Thursday, April 30, 2015

'Inching Toward Conflict': U.S. Navy To Escort Cargo Ships In Persian Gulf; Iran Refuses To Back Down

From Zero Hedge:

Stocks took a nasty fall on Tuesday when Al Arabiya erroneously reported that Iran had captured a cargo ship with a crew of Americans on board. It also sent oil surging. Things promptly normalized when it was revealed that the "confiscated" ship was merely one with a Marshall Island flag, at which point its fate was quickly forgotten (it may still be held by Iran, or not). But one thing is certain: both Iran and the US are itching for a provocation, whether a direct one or the far more traditional false flag type.

Earlier today, Iran's Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said that presence of the 34th fleet of the Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Aden is in accordance with international law to protect Iranian trade vessels against pirates.

Quoted by Iran's IRNA news agency, Sayyari, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony to mark the National Teacher's Day, said that the Iranian Navy has maintained a continuous presence in the Gulf of Aden, Bab el-Mandeb Strait and western India since 2008 Sayyari

He added that claims that Iranian warships have been warned and that they have left this region are not correct.
The Navy commander reiterated that the Iranian fleet does not enter territorial waters of other countries and is only present in international waters to ensure security for Iranian trade vessels.
Sayyari said that the 34th fleet of the Iranian Navy has also helped other countries in protecting their ships against pirates. 

A laughable excuse of course, but no less laughable than the one provided by the US navy offered ten days ago when we learned that a US Navi aircraft carrier and a warship are being dispatched to intercept Iranian weapons shipment to Yemeni rebels. 
And, as expected, moments ago there was yet another step up in the Persian Gulf naval escalation when CNN reported that the U.S. Navy will escort U.S.-flagged cargo ships through Strait of Hormuz in wake of Iran seizure this week, a US official says. Specifically, the Navy will henceforth accompany ships on concern that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard may seize them, CNN’s Jim Sciutto says in Twitter post, citing CNN’s Barbara Starr. 

As a reminder the Straits of Hormuz is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, one which is transited by 35% of all seaborne traded oil.

This takes place just a day after the Pentagon said that the U.S. would "be able to respond" if necessary to help a Marshall Islands-flagged ship that was diverted, and boarded, a day earlier by Iran -- though it remains unclear how far the U.S. Navy might be willing to go if the tense situation escalates.  
Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said a U.S. guided-missile destroyer, the USS Farragut, is in the area and "keeping an eye on things," and in close enough proximity to the ship that they "will be able to respond if a response is required." 
When pressed on what kind of incident aboard the ship would elicit a U.S. Navy response, he was vague, saying: "These [U.S. military] assets give commanders options." He said he didn't know "what the possibilities are," and the U.S. government is "in discussions with the Marshall Islands on the way ahead." 
It is unclear what happens if either the accompanied cargo ship, or the US Navy warship leaves international waters, and enters Iran territory, which as the Bab el-Mandeb Strait is virtually assured: a strait which as the US Naval update map below shows has become as busy for US traffic as the 405 Freeway during rush hour.

Britain has informed a United Nations sanctions panel of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to two blacklisted firms, according to a confidential report by the panel seen by Reuters.

The existence of such a network could add to Western concerns over whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal due by June 30 in which it would agree to restrict sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.

Talks between six major powers and Tehran are approaching the final stages after they hammered out a preliminary agreement on April 2, with Iran committing to reduce the number of centrifuges it operates and to other long-term nuclear limitations.

"The UK government informed the Panel on 20 April 2015 that it 'is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network which has been associated with Iran's Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) and Kalay Electric Company (KEC)'," the Panel of Experts said in its annual report. The panel monitors Iran's compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime.

KEC is under U.N. Security Council sanctions while TESA is under U.S. and European Union sanctions due to their suspected links to banned Iranian nuclear activities.

Iran, which is has been under sanctions for years, has a long history of illicit nuclear procurement using front companies and other methods of skirting sanctions.

That has enabled it to develop a substantial atomic program in spite of aggressive international efforts to curtail it, U.N. diplomats say. But analysts and Western intelligence officials say sanctions have slowed the development of Tehran’s nuclear program.

The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency have repeatedly said that Tehran has so far complied with the terms of a limited agreement struck in November 2013 between Iran and the six powers involving some reductions in its nuclear activities, including enrichment.
The report could add to skepticism in the U.S. Congress over the wisdom of engaging Iran, as senators vote on a bill subjecting the agreement to congressional review. Some Republicans are seeking to inject amendments that would toughen the demands on Iran. 

A spokesman for Republican Dan Coats said the senator "believes recent allegations of Iranian circumvention are further proof that a skeptical Congress must have a voice."

U.S. ally Israel also says Iran cannot be trusted.
The panel noted multiple media reports of Iranian weapons shipments to Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen as well as Hezbollah and Hamas militants in violation of a U.N. embargo -- some of them quoting Iranian officials talking openly about arms shipments abroad.

And yet, it said, not a single country reported those arms shipments to the Security Council's Iran sanctions committee in line with standard procedure for suspected breaches.

It is against this backdrop that I read that there is according to some “a relentless war against cash payments”. By all accounts, it is accelerating and there are those who would like to eliminate the use of cash all together. If the velocity of money is falling with cash still circulating who knows what it would to do to a cashless society. Tech “geeks” might love a cashless society but for many it is their means of survival and it would most likely be the end of privacy, as we know it.

Ostensibly, the reason for ending cash is to put a stop to terrorists, jihadists, drug dealers, money launderers, tax evaders and many others. But the reality of it would be that everyone would be forced to make their payments through the financial system and allow governments to track their citizens. Many would most likely not object to it. But it would most likely impact everyone including many in a negative way.

