3. The thoughts of the greatness of Jehovah, of His sovereignty, and of His supremacy over the gods of the heathen, are characteristic of this group of Psalms. They are not new thoughts (Exodus 15:11; Exodus 15:18), but fresh reality had been given to them by His revelation of Himself in the humiliation of Babylon and its gods, and the deliverance of Israel.
That the Psalmist attributes any real existence to the gods of the heathen is not to be supposed. They are mere idols, things of nought (Psalm 96:5), gods in name but not in reality. He cannot have gone back from the teaching of Jeremiah 10:3 ff., in which the living God, the Eternal King, the Creator, is contrasted with helpless perishable idols; or have forgotten the scathing sarcasms of Isaiah 40:18 ff; Isaiah 44:9 ff.
3–5. The reason for this service:—His greatness as the supreme King, the Lord of the world.
Verse 3. – For the Lord is agreat God. Thanks and praise are due to God, in the first place, because of his greatness (see Psalm cf. 2). “Who is so great a god as our God?” (Psalm 77:13); “His greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). And a great Kingabove all gods;i.e. “a goat King above all other so called gods” – above the great of the earth (Psalm 82:1, 6), above angels (Deuteronomy 10:17), above the imaginary gods of the heathen (Exodus 12:12, etc.).
(3) Above all gods.—Not here angelic beings, but the gods of surrounding tribes, as accurately explained in Psalm 96:4-5. (Comp. Exodus 15:11; Exodus 18:11.) Commentators vex themselves with the difficulty of the ascription of a real existence to these tribal deities in the expression,” King above all gods.” But how else was Israel constantly falling into the sin of worshipping them? It was in the inspired rejection of them as possessing any sovereign power, and in the recognition of Jehovah’s supremacy shown by the psalmists and prophets, that the preservation of Israel’s religion consisted.
Sharing links unrelated to the reckless, criminal and unconstitutional act launched by Donald Trump and the U.S. government Friday night feels kinda inappropriate. As such, here are a few short paragraphs on what I think it all means. I’ll have more next week.
I think Friday night’s historically foolish action by the U.S., UK and France may mark the official start of World War 3.
You could argue it began long ago, but there’s always been hope for the trends to reverse. We’ve now likely gone over the brink, and the odds of turning this ship around is so low it doesn’t deserve serious consideration.
Russian leadership are not a bunch of fools, nor will they back down. After Friday night, they know for certain the U.S. empire is determined to castrate them globally at all costs in order to impede an inevitable emergence of a multi-polar world.
I don’t think Russia or Iran will respond with a shock and awe attack any time soon, nor will this likely spiral out of control in the near-term. It’s more likely we’ll see this all play out over the course of the next 5 years or so.
I also don’t expect this to go nuclear, but I think the chances the U.S. experiences an imperial collapse similar to that of the USSR (or like any historically unmanageable and corrupt empire) has become increasingly likely.
My view at this point is the U.S. and its global power position will be so dramatically altered in the years ahead, it’ll be almost unrecognizable by 2025, as a result of both economic decline and major geopolitical mistakes. This will cause the public to justifiably lose faith in all leadership and institutions.
I’ve been increasingly using Twitter to express my thoughts, so you should really check out my timeline there.
The latest action in Syria is that policy in action. Let’s take a step back and understand this critical but boringly predictable development in Syria, the players involved, their respective relevant histories, and what markets can expect.
First let’s look at War Inc. or the Military as a business, or as we have outlined in a detailed article “Cult of War” (a good primer read if you’re not up on this topic). With 800 Billion + per year and a likely real spend of well over a Trillion USD, the US taxpayer needs to get something for their money. The Military is in a constant state of self-justification. The US outspends the enemy by such a large figure, there are stockpiles of bombs, planes, tanks, guns, logistic supplies, boats, aircraft carriers, satellites, and just millions of expensive assets getting dusty. The US could fight World War 2 on 2 fronts and a war in Space and still have assets left over. There are hundreds of military bases, millions of personnel, it has become just a massive super entity above Presidents, above the Elite, above Governments. By itself, as a form of Artificial Intelligence, the Military will do anything to prove the need it serves and survive. The glaring problem – no enemies! The number of real enemies is dwindling. But Syria has been on the CIA’s hit list for some time, controlling key Oil transport sites and other resources. Not to mention Israel has wanted to destroy the unfriendly regime for a long time. Cult of War needs to create conflicts of any size, it’s a ‘use it or lose it’ mentality. There’s no better training drill than the real thing.
