a Broad Aerial Maritime Surveillance Mission (BAMS).

US military sources reported Monday, Jan. 9 that the Global Hawk's mission is "to monitor sea traffic off the Iranian coast and the Straits of Hormuz." The US Navy was ordered to maintain a watch on this traffic, another first, after Iranian Navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said in a televised broadcast Sunday night that the Strait of Hormuz was under full Iranian control and had been for years.

Also Sunday, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Chiefs of Staff, warned in no uncertain terms that Iran has the ability to block the Strait of Hormuz “for a period of time.” He added in a CBS interview: “We’ve invested in capabilities to ensure that if that happens, we can defeat that.” Gen. Dempsey went on to emphasize: "Yes, they can block it. We've described that as an intolerable act and it's not just intolerable for us, it's intolerable to the world. But we would take action and reopen the straits."

Appearing on the same program, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a quick, decisive and very tough American response to any Iranian attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz.

They both spoke a few hours after a spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards said the supreme Iranian leadership had ruled the Strait must be closed in the event of an oil embargo imposed on Iran by the European Union.

debkafile's military sources report the constant escalation of military tension around Iran and Syria in recent days as not just stemming from the rapid advances Iran is making toward production of a nuclear weapon, but from fears in the West and Israel that Tehran and Damascus are in step over their military plans for the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean sectors.

After the Admiral Kuznetsov docked in Tartus Sunday with much fanfare, the Syrian Navy commander Dawoud Rajha was received on the deck by a guard of honor of marines under a flyover of Russian Su-33 and Su-25 fighter-bombers. This was taken as a signal of Moscow's willingness to back the Assad regime up against any Western military intervention as well as a gesture of support for cooperation between Syria and Iran in their operational plans.

Sunday, the Iranian media issued divergent statements about the situation at Iran's underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordo, near Qom: In English, the site as described as going on stream soon, while the Farsi media reported it was already operational.

The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun Abbasi Davani declared furthermore," …the Islamic Republic is capable of exporting services related to nuclear energy to other countries."

This statement showed that Tehran has no fear of raising the level of its threats to the West up to the point of offering to hand out its nuclear technology to other countries in a gesture of uncontrolled proliferation.

Jerusalem Dateline: 2011 Middle East Recap

Jerusalem Dateline: 2011 Middle East Recap

Islamic-Majority Countries Top Persecutors Of Christians

                                                  Story taken from

          The Open Doors 2012 World Watch List has a familiar look to it. North Korea tops the list for the 10th straight time as the country where Christians face the most severe persecution, while Islamic-majority countries represent nine of the top 10 and 38 of the 50 countries on the annual ranking.

Afghanistan (2), Saudi Arabia (3), Somalia (4), Iran (5) and the Maldives (6) form a bloc where indigenous Christians have almost no freedom to openly worship. For the first time Pakistan (10) entered the top 10, after a tumultuous year during which the nation’s highest-ranking Christian politician, Cabinet Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated for his attempts to change the blasphemy law.

The rest of the top 10 is composed of Uzbekistan (7), Yemen (8) and Iraq (9). Laos was the lone country to drop from the top 10 list, falling to No. 12 from No. 10.

While persecution has worsened due to persecution by Muslim extremists, without question North Korea once again deserves its No. 1 ranking.

Defiantly Communist, North Korea built a bizarre quasi-religion around the founder of the country, Kim Il-Sung. Anyone with “another god” is automatically persecuted. The estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Christians in this country must remain deeply underground. An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are held in ghastly prison camps.

“How the death of Kim Jong-Il last month and the coming to power of his son Kim Jong-Un will affect the status of Christians in North Korea is hard to determine at this early stage,” Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller said. “Certainly the situation for believers remains perilous. Please pray with me that the Lord will open up North Korea and there will be religious freedom to worship the One, true God, not the gods of Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung.”