It is difficult to say where the call for a cashless society came as it is an idea that has been around for some time. But the cry has come loud from the Euro zone where interest rates are now negative. When interest rates are below zero it costs money to keep your funds in the bank. Cash already pays nothing so holding cash is preferred to keeping your money in a financial institution that charges you. Out of this, Citibank’s Willem Buiter has suggested that a) abolish currency, b) tax currency, and c) remove the fixed exchange rate between currency and central bank reserves/deposits.

France’s finance minister Michel Sapin blamed the Charlie Hebdo murders on the attacker’s ability to buy weapons with cash. Result France announced capital controls that included €1,000 cap on cash payments a drop from €3,000. Spain restricts cash payments to £2,500 and Italy restricts them to £1,000.

– J.P. Morgan Chase has put restrictions on borrowers from making cash payments on credit cards, mortgages, equity lines, auto loans and prohibiting the storage of cash in safety deposit boxes.
– Banks in the Euro zone that pay negative interest rates are looking at ways to prevent withdrawals of cash. It raises the question so when is a demand deposit account not a demand deposit account. Banks would not have sufficient cash on hand to cover mass withdrawals. Huge withdrawals to avoid negative interest rates would impact negatively their fractional reserves.
– The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is on record as stating that it doesn’t like to see the hoarding of cash to circumvent their negative interest rate policy. Can banks actually refuse to give customers their cash that is legally theirs? It would seem that way.
– A number of banks in Sweden apparently have cashless branches and they refuse to pay out cash. Customers are moving their accounts to banks that will allow them access cash.
– In the US, customers who withdraw $5,000 or more are to be reported. Many banks have also instituted maximum cash withdrawals. Capital controls in the banking system it would seem are becoming normal.
– According to a report HSBC in the UK is interrogating customers on how they earn and spend their money and restricting large cash withdrawals to £5,000.
– The State of Louisiana passed a bill – Bill 195 that would make it easier to track the sales of stolen goods. The bill could have far-reaching consequences in effectively putting every flea market, goodwill, garage sales, Craigslist, and Kijiji out of business. Apparently, the bill requires that second hand goods be paid with credit cards, cheques, money orders, debit cards, or electronic transfer. They no longer can use cash. The bill also required that second hand sellers obtain a considerable amount of information on each buyer. The process seemed to fly in the face that a US dollar is legal tender for all debts.

The use of cash is considered a suspicious activity. Restrictions on the use of cash appears to be becoming more prevalent. In Canada, banks do put restrictions on how much one can withdraw from an ATM. Large withdrawals or deposits come under the auspice of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

Despite using terrorists, jihadists, money launderers and others as an excuse for a cashless society the real target could be the cash underground economy that for the most part can’t be monitored or taxed. The size of the Canadian underground economy has been highlighted recently in a report that puts its size at $42.4 billion in 2012 or 2.3% of GDP. A cashless society would be going after everyone to collect taxes from contractors that take cash under the table for renovations to individuals holding Saturday morning garage sales and churches holding rummage sales.

The move to a cashless society is not something that is going to happen overnight. So far, it seems to be being implemented slowly and in stages. Banks, central banks and governments are behind the movement. The technology is already there to move to a cashless society. Eliminating cash allows governments to track everyone both the innocent and the guilty.

The trouble is what impact could the move to a cashless society have on the economy? Already the velocity of money is falling rapidly. In a cashless society, M1 could become a relic of a bygone era. And it could also cause considerable problems as currency to pay for goods and services has been around for centuries and a cashless society might not be fully acceptable by significant portions of the population. The loss of privacy could be only one issue related to a cashless society.

The end of cash could raise more questions than answers. On the surface, it would leave a huge unanswered question as to “what is money worth?” Not much, it seems in a world of negative interest rates and rising bank fees just to place ones money in the bank. Negative interest rates are a distortion of the market as holding cash would be punitive. It could force people into investing in higher risk securities. It could also be good for gold, as gold remains an historical store of value. There is also the law of unintended consequences when one tries to enforce what amounts to what one may call a command economy. 
Given that the recent US GDP numbers were quite low and probably negative once one strips out inventory buildup it would not be surprising that the velocity of money (M1 and M2) has fallen further. None of this is positive and it could be another sign that the global economy could be in more trouble then what is currently evident.

Christian Leaders Threaten Civil Disobedience, Texas Governor Calls Up State Guard To Counter Jade Helm, China And Coming War?

'We Will Not Obey'

“We will not obey.”
That’s the blunt warning a group of prominent religious leaders is sending to the Supreme Court of the United States as they consider same-sex marriage.
“We respectfully warn the Supreme Court not to cross that line,” read a document titled, Pledge in Solidarity to Defend Marriage. “We stand united together in defense of marriage. Make no mistake about our resolve.” 
“While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross,” the pledge states.
The signees are a who’s who of religious leaders including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, National Religious Broadcasters president Jerry Johnson, Pastor John Hagee, and Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.
The pledge was co-drafted by Deacon Keith Fournier, a Catholic deacon, and Mat Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel. Also involved in the document were Rick Scarborough, the president of Vision America Action and James Dobson, the founder of Family Talk Radio. 
“We’re sending a warning to the Supreme Court and frankly any court that crosses the line on the issue of marriage,” Staver told me.
He said that once same-sex marriage is elevated to the level of protected status – it will transform the face of society and will result in the “beginning of the end of Western Civilization.”
“You are essentially saying that boys and girls don’t need moms and dads – that moms and dads are irrelevant,” Staver said. “Gender becomes pointless when government adopts same-sex marriage. It creates a genderless relationship out of a very gender-specific relationship. It says that it doesn’t matter and that two moms or two dads are absolutely equivalent to a mom and a dad.”