The Lusitania set sail for Liverpool on May 1st, 1915 from New York harbor. It was carrying millions of rounds of ammunition and shrapnel. The previous captain Daniel Dow had resigned because of mixing civilian passengers with munitions. The ship was to have a British battleship escort called the Juno but was recalled before the rendezvous in spite of the knowledge that a Uboat was active in the path of the Lusitania.
False Flag operations are nothing new, Hitler burned down the government building and claimed to be able to catch the terrorists and restore order in Germany, finally naming himself Chancellor. Every powerful regime has a False Flag that they ‘own’ in order to justify their 10 year run in power. Their time is limited, people forget, so a new event is necessary every few years, custom tailored to the situation.
This false flag was planned and executed by MI5 (British Intelligence), although the details of the operation are as yet unclear. What is clear is that it is a Hollywood style staged event which was put together in the last minute with many mistakes and inconsistencies (they didn’t have a script supervisor!) as pointed out by countless fact-based witnesses and other governments:
Speaking with EuroNews, Russia’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizov, said “Russian military specialists have visited this region, walked on those streets, entered those houses, talked to local doctors and visited the only functioning hospital in Douma, including its basement where reportedly the mountains of corpses pile up. There was not a single corpse and even not a single person who came in for treatment after the attack.””But we’ve seen them on the video!” responds EuroNews correspondent Andrei Beketov.”There was no chemical attack in Douma, pure and simple,” responds Chizov. “We’ve seen another staged event. There are personnel, specifically trained – and you can guess by whom – amongst the so-called White Helmets, who were already caught in the act with staged videos.” “All these facts show… that no chemical weapons were used in the town of Douma, as it was claimed by the White Helmets.” “All the accusations brought by the White Helmets, as well as their photos… allegedly showing the victims of the chemical attack, are nothing more than a yet another piece of fake news and an attempt to disrupt the ceasefire,” said the Russian Reconciliation Center.
Of course, US warmongers will say that the Russians are protecting the Assad regime. There’s plenty of video and other evidence for internet sleuths to sort through in the coming days. But we have seen this so many times before we can guess the outcome fairly easily. It was a false flag, done by the British, in a sad and pathetic last attempt to save what remaining Elite aristocrats have over the masses, post Brexit. Although actual war is unavoidable in Syria now, one possible outcome of this is a populist movement against such politics, as is happening in Hungary.
Support of the US Dollar
So what’s the real reason the US chooses Syria to bomb and not Greenland for example?
“The Chinese have recently issued the gold backed Yuan, which they, and others, have vowed to use to sell/purchase oil (amongst other things). The last two nations that tried to introduce a currency to compete against the petrodollar were Libya and Iraq. The US needs that pipeline through Syria even more than ever now, especially if they are to compete for European gas/oil markets (presently controlled by Russia and their pipeline) and the Chinese Yuan. But i’m sure none of that has anything to do with it…”
It’s not only about Syria itself, you see. The GDP of Syria won’t make a difference on the USD. It’s about stopping a revolution. If Syria uses a Russian – Chinese financial and energy system perhaps it will spread to Jordan, Lebanon, and who next? If half the world is suddenly using a Yuan denominated trading market, it would threaten US hegemony. So all alternatives need to be stopped in their tracks, period. That isn’t an opinion it is the policy in DC based on research by companies like RAND.