There are significant moves on the World Watch List, including Sudan moving up 19 spots to No. 16 – the biggest leap of any country from 2011. Nigeria jumped 10 spots to No. 13. Egypt, racked by violent protests and upheaval during the Arab Spring, rose four positions to No. 15. Increased Islamic extremism triggered the upward movement of Sudan, Nigeria and Egypt.

“Being a Muslim Background Believer or ‘Secret Believer’ Christian in a Muslim-dominated country is a huge challenge. Christians often face persecution from extremists, the government, their community and even their own families,” said Moeller. “As the 2012 World Watch List reflects, the persecution of Christians in these Muslim countries continues to increase. While many thought the Arab Spring would bring increased freedom, including religious freedom for minorities, that certainly has not been the case so far.”

In July 2011 southern Sudan, which is mostly Christian, seceded to become an independent country, called South Sudan, leaving the Christians of North Sudan much more isolated under President Omar al-Bashir. In response to the loss of the south, al-Bashir vowed to make constitutional changes to make his country even more Islamic. On the ground the military has attacked Christian communities in battles over resources with many being killed.

Nigeria remains the country with the worst atrocities in terms of lives lost. More than 300 Christians were martyred last year in Nigeria, though the actual number is believed to be double or triple that number. The total is probably greater in North Korea, but impossible to confirm due to its isolation. Since 2009 the extreme Islamic group Boko Haram has destroyed more than 50 churches and killed 10 pastors in Nigeria.

Egyptian Christians experienced a disastrous start to 2011 when a bombing at the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Mark and Pope Peter in Alexandria killed 21 Christians on New Year’s Day. After the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February, hopes soared for new freedoms for all Egyptians. But on Oct. 9 the military turned on its own citizens in the Maspero massacre in Cairo, killing 27 Coptic Christian demonstrators. At the close of 2011, Islamist parties flourished in the November elections, prompting some to speak of an Arab Winter instead of an Arab Spring for Christians.

China still has the world’s largest persecuted church of 80 million, but it dropped out of the top 20 this year to No. 21. Last year China ranked No. 16. This is due in large part to the house church pastors learning how to play “cat and mouse” with the government.

The good news behind the bad news of rising persecution is an increase in church growth, which often results from the persecution itself. A pastor in Iran states: “We wouldn’t be growing if we didn’t have a price to pay for our witness.”

The WWL is based on a questionnaire devised by Open Doors to measure the degree of persecution in over 60 countries. The questionnaires are filled out by Open Doors field personnel working in the countries, and cross-checked with independent experts, to arrive at a quantitative score per country. Countries are then ranked according to points received.

An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 12, 2012

News Channel Morning Edition: January 12, 2012

The Influence of Shariah Law in America - Rick Joyner with special guest Frank Gaffney Video | Prophetic Perspective on Current Events

The Influence of Shariah Law in America - Rick Joyner with special guest Frank Gaffney Video Prophetic Perspective on Current Events

Deployment of Thousands of U.S. Troops in Israel Has Raised Speculation of an Imminent War

                                US troops in Israel
                                  Story taken from

       The Middle East roils in crisis as a U.S. aircraft carrier entered one of the world’s most important choke point for oil shipments, the Strait of Hormuz, which Iran has threatened to close if the United States raises sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The deployment of thousands of U.S. troops in Israel has raised speculation of an imminent war.

On December 20, the Jerusalem Post reported that Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the U.S. forces based in Germany, said that there will be a deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel.

An Egypt-based military expert, major general Jamal Mathloum, said that “there is a military strategic cooperation between the U.S. and Israel since the 1980s and there is definitely mutual understanding.” He added that the U.S. troop deployment might not necessarily mean a direct signal of war, but that it could be read as Israel and U.S. readiness in case of a conflict arising in the region.

“There is already a U.S. radar station in southern Israel, and might contain from 500 to 700 American soldiers operating there,” Mathloum said.

But for Abdulaziz Sager, chairman and founder of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, the deployment of U.S. troops in Israel is “definitely to send a clear signal to Iran.”