Dobson said the legalization of same-sex marriage could fracture the nation.
“The institution of marriage is fundamental and it must be defended,” he told me. “It’s the foundation for the entire culture. It’s been in existence for 5,000 years. If you weaken it or if you undermine it – the entire superstructure can come down. We see it as that important.”
And that means the possibility of Christians – people of faith – engaging in acts of civil disobedience.
“Yes, I’m talking about civil disobedience,” Staver said. “I’m talking about resistance and I’m talking about peaceful resistance against unjust laws and unjust rulings.”
That’s quite a shocking statement. So I asked Mr. Staver to clarify his remarks.
“I’m calling for people to not recognize the legitimacy of that ruling because it’s not grounded in the Rule of Law,” he told me. “They need to resist that ruling in every way possible. In a peaceful way – they need to resist it as much as Martin Luther King, Jr. resisted unjust laws in his time.”
“We’re facing a real Constitutional crisis if the Supreme Court rules adversely from our perspective on same-sex marriage,” he told me. For me there’s no option. I’m going to choose to serve the Lord. And I think that thousands of other pastors will take that position and hundreds of thousands – if not millions of Christians.”
Scarborough is urging pastors across the nation to sign the pledge. 
He referenced the “outrageous penalties” being assessed against people of faith simply because they don’t want to participate in a same-sex union.
An Oregon bakery is facing a $135,000 fine for refusing to make a cake for a lesbian wedding and a Washington State florist faces fines for refusing to participate in a gay wedding.
“Christians are being declared the lawbreakers when we are simply living by what we have always believed, and by a set of laws that the culture historically has agreed to,” he said. “Right now the courts are changing the playing field and declaring that what the natural eye can see and natural law reveals is not truth. ...  What will we do, and how will we respond?”

Dobson said there’s no doubt that LGBT activists are targeting Christian business owners.
“For about 50 years the homosexual community has had as its goal to change the culture, to change the ideology and if necessary – to force people who don’t agree by use of the courts,” Dobson told me. “I think there’s a collision here and we can all see it and where it’s going to go is anybody’s guess – but it is serious.”
To be clear – the men and women who courageously signed this pledge did so knowing the hell storm that is about to be unleashed on them – and their families.
“We have no choice,” Staver told me. “We cannot compromise our clear biblical convictions, our religious convictions.

We’ve mentioned the upcoming Jade Helm military exercises on a few occasions lately (here and here). In short, Jade Helm is an eight-week joint military and Interagency Unconventional Warfare exercise conducted throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Here’s the official press release:

Members of U.S. Army Special Operations Command will train with other U.S Armed Forces units July 15 through Sept. 15 in a multi-state exercise called Jade Helm 15.

USASOC periodically conducts training exercises such as these to practice core special warfare tasks, which help protect the nation against foreign enemies. It is imperative that Special Operations Soldiers receive the best training, equipment and resources possible.

While multi-state training exercises such as these are not unique to the military, the size and scope of Jade Helm sets this one apart. To stay ahead of the environmental challenges faced overseas, Jade Helm will take place across seven states. However, Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) will only train in five states: Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The diverse terrain in these states replicates areas Special Operations Soldiers regularly find themselves operating in overseas. 

The training exercise will be conducted on private and public land with the permission of the private landowners, and from state and local authorities.  In essence, all exercise activity will be taking place on pre-coordinated public and private lands.

The public can expect nothing much different from their day-to-day activities since much of exercise will be conducted in remote areas. The most noticeable effect the exercise may have on the local communities is an increase in vehicle and military air traffic and its associated noise. There will also be economic gain: an increase in the local economy, in fuel and food purchases and hotel lodging.

Got it. So essentially, from July 15 to September 15 some military personnel are going to take a trip out west and pretend like they are conducting covert operations overseas. Doesn’t sound too exciting — but that’s just the press release. The devil, as they say, is always in the details which is why we took some time to look over the Jade Helm presentation (embedded below) to see if we could discern more about the drills. Here are some highlights we found interesting/humorous.
First, there’s the rather amusing state classification map wherein Texas and Utah are deemed “hostile” and where New Mexico is “leaning hostile.” California is “permissive” (we suppose this means the populace has resigned itself to what was probably, were this real, a unilateral invasion by the US military), but unfortunately, there appears to be an insurgency brewing in San Diego. 

Next is the section entitled “Why Texas?” wherein the US Army Special Operations Command first explains how patriotic Texans generally are, then hilariously proceeds to suggest (in as polite a manner as possible) that the Lone Star state 1) resembles the type of desert wasteland soldiers might expect to encounter in a modern overseas conflict, 2) is just underdeveloped enough in many areas to give trainees an idea of what it might be like to be operating undercover in a hostile Middle Eastern country, 3) is home to the type of xenophobia which will make the locals approximately as skeptical of “outsiders” as the inhabitants of an occupied country might be but who are at the same time just gullible enough to be tricked into trusting the “invaders,” and best of all 4) is home to social and economic conditions that any normal American would consider “unfamiliar.” Here are some excerpts:

Why Texas?
The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has conducted numerous exercises in Texas, because Texans are historically supportive of efforts to prepare our soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors to fight the enemies of the United States. 

To hone advanced skills, the military and Interagency require large areas of undeveloped land with low population densities with access to towns… 

Operating in and around communities where anything out the ordinary will be spotted and reported (Locals are the first to notice something out of place). The opportunity to work with civilians to gain their trust and an understanding of the issues...

Adapting to unfamiliar terrain, social and economic conditions. 

Basically then, 1,200 special ops soldiers are going to conduct a fake, covert infiltration of Texas because the US Special Operations Command thinks that in a lot of ways, Texas resembles Afghanistan. 

That’s ok though, because as the government notes in the informational slide deck, the operation will have a dramatic impact on the local economy thanks to the injection of a staggering $150,000 via the purchase of “food, gas, lodging, and services” for the pretend invaders. That figure may sound small, but remember, we’re suspending reality here and one dollar equals 57 afghanis, so if we stick with the Afghanistan analogy, the government is actually injecting 8,550,000 in local currency.

While we’re certainly concerned about the creeping militarization of American communities (as discussed in detail here), we’re clearly employing a bit of sarcasm in our analysis of Jade Helm, but as one might imagine, many Texans are finding the operation to be no laughing matter. Here’s more via The Washington Post:

At an information session in Bastrop on Monday, command spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria fielded questions about whether Jade Helm 15 will involve bringing foreign fighters from the Islamic State to Texas, whether U.S. troops will confiscate Texans’ guns and whether the Army intends to implement martial law, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

“It’s the same thing that happened in Nazi Germany: You get the people used to the troops on the street, the appearance of uniformed troops and the militarization of the police,” Bastrop resident Bob Wells told the Statesman after the meeting. 

“They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing. And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now, I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.'”

According to the Statesman, Lastoria attempted to assuage residents’ concerns, saying the operation in Bastrop County will take place almost entirely on private land leased to the Army by the owner. And participants won’t be trying to sneak through the population undetected — everyone involved will wear uniforms or orange armbands signaling that they are part of the exercise, he said.

We’ll leave it to readers to decide for themselves how far-fetched any or all of this is or isn’t, but surely the punchline to the entire story is that now, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor the Jade Helm exercises. Here is the letter from Abbott to Major General “Jake” Betty:

There will be two main theatres of operation: the East China Sea north of Taiwan and the South China Sea west of the Philippines.
China claims sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands (last occupied by the Japanese about 100 years ago) and the entire Ryuku chain from the Yaeyama Islands at the southern end to Okinawa in the north.  If it is going to seize the Senkaku Islands, it might as well seize the Yaeyama Islands at the same time.  To that end, China is building up a military base in the Nanji Islands about 300 km west of the Senkakus.  This includes a 10-pad helicopter refuelling base which suggests that the initial assault will be led by helicopters overflying Japan’s coast guard vessels around the Senkakus.
China has a substantial fishing vessel fleet and merchant shipping totalling 70 million tons.  It has been using its fishing fleet to harass the Japanese coast guard around the Senkakus and as far east as the Osagawa Islands, which includes Iwo Jima.  This suggests that fishing vessels could be used to land Chinese Special Forces to widely attack Japanese bases that would normally be considered to be well back from the front line.  These forces would be used sacrificially to cause maximum mayhem to dispirit the Japanese defense.  In the north, the Chinese approach would be to seize and hold against the Japanese and US counter attack.

In the South China Sea, China is building seven massive forts and one airstrip.  The forts are designed with flak towers standing out from the corners so that each tower has at least a 270° field of fire.  The forts seem to be designed to take a large amount of punishment and hold out until they can be relieved.  China wins if it is still in the possession of these forts by the end of the war.
China is likely to start the war in the south with attacks on other countries’ bases in the Spratly Islands and US bases in the region, as far east as Guam.  A long war will be bad for China in that the run down to the Spratly Islands from Hainan Island is very exposed, both for ships and aircraft.  Vietnam has been upgrading its radars and one hopes all the non-Chinese combatants will be sharing targeting information.  US AWACS over the Philippines will be able to track Chinese targets handed over from Vietnam.  Singapore is likely to operate its F-15s out of Cam Ranh Bay.  Chinese aircraft that survive the run down will be at the end of their range by the time they get to the Spratly Islands. 
The US Marines have taken up a number of bases in the Philippines with the intention of mounting the attack that will remove the Chinese from their newly constructed forts.  A number of US weapons systems, such as the USS Zumwalt, may have to be rushed into service to that end.  
In the bigger picture, Japan and China will try to blockade each other, mostly with their submarine forces.  Japan’s navy has a qualitative edge over China and is most likely to win the blockade battle. 
Industry throughout Asia will be badly affected by the war, but Chinese industry in particular is likely to grind to a halt quickly, and this will eventually cause social disruption.  The longer the war goes on, the worse China’s relative position becomes.  Meat will disappear from the Chinese diet.  Unsold soybeans will pile up in US warehouses. 

The removal of the Chinese bases in the Spratly Islands will allow a peace settlement with whoever ends up running China.  It will be one of the most pointless, stupid and destructive wars in history, but that is what is coming.

Live Feed #1
Update: Protests have spread across the nation's cities...
In Los Angeles, six people protesting against police brutality were arrested Monday night when they failed to disperse, reported CNN affiliate KABC. About 50 people marched, KABC said.
In Chicago, hundreds of protesters marched Tuesday from police headquarters at 35th and Michigan through the Southside, CNN affiliate WGN reported. Police made one arrest, for reckless conduct.
About 100 people marched Monday night in Oakland in support of Baltimore protesters, reported CNN affiliate KABC.
A protest is planned for Thursday in Cincinnati, reported CNN affiliate WXIX. said a "Philly is Baltimore" protest will be held Thursday at Philadelphia City Hall.

Is the so-called "purge" spreading? Hundreds have now gathered in Union Square in New York in a show of solidarity with the protesters in Baltimore who have demanded justice for the death of Freddie Gray. More from NBC

Organizers had urged various activist groups to rally at Union Square "to show the people of Baltimore that we stand in solidarity with them and with their resistance because their resistance is for justice and their justice is our justice," according to one press release. 
The demonstrations were being held simultaneously as the ones in Baltimore, which were mostly peaceful compared to the violent rioting that rocked the city the day of 
Gray's funeral Monday…
Umaara Elliott, one of the New York rally organizers, said she encouraged the message protesters in Baltimore were trying to send. 
Live feed..
...and the visuals...

Currently underway in the Heartland of America is an experiment in interfaith dialogue and coexistence: the Tri-Faith Initiative in Omaha, Nebraska. The goal of the Tri-Faith Initiative is to have a synagogue, a mosque, and a church located on a common piece of land, each with its own separate building; the Tri-Faith hopes to later add a fourth building as a shared Tri-Faith Center. The location for this venture is 35 acres in the Sterling Ridge development in Omaha.

The original institutional members of the Tri-Faith Initiative were Temple Israel, the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture (AIISC), and the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska. In 2014 the Episcopal Diocese asked Countryside Community Church to takes its place as the Christian partner in the Tri-Faith. On April 12, 2015, Countryside voted in favor of relocating its church to the Tri-Faith grounds and becoming the Christian partner.

The Tri-Faith’s Memorandum of Understanding states, “In working together, our vision is to build bridges of respect, trust and acceptance…” Unfortunately, Islamic doctrine prohibits Muslims from respecting, trusting, or accepting Jews and Christians (unless of course the latter pay the jizyah).

So I decided to contact three non-Muslims who are heavily involved in the Tri-Faith Initiative: Rabbi Aryeh Azriel of Temple Israel; Reverend Eric Elnes of Countryside Community Church; and Susie Buffett, daughter of multi-billionaire Warren Buffet, a member of Countryside Community Church, and Chairperson of the Sherwood Foundation.

I sent each of them the following e-mail:

In light of your extensive involvement with the Tri-Faith Initiative, I am interested in your view on the following matter.
The Vision Statement of the Tri-Faith Initiative talks about building “bridges of Respect, Trust and Acceptance” between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  This is a commendable idea, but how can such bridges be built when Islamic doctrine prohibits it?  Please consider:
The Koran says the following about Jews and Christians:

  1. Allah is angry with the Jews, and the Christians are misguided because they believe that Jesus is the son of God (1:7).
  1. Muslims are commanded not to make friends with Jews and Christians (e.g. 5:51), although Muslims can pretend to be friends if the situation so dictates (3:28).
  1. Jews are among the worst enemies of Islam (5:82).
  1. Muslims are commanded to fight Jews and Christians until the Jews and Christians pay protection money with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (9:29).
  1. Allah curses the Jews and the Christians (9:30).
  1. Jews and Christians are among the worst of creatures and “will abide in the fire of Hell” (98:6).

Muhammad spoke for Allah (4:80), Muslims are commanded to obey Muhammad (59:7), and he is considered the timeless standard by which Muslims should conduct themselves (33:21). Consider that Muhammad said:

  1. Jews and Christians are each worth only half of a Muslim (Sunan Ibn Majah, No. 2644).
  1. Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it(Sahih Muslim, No. 2167).
  1. The Hour will not be established until you fight against the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say, ‘O Muslim!  There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him(Sahih Al-Bukhari, No. 2926).
  1. The Jews were grave robbers (Sahih Al-Bukhari, No. 3452).
  1. Jews and Christians will take the place of Muslims in Hell (Sahih Muslim, No. 2767R1).
  1. I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims(Sahih Muslim, No. 1767).
Unfortunately, after sending the e-mail twice to each of the three, and after waiting a number of weeks, I have still not received replies from Azriel, Elnes, or Buffett.

Why would the non-Muslim portion of the Tri-Faith Initiative appear to deny or simply ignore the Islamic doctrine that undermines the idea of this venture? Due to the silence of Azriel, Elnes and Buffett, we do not know.
However, we do know that there are many millions of dollars involved in the Tri-Faith Initiative.
In December 2011, the Episcopal Diocese purchased 6.35 acres of land in the Sterling Ridge development for almost $1.3 million. At that same time the Tri-Faith Initiative organization itself purchased 3.6 acres in an adjoining lot for almost $800,000.00.

Millions of dollars have been spent, and many more millions will be spent, by non-Muslims to see the Tri-Faith Initiative a success. With so much money involved, non-Muslims could tend to view the Islamic doctrine that undermines the very goals of the Tri-Faith Initiative as a minor annoyance to be denied or ignored.

It is blasphemy for a Muslim to deny a verse of the Koran or a teaching of Muhammad. But it is also blasphemy, and potentially head-crushing, for a Muslim not to act on a command from Allah or a teaching of Muhammad. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see if the larger Muslim community in Nebraska decides to support the Tri-Faith Initiative, or follow the commands of Allah and the teachings of Muhammad.

Also see:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Palestine And "Sharon's Ghost"

This story comes from Canada Free Press and describes a new scenario which may make a two-state solution in Israel more difficult:

Palestine - Sharon's Ghost Returns To Haunt Obama

Michael Oren – one of seven members of the recently formed Kulanu party elected to Israel’s new Parliament – seems destined to play a pivotal role in torpedoing President Obama’s proposals for a two-state solution aimed at resolving the 100 years old Arab-Jewish conflict.

Agreement has reportedly been reached between Israel’s Prime Minister elect Benjamin Netanyahu and Kulanu chairman Moshe Kahlon for Kahlon to be appointed Finance Minister.  Fellow Kulanu members - Yoav Galant and Eli Alalouf - will serve respectively as Housing Minister and Environmental Protection Minister.

Still unannounced is the replacement for Tzipi Livni - who headed the Israeli team in peace talks with the PLO - but who now seems destined to enter into Opposition. These peace talks have remained in a state of suspended animation since April 2014 – despite intensive American efforts to have them resumed.

President Obama’s proposals – first enunciated in 2011 – were re-statedas recently as July 2014 by White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region Philip Gordon at the Ha’aretz Israel Conference for Peace:

“A lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples:  Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.  While the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear:  a viable Palestine, a secure Israel.

Negotiations should therefore result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.  Any peace agreement will require robust security provisions that safeguard Israel’s security.  And the Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in an independent, sovereign and contiguous state.”  

The idea that Israel should be required to make mutually agreed land swaps for territory it retains in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) was never stipulated or mentioned in the letter given by President Bush to Israel’s then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on 14 April 2004 – whose terms were overwhelmingly endorsed by the House of Representatives 407-9 on 23 June 2004 and the Senate 95-3 the next day. (“American Written Commitments”)
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had declared at the Annapolis International Conference convened by President Bush on 27 November 2007 that any resumed negotiations:

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had declared at the Annapolis International Conference convened by President Bush on 27 November 2007 that any resumed negotiations:

“will be based on previous agreements between us, UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Roadmap and the April 14th 2004 letter of President Bush to the Prime Minister of Israel.”

Michael Oren – Kulanu’s diplomatic voice and former Israeli Ambassador to Washington between 2009 and 2013 - recently called for these 2004 American Written Commitments to be resuscitated:

“A decade ago, in April 2004, then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received a letter from American president George Bush, Jr. recognizing Israel’s right to build in long-standing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem like Talpiyot-East and Ramot. Furthermore, Israel was now allowed to build in settlement blocs crucial for Israel’s security, and in which some 80% of Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria reside […] According to the Bush-Sharon letter, these areas will remain within Israel’s borders in any arrangement arrived at with the Palestinians […] it’s time to revive the Bush-Sharon letter and act according to it.”

Obama is going to find it impossible to impose his land swap proposals – if Oren has any say.
Sharon’s ghost has tantalisingly returned to haunt Obama.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Islamic Genocide Of Christians, 'Israel Will Attack Iran Soon'

The Islamic Genocide Of Christians: Past And Present

Last Friday, April 24, we remembered how exactly 100 years ago the last historic Muslim caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, tried to cleanse its empire of Christian minorities — Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks — even as we stand by watching as the new caliphate, the Islamic State, resumes the genocide.

And in both cases, the atrocities were and are being committed in the name of Islam.

In November, 1914, during WWI, the Ottoman caliphate issued a fatwa, or Islamic decree, proclaiming it a “sacred duty” for all Muslims to “massacre” infidels — specifically naming the “Christian men” of the Triple Entente, “the enemies of Islam” — with promises of great rewards in the afterlife.

The same Koran verses that the Islamic State and other jihadi outfits regularly quote permeated the Ottoman fatwa, including:  “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them — seize them, besiege them, and be ready to ambush them” (9:5) and “O you who have believed! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are but friends of each other; and whoever among you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them” (5:51) — and several other verses that form the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity.
Many Muslims still invoke this doctrine; it commands Muslims to befriend and aid fellow Muslims, while having enmity for all non-Muslims (one Islamic cleric even teaches that Muslim husbands must hate their non-Muslim wives, while enjoying them sexually).
As happens to this day under the new caliphate — the Islamic State — the Ottoman caliphate crucified, beheaded, tortured, mutilated, raped, enslaved, and otherwise massacred countless “infidel” Christians.  The official number of Armenians killed in the genocide is 1.5 million; hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Assyrians each were also systematically slaughtered (see this document for statistics).

Will the outrageous terrorizing, the cruel torturing, the driving of women into the harems, the debauchery of innocent girls, the sale of many of them at eighty cents each [today the Islamic State sells enslaved Christians and  Yazidis for as little as $43], the murdering of hundreds of thousands and the deportation to, and starvation in, the deserts of other hundreds of thousands, the destruction of hundreds of villages and cities, will the willful execution of this whole devilish scheme to annihilate the Armenian, Greek and Syrian [or Assyrian] Christians of Turkey  –  will all this go unpunished?

A century later, consider how Christian minorities today are still being systematically decapitated, crucified, tortured, raped, and enslaved — also under the pretext of war.  In every Arab nation the U.S. has helped oust (secular) autocrats — Iraq, Libya, Syria — indigenous Christian minorities have been massacred by the jihadi elements that were once contained by Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Bashar Assad (read here for details).

Nor is this limited to the Arab world.  In Muslim-majority northern Nigeria, Muslims, spearheaded by the Islamic organization Boko Haram, are waging a savage jihad on the Christian minorities in their midst.  Boko Haram’s stated goal is to cleanse northern Nigeria of all Christians — a goal that should be reminiscent by now.

Finally, to understand how the Ottoman Genocide of Christians is representative of the modern-day plight of Christians under Islam in general, the Islamic State in particular, one need only read the following words written in 1918 by President Theodore Roosevelt — but read “Armenian” as “Christian” and “Turkish” as “Islamic”:
The Armenian [Christian] massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and the failure to act against Turkey [the Islamic world] is to condone it… the failure to deal radically with the Turkish [Islamic] horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense.
Indeed, if we “fail to deal radically” with the “horror” currently being visited upon millions of Christians around the Islamic world — which in some areas has reached genocidal proportions according to the United Nations — we “condone it” and had better cease talking “mischievous nonsense” of a utopian world of peace and tolerance.
Put differently, silence is always the ally of those who would commit genocide.  In 1939, on the eve of World WWII, Hitler rationalized his genocidal plans against the Jews, when he reportedly asked: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”
And who speaks today of the ongoing annihilation of Christians under Islam?

The Israelis will destroy several Iranian nuclear facilities and my educated guess is that they will do so before the end of this year.

Israel has no margin of error when it comes to nuclear reactors in nations that threaten its existence. While President Obama does everything in his power to enable Iran to create its own nuclear weapons, it is a good idea to recall that in June 1981 the Israelis destroyed a reactor in Iraq. It was the first air strike against such a facility. In September 2007, the Israelis destroyed a Syrian reactor. There was no reprisal in either case.

From Wednesday, April 22 to Friday April 24 the Israelis struck Hizbollah and Syrian military targets in the Walamoun Mountains on the Syrian-Lebanese border. The calculations were that the location, a site for long-range missiles, would be safer from the Israelis. They were wrong.

In September 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the United Nations General Assembly warning “don’t be fooled by Iran’s manipulative charm offensive. It’s designed for one purpose and for one purpose only. To lift the sanctions and remove the obstacles to Iran’s path to the bomb.”

“Once Iran produces atomic bombs, all the charm and all the smiles will suddenly disappear. They’ll just vanish. It’s then that the ayatollahs will show their true face and unleash their aggressive fanaticism on the entire world.”  He offered a comparable message to a joint meeting of Congress in March of this year.

Is anyone listening? Not President Obama. On April 25, writing in The Wall Street Journal, Mortimer Zuckerman, the chairman and editor in chief of the U.S. News and World Report, said “President Obama has been chasing a rainbow in his negotiations with Iran. He has forsaken decades of pledges to the civilized world from presidents of both parties. He has misled the American people in repeatedly affirming that the U.S. would never allow revolutionary Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.”

The Jews returned to Israel, declared its independence in 1948, and have had the support of every President since…until Obama.

The Israelis know this. Since their independence the Israelis have fought seven recognized wars, two Palestinian intifadas, and a series of armed conflicts in the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. Most recently they put down Hamas in the Gaza once again for its repeated rocketing.

Despite or because of this, the Israelis have sought to demonstrate good will toward their Arab neighbors. There is an untold story of the December 2014 meeting of six Gulf Cooperation Council rulers in the Qatari capital of Doha to discuss steps to respond to challenges that include Iranian aggression and clamping down on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sources close to event report that Netanyahu has achieved close coordination with the most important Arab leaders that include Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Other members of the Council include Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Israelis have no choice, nor do I anticipate that Iran will do much, if anything, to respond in the wake of the ashes of those facilities. No other nation will come to their aid.

[This comes from The Omega Letter and is a must read]

For the better part of 50 years now, Hal Lindsey has said that Christ's return is imminent, but I fear that for many, apocalypse-fatigue is setting in.  The Left Behind series sparked a huge renewed interest into the idea of the Rapture, and for what follows, but even that excitement seems to have faded.  With all the geo-political, economic and technological changes happening every day, the modern man has developed an increasingly short attention span.

Increasingly, we express concern over the swelling anti-Christian sentiment that is growing in the west and express outright shock over the brutality of that same anti-Christian sentiment in the east.  Half of Christianity wants to reclaim the world for Christ and build His kingdom for Him. The rest are divided on how the end does happen.  In fact, MOST of what we would call Christendom today, does not advocate the only, logical, Biblical, theologically doctrinal position of a Pre-Tribulational Rapture, otherwise known as our “Blessed Hope”.  

All that aside, the truth is, that believers for millennia- have long pondered, wondered, and longed to see what the days we live in would be like.  While our days may be increasingly onerous and dangerous it is also exciting to see the pages of the prophetic scripture come to life right before our very eyes.  It is both bitter and sweet that we live to see these days come to pass, just as Christ, the Prophets and Apostles said they would. 

But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober…For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.  1 Thess 5:4-6, 9-10

So it is that we, the final generation, are called to stand firm in the growing tide of darkness which all the more enshrouds this fallen planet.  But in our standing, we are to do four things which will not only bring glory to God, become a witness and a testimony to the lost, but will also embolden our brothers and sisters in these trying times.  We are to worship, wait, work, and watch.   

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  Romans 12:1-2

For the born-again Christian, our worship is not solely limited to what we do in a church building on Sunday mornings but how we live our lives.  Our lives, ALL of it, should be an act of worship.  The Apostle Paul, via the Holy Spirit, instructs us to present our bodies, our hearts, and our minds to God as a living sacrifice.  Once you become a believer in Jesus Christ, you are no longer your own, because you were bought with a price. (1 Cor 6:19-20)  We are to become living sacrifices, crucifying the flesh daily, so that we may live in the Spirit.  This is not easy, because the flesh becomes a powerful obstruction to our walk with God.
Our primary goals as believers is to worship God, mature in the faith, and be a witness to those who do not know the Lord.  We demonstrate our worship by how we live our lives, by being a living sacrifice.  We mature in the faith when we learn how we live by our worship, which by glorifying God puts our trust in Him, and not ourselves.  And our worship becomes a living testimony to those who do not know Christ and Christ said that if we would glorify Him, HE would draw all men to Himself. (John 12:31-33)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. Phil. 3:20-21

Anyone who has ever had to wait for anything realizes that waiting is not fun.  But waiting adds to faith, what immediate gratification cannot.  It develops and matures you in your walk (sanctification) with the Lord.  

Abraham, who exhibited an amazing amount of faith, waited many decades for the promise of a son that the Lord would provide to both he and Sarah.  

…But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.           1 Thess 4:10-12

Unlike the prosperity propaganda that many successful self-help televangelists love to promote, God has not called us to a life of luxury and riches.  I am not saying that a Christian can’t be wealthy, or that God can’t even bless us in those arenas, because He does and He can.  What I am saying is that should not be our modus operandi.  While our fiat currency system may be a necessity to survive in these last days, it should not be what motivates us.  That should not be what we strive for, or yearn for.  Wherever you are, and whatever you do, do it for the Lord.  Don’t do it so that other men can notice you, or that you do it for the accolades and praise of people, but serve God with a willing heart. 
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matt. 6:19-21

“Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.
And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  Luke 12:35-40

What is increasingly perplexing to me, considering all that is transpiring around the world, is the outright rejection and denial by those who claim to be Christian.  Now, I expect this from mainstream media, government, and pop culture, but how a denomination (take your pick), rejects 30% of their Bible, only to focus on everything BUT Christ’s soon return, baffles my mind.  Consider these events that are rapidly advancing in our day:

-the coming together of global governance
-the rapid technological advancements that are enabling and merging together a tracking, monitoring, and digital financial system that ultimately will become the ‘mark of the beast’
-growing lukewarmness and apostate nature of “Christianity”
-Geo-political alignments of nations, all seemingly hostile to Israel
-increasingly devastating natural disasters and pestilence
-false/pseudo messiah’s
-wars and rumors of wars
-rise of occultism and paganism
-rise of all sorts of violence around the earth
-global economy on the verge of collapse

We are called, in these last days, to stand firm and to be bulwarks in a growing storm that is increasingly and violently, shifting and moving everything about.  The only way we can stand firm, is if we stand in Christ, because in and of ourselves, we do not possess the ability, or even the desire to go against the dark tide.  It is not pleasant, especially considering what is coming upon the earth and in particular, what we have to look forward too so long as the Lord tarries.  But we stand nonetheless, and we proclaim the saving power of the blood of Christ through worship, waiting, working, and watching. 

Some worship and work, and do not watch or wait for the Lord’s return…and they quickly burn out.  Some watch and wait, but do not work or worship, and they drift off into the fringe.  We need all four to balance out our faith, because work is tiresome, and without the hope of our “Blessed Hope”, we lose heart.  All watching and no worship, causes us to watch for anything, and soon our short-attention spanned hearts, will drift into areas that appear more exciting or conspiratorial.  We need all four, because God built us to do all four, and when any of the four lack, we drift from where God intended us to be.   God built us with eternity in our hearts, and only the eternal, can fully satisfy what we know is lacking in the here and now.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  2 Cor. 4:16-18

One would think that the ruling clerics of the Islamic Republic would moderate their hatred, anti-American, anti-Semitic, and anti-Western sentiments after President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry handed the Iranian government a lot of compromises, a sweet nuclear deal, eased sanctions, and have turned a blind eye to Iran’s interventionist and expansionists policies.

In fact, it is the ongoing argument made by the leftists and liberals that building diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic, reaching a nuclear deal with Tehran, and being quiet on the Islamic Republic’s regional policies and support for extremists proxies in the Middle East, will eventually tone down the ayatollahs’ position and make them responsible and rational actors.

However, Iranian leaders keep ratcheting up their anti-American and anti-Semitic sentiments, while the left keeps sticking to its failed argument. Last week, on Iran’s Army Day, the Islamic Republic introduced a new set of weapons, including Iran’s brand of the S-300 missile defense system, which is called Bavar-373. In addition, the Islamic Republic publicized a gigantic banner saying, “Death to Israel” and many officers and puppets of the Iranian regime shouted, “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

The New Green Religion of Global Warming/Climate Change is coming out of the closet to begin preaching from the pulpit.

In the lib-left world timing is everything. Now that Christianity is being persecuted worldwide with the many slings and arrows sent its way flashing out in neon, it’s time for ‘sustainability’ to squeeze out Salvation at Sunday church services.

“The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is spending $84,000 to study how churches can be used to combat climate change. (Washington Free Beacon, April 27, 2015)

“A taxpayer-funded graduate fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is examining 17 faith-based institutions that have implemented “sustainability initiatives” in the hopes of developing workshops to teach pastors and other religious leaders how to change the behaviors of their congregants.

“Climate change—which affects traditional faith-based efforts to improve human health, mitigate poverty and redress social inequity—is inspiring religious organizations to advocate for clean air and water, restore ecosystems, and conserve resources,” a grant for the project, which began last fall, states. “This project seeks to understand the empirical experiences of faith-based environmental efforts within communities.”

“The project, “Sustainability at the Community Level: The Role of Faith-Based Organizations,” is scheduled to last through September 2016.

“The project sees churches and other religious institutions as an opportunity to reach millions of Americans and promote “more environmentally sustainable behaviors.”

Sustainability pushers Maurice Strong, Al Gore, and Mikhail Gorbachev must be shouting “Al-le-lujah!’, their version of “Hallelujah!”

Their goal of getting climate change preached during Sunday sermons at all community churches,  has taken a long time.

No one paid attention when sustainability-as-a-concept inventor Maurice Strong joined up with former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev to re-write the Ten Commandments. Most took their arrogant Earth Charter—carted about in a gilt covered knockoff of the Ark of the Covenant as some kind of sick joke. Few realized back then that the Earth Charter in an Ark was the beginning of the takeover of the church by a new Gaia-inspired religion.