Trump seems to be a victim of the international cabal that was a step ahead of him the whole time. In the opinion of this author, Trump is not a ‘plant’ from the beginning meant to deceive the voters. The UK is the master planner of this operation, including but not limited to the false flag. When domestic attempts by the deep state to derail Trump failed, they realized a coordinated effort from abroad was a better approach, one that Trump would be defenseless against, as his experience in international politics is zero (before getting into the White House). Hence, Trump’s involvement in this quagmire is meant to ensnare him in a series of decisions that will weaken his domestic position, alienate his base, while achieving goals of the War Party, Zionists, the Oil industry, and other interests in this confluence. Trump was forced with a choice: pick sides, choose the Russian facts (there was no chemical attack) or the British lies. Being attacked by the domestic media by idiotic yet influential forces, staging a dangerous trade war, and coming to the conclusion of a Russian collusion investigation, backed Trump into a corner. If he had chosen to side with Russia, it could have backfired and blown up in his face. Democrats, Leftists, and other Trump enemies would have pounced on the issue accusing him of being Putin’s lap boy all along. Being that this is Trump’s first rodeo, he doesn’t have the complex knowledge base or pool of advisers to deal with this strongly and independently. In fact he hasn’t been able to build a strong team of advisers independent of deep state snakes working against him. This is not his fault, it is just the reality of how intertwined everything is in DC. “Drain the Swamp” is a great marketing slogan, and a noble idea – but implementing it may prove impossible. And on the surface, everyone loves the hero story – an evil monster gassed innocent people, and we are ‘saving’ them. This is a great excuse to spend billions on bombs we don’t need and use them. He bought the party line of the MIC “We have to bomb the village to save it”:
“The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”
“Tonight, I ask all Americans to say a prayer for our noble warriors and our allies as they carry out their missions. We pray that God will bring comfort to those suffering in Syria.”
God will bring comfort to those we are bombing? Really? Can he be any more offensive?
This is the beginning of a series of events that Trump cannot dig himself out of. The MIC won’t stop until the majority of Syria is destroyed and key resources are controlled by US forces. Some of us remember in the 90s there was ‘chatter’ that the NeoCons were planning a false flag in a major US City that was ‘nuclear’ – whether that was 911 or an event that never happened we’ll never know. But one thing is clear – they have the weapons, so they will kill all that stand in their way. Whether he is one of theirs or is being manipulated by them is irrelevant for his base which was largely anti-establishment and anti-war, anti-globalist, which he has proven to be the opposite.
World War 3
With the ascent of Russia, China, and smaller states building their armed forces without reason, it is only inevitable that they are used. War between China, Russia, the US and allies is inevitable. But wait – it’s not what you are thinking! There will not likely be strikes on US, Chinese, or Russian soil. Rather, as in the Hunger Games, war games will be played in theaters such as the South China Sea, Syria, and other hotspots.
World War 3 will likely last 50 – 100 years, like the cold war, it will be an going unresolved war in places like Syria. Flare ups and skirmishes will be the extent of the action. Nukes may be used but tactical nukes in a limited, regional capacity. PROBABLY. Of course, it could completely spiral out of control. But deep analysis indicates not. There needs to be just enough war to justify the military and not enough to destroy it. In the same way the MIC needs a war to justify its own existence, a complete obliteration of a major player would also be an endgame (including but not limited to a humanitarian outcry if a major city was destroyed in one bombing such as London or Berlin.)
Remember folks there was only one country that has used nuclear bombs to kill millions and that country is the United States of America.
The War Inc. model – 2 new players
China and Russia are both copying the War Inc. model from the United States. Both countries do not have any real threats (except from the United States, but as a game) with the exception of terrorism. Japan has no army and is not a threat to China. China has destroyed all the regional competitors and has no real major state enemy. Domestic politics may be a bigger threat to China than any foreign military (as China was once a chaotic, multi-state region). China is a little bit like the Soviet Union, but through the prism of their culture of course. The point is multi-ethnic super states usually collapse given enough time, as there are competing domestic interests at play. That is China’s focus not to be a military power, their external show of force is to play the American game. America needs an enemy. The China ‘copy and paste’ model, a threat to the IP of US tech companies, is also at play with War Inc.
Russia is an interesting case here. During the Soviet Union Russia was a defense oriented country that did little in foreign countries outside of the Iron Curtain. After decades of high quality propaganda, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars, Russia realized that if they wanted to be a major player in the world and participate in the new growing economic power center they needed to switch to Capitalism, which they did in 1991. This was a hard shift, it is difficult for those outside Communist countries to understand what it means to ‘switch’ from a state controlled economy to ‘free market’ economy. Russia’s markets were so free in the 90s it led to massive growth by organized crime which was borderline legit business (they were like the Robber Baron’s of the industrial age in USA). Basically Russia is 80 years behind the US, socially. Since 1991 Russia has taken all the advice given to them by their Western economic advisers. They have implemented a stock market, there are entrepreneurs in Russia starting businesses on a daily basis, they even have a Silicon Valley style incubator in Moscow Skolkovo (and others – see more info on starting a venture in Russia here). Russia has implemented many reforms in their plan to make Russia a market leader. They have a long way to go, their manufacturing standards have become a joke when Putin opened the door of a Russian car and the handle came off. But the world seems to forget that this was the ‘Communist’ country that the West sold on a better, capitalist life. One of the trimmings of a Capitalist society is War Inc. The partnership between Syria and Russia is a natural one; there are critical oil pipeline routes in Syria and Syria is a Christian foothold in a predominantly Muslim region. Russia didn’t invent the War Inc. model however it is now operating it based on a business plan that was sent to them by Washington during the Cold War. It should come as no surprise that they are doing what they were convinced to do by Capitalist Generals in Washington. Billions upon billions were spent on Hollywood produced propaganda programs including films, radio (Air America), Television programs, news, and later internet campaigns. They are influenced by reports such as “What the bombing of Syria means for your 401k” and other reports. Russia is playing the role of War Inc. – a model copied directly from US interventions in Iraq and other places (Iraq is most similar). There is no real skin in the game for either country, Syria is just a proxy state to be used and abused for the war profiteers. This is the first time Russia is playing this role and it is playing it well. It wouldn’t be surprising if Russian and US generals were exchanging encrypted communications on their competing computer game theory simulations while contemplating their next moves with each others open feedback.
Vacuum dirt analogy
Why are vacuum cleaning manufacturers honest and politicians are not? Because when you buy a vacuum, you immediately see how it works (the dirt and particles are caught in the transparent tank). If a vacuum didn’t work or had poor suction it would be immediately apparent and people would return them or complain. Politicians control the information flow, especially during war, because they have power. This is especially true of government employees who are publicly elected. In private business there is a lot of oversight and ultimately you will fail or succeed, you can’t lie to investors quarter after quarter.
Armchair Intellectuals and the Great American Hobby
Finally, there is this class in America not sure how to describe them, perhaps “Saturday Night War Experts” – they support any show of US force. They are mostly middle aged males with health issues, mostly on multiple prescriptions, they enjoy watching infographics explaining the differences between cruise missiles and smart bombs, right after their 5th glass of Merlot. This class isn’t completely handicapped, but they choose to spend their free time sitting in Lazyboy chairs watching Fox News and other sources during wartime. When they’re not tuned in, they enjoy to debate with their friends different methods how the US could use its arsenal to completely destroy Syria or “Make it GLASS” as I’m sure all readers have heard someone say once. This grotesque hobby is what gives those in DC power to enact such measures. You don’t read headlines that Norway has unilaterally destroyed Sweden. In New Zealand for example there is a ban on Nuclear anything.
The info trade
During the last Iraq was there was an interesting correlation between US strikes, war actions and info, and the US Dollar. It was caused by speculators not real money flows. War is information and the markets live on information. All markets will be impacted by this war, it can even be a trading strategy by itself. Defense stocks will have a boost on successful missions. Key victories will lead to USD being bid up. It’s a busy time and there’s a lot happening. War traders must be tuned in 24/7 as the smallest bit of info that hasn’t hit the wires yet can cause markets to move. Traders need to become information junkies.
Don’t skip over the obvious facts that are staring us in the face. This is the beginning of World War 3 – but don’t worry – it’s good for the economy. Game on!
To read about the inner workings of this system checkout Splitting Pennies. Support great journalism and shop at www.ubuy.me and invest at www.alphazadvisors.com You read this quality analysis free – please share this article especially to friends with a TV!
What happened right after the second direct U.S.-missiles invasion of Syria, which had occurred on the night of April 13th, could turn out to have momentous implications – far bigger than the attacks themselves…
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons headlined on April 14th, in the wake of this U.S.-UK-France invasion of Syria that was allegedly punishing Syria’s Government for allegedly having used chemical weapons in its bombing in the town of Douma on April 7th, “OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Continues Deployment to Syria”, and reported that:
The Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will continue its deployment to the Syrian Arab Republic to establish facts around the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma.
The OPCW has been working in close collaboration with the United Nations Department of Safety and Security to assess the situation and ensure the safety of the team.
The OPCW is not part of the U.N., nor of any country; it, instead (as introduced by Wikipedia):
is an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force on 29 April 1997. The OPCW, with its 192 member states, has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands, and oversees the global endeavour for the permanent and verifiable elimination of chemical weapons.
In conformity with the unchallenged international consensus that existed during the 1990s that there was no longer any basis for war between the world’s major powers, the Convention sought and achieved a U.N. imprimatur, but this was only in order to increase its respect throughout the world. The OPCW is based not on the U.N. Charter but on that specific treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was formally approved by the U.N.’s General Assembly on 30 November 1992 and was then opened for signatures in Paris on 13 January 1993. According to the Convention’s terms, it would enter into effect 180 days after 65 nations signed it, which turned out to be on 29 April 1997.
So, although the treaty itself received U.N. approval, the recent Russian-sponsored resolution at the U.N.’s Security Council to have the U.N. endorse the OPCW’s investigation of the 7 April 2018 Douma incident, did not receive U.N. approval. It was instead blocked by the U.S. and its allies. Nonetheless, though without a U.N. endorsement, the OPCW investigation into the incident will move forward, despite the invasion.
This fact is momentous, because a credible international inspection, by the world’s top investigatory agency for such matters, will continue to completion, notwithstanding the effort by the U.S. and its allies on the U.N. Security Council, to block it altogether. This decision was reached by the OPCW — not by the U.N.
Among the 192 signers of the Chemical Weapons Convention are U.S., Russia, and Syria, as well as China, Iran, and Iraq, but not Israel, nor North Korea and a very few other countries. So: all of the major powers have already, in advance, approved whatever the findings by the OPCW turn out to be. Those findings are expected to determine whether a chemical attack happened in Douma on 7 April 2018, and, if so, then perhaps what the specific banned chemical(s) was(were), but not necessarily who was responsible for it if it existed. For example, if the ‘rebels’ had stored some of their chemical weapons at that building and then Syria’s Government bombed that building, the OPCW might not be able to determine who is to blame, even if they do determine that there was a chemical attack and the chemical composition of it. In other words: science cannot necessarily answer all of the questions that might be legal-forensically necessary in order to determine guilt, if a crime did, in fact, occur, there.
If the investigation does find that a banned chemical was used and did cause injuries or fatalities, then there is the possibility that its findings will be consistent with the assertions by the U.S. and its allies who participated in the April 13th invasion. That would not necessarily justify the invasion, but it would prove the possibility that there had been no lying intent on the part of the U.S.-and-allied invaders on April 13th.
However, if the investigation does not find that a banned chemical was used in the Syrian Government’s bombing of that building, then incontrovertibly the U.S.-and-allied invasion was a criminal one under international laws, though there may be no international court that possesses the authority to try the case.
So: what is at stake here from the OPCW investigation is not only the international legitimacy of Syria’s Government, but the international legitimacy of the Governments that invaded it on April 13th. These are extremely high stakes, even if no court in the world will possess the authority to adjudicate the guilt — either if the U.S. and its allies lied, or if the Syrian Government lied.
For us historians, this is very important. And, for the general public, the significance goes much farther: to specific Governments, to their alleged news media, and to the question of: What does it even mean to say that a government is a “democracy” or a “dictatorship”? The findings from this investigation will reverberate far and wide, and long (if World War III doesn’t prevent any such findings at all).
US Tanks In Europe Get Invisible Futuristic Missile Shield To Counter Russian Threat
Back in March, we detailed how the United States Army M1 Abrams tank, an American third-generation main battle tank, was in the process of being upgraded with an invisible missile shield that will destroy all chemical energy anti-tank threats and other threats before reaching the vehicle. We even said, “that Washington is preparing their main battle tank for the next evolution of hybrid wars.”
Known as Trophy, this is the world’s first and only fully operational Active Protection System and Hostile Fire Detection System for armored vehicles. This cutting-edge technology will provide M1 Abrams tanks with 360-degree security from all threats, as advanced algorithms are continually detecting, locating, and neutralizing anti-tank threats on the battlefield.
We even noted that the Trophy system was tested thoroughly on select M1A2 tanks in Europe and the Middle East. With much of the testing classified, there were still several unanswered questions surrounding what region(s) of the world the upgrades would go.
However, in a new report on Thursday, the United States Army has decided to deploy the missile shields for M1 Abrams tanks to Europe “as part of a sweeping effort to better arm its Armored Brigade Combat Teams and counter Russian threats in the region,” said Warrior Maven, as quoted by Fox News.
“Not only will we be fielding one set of Trophy on Abrams tanks to Europe, but also three other brigades,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
“The weapons plus-up for Europe-bound Active Protection System is woven into the 2019 budget request,” he added.
Scientists Say EU’s “Robot Bill Of Rights” Would Violate The Rights Of Humans
The decision by an influential EU Parliamentary Committee to approve what’s been described by critics and proponents alike as a robot “bill of rights” back in January has ignited a fierce backlash and prompted a group of dozens of AI researchers to write a scathing letter criticizing the EU’s approach to regulating robots.
In the open letter, 156 robotics and AI experts from 14 countries blasted the EU for trying to enforce “nonsensical” and “non-pragmatic” regulations that ultimately could violate people’s rights.
In an open letter, more than 150 experts in robotics, artificial intelligence, law, medical science and ethics, warned the Commission against approving a proposal that envisions a special legal status of “electronic persons” for the most sophisticated, autonomous robots.
“Creating a legal status of electronic ‘person’ would be ideological and nonsensical and non-pragmatic,” the letter says.
The group said the proposal, which was approved in a resolution by the European Parliament last year, is based on a perception of robots “distorted by science fiction and a few recent sensational press announcements.”
“From an ethical and legal perspective, creating a legal personality for a robot is inappropriate”, they argued, explaining that doing so could breach human rights law.
Around the world, and in both the manufacturing and service economies, robotics is making swift gains as the number of industrial robots in circulation has climbed dramatically in recent years. According to projections published by Reuters IFR, their numbers will double again by 2020.
Draining The Data Swamp: Who Owns The “Virtual You”?
In our digital age, ownership, utilization, and monetization of data raises profound questions about personal rights, state rights and the limits of freedom…
For all the raft of unanswered questions or dismissal as a nothingburger, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s two-day grilling at Capitol Hill hopefully may unleash a serious global debate about our virtual selves.
US politicians, it seems, have discovered the merits of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The EU is actually at war with the GAFA galaxy (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and environs. The question for the US revolves around the immense legal twists and turns on how and what to regulate.
As much as Zuckerberg may have conceded that the industry needs to be regulated, scores of congressmen pressed him on whether Facebook would enforce GDPR for US customers. He dodged the question multiple times, promising GDPR “controls,” but never “protection.”
An army of savvy lawyers at the Facebook HQ certainly envisaged that regulation might “stifle competition,” as some congressmen did not fail to point out. And some, naively, even gave the whole game away, asking Zuckerberg directly what kind of regulation he would prefer.
Capitol Hill may not have noticed that Facebook and GAFA as a whole work pretty much like political parties disguised as companies. The founders/CEOs are major shareholders. Decisions have the imprimatur of a board working as a sort of political bureau. Congress is the shareholder general assembly. And the militants are the salaried mass addicted to a visionary movement.
The whole process runs in parallel with the decline of traditional political parties. Even top counseling comes from the political arena, like former Obama operative David Plouffe, who moved to Facebook from Uber, and Joel Benenson, Bill Clinton’s top polls specialist.
And it’s certainly very much a political issue how cyberspace trumps actual physical space. GAFA is always looking for nations that offer comparative advantages and privileges to dodge regulation and annoying redistributive fiscal obligations.
That betrays a clear ideological choice. GAFA is all about Ayn Rand-inspired Libertarianism; minimum government and maximum freedom. Surf away from the crashing waves of the state. Regulation is for losers.
Ayn Rand happens to be the supreme idol of PayPal’s Peter Thiel, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and Wikipedia co-creator Jimmy Wales.
And then there’s philosophy great Martin Heidegger.
Peter Thiel, Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman, Instagram inventor Mike Krieger – they all followed the Symbolic Systems program established in Stanford in 1986 combining neurosciences, logic, psychology, AI, cybernetics and, yes, philosophy, with an emphasis on Heidegger.
Add to it the role of Pluralistic Networks, founded by Chilean Fernando Flores, a former minister of Salvador Allende and co-author, with Terry Winograd (Google’s Larry Page’s mentor) of a book about Heidegger’s influence on information science, redefining intelligence, language and the limits of biology. Here we have Heidegger as the precursor of AI.
Liberal democracy vs freedom?
One of the big shows in Brussels for years has been the debate on why GAFA refuses to pay taxes