Sager said that there is a U.S.-Israel defense agreement that makes defending the Jewish state an obligation to the United States. In addition to that, U.S. President Barack Obama said in his last AIPAC meeting that the United States does not rule out any option against Iran.

According to, an Israeli website that provides political and security analysis, about 9,000 U.S. soldiers have already arrived in Israel. But Mathloum said this figure remains insignificant compared to the more than 100,000 American soldiers dispersed in 1,000 U.S. bases worldwide.

Lt.-Gen. Gorenc’s announcement came as he was visiting Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill. There will also be an establishment of American command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany – with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East, the newspaper reported.

But according to Elias Henna, a Lebanon-based expert in military issues, the deployment of 9,000 U.S. troops in Israel goes back to the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and to support U.S. presence in the region and not to leave the “Arab field” open to further Iranian influence.

Asked why the United States did not increase its troop numbers in its military bases in the Persian Gulf, Henna said that both countries [Israel and United States] have far more compatible militaries, are bound with military agreements and that the United States has more freedom in Israel.

“Israel does not mind even if one million U.S. soldiers to be deployed in the Jewish state,” he added. As the U.S. and Israel continue their cooperation in light of the crisis looming around Iran, the Islamic Republic appears to remain unyielding.

On Sunday, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization Fereydoun, Abbasi Davani, reportedly said that Iran’s underground uranium enrichment facility will go on stream soon. Davani said that the Fordow nuclear enrichment plant will be operational in the near future and that around 20 percent, 3.5 percent and four percent enriched uranium can be produced at the site.

“There is no third party to verify about the site [Fordow] and truth about the announcement,” said Sager, adding “they can say all they want to say but there is no confirmation or verification.”

US National Debt Now Bigger Than the Economy

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              The U.S. national debt, now more than $15.23 trillion, has surpassed the amount of economic output in a single year.

The gross domestic product (GDP), the value of all goods and services produced in the United States, for all of 2010 was likely around $15.3 trillion. The last time the national debt surpassed the GDP was for three years during and after World War II.

Diane Lim Rogers, chief economist for The Concord Coalition, a non-partisan organization advocating responsible fiscal policy, said, in an email to The Christian Post, that the milestone should be understood in proper context. The important numbers to look at are the net debt and the growth of that debt relative to GDP.

The $15.23 trillion is gross debt, which is the amount owed to investors plus the amount the government owes itself, due to the Social Security trust fund. The net debt, or debt held by the public, is of more economic significance, Rogers explained. The net debt is about $10.5 trillion, which is about 65 to 70 percent of GDP.

Additionally, the size of the national debt is a “huge concern,” Rogers said, because of how fast the debt is growing relative to GDP. As large as the national debt is, if the economy was growing faster than the rate at which the government is borrowing money, the debt would not be much of a concern. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

“The federal fiscal outlook is on an economically unsustainable path,” Rogers explained, because, deficits as a percent of GDP have been much larger in recent years than the growth rate of the economy. Deficits as a percent of GDP have been around eight to 10 percent in recent years while the economy has grown around two percent a year. (In the past, economic growth averaged around three percent a year.)

Having debt is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, Rogers believes. It is when government debt (or household debt for that matter) exceeds its capacity to repay the debt that it runs into trouble. When the cost of keeping debt (interest payments) consume a greater part of the budget, the government has less capacity to spend money on things that could help the economy, which ultimately help to pay the debt.

Another problem with the nation's debt growing faster than its GDP, Rogers points out, is that at some point investors will no longer view U.S. debt as a safe investment. When that happens, the U.S. will have to pay more interest on its debt, thus reducing its capacity to pay down the debt and limiting its ability to spend money on other parts of the budget.

“We don't know exactly where that cliff point is reached,” Rogers said, “but we know it's somewhere along the path between where debt is today and where debt is projected to go in coming decades if we stay on the 'business as usual' policy path where spending and tax cuts continue to be routinely deficit financed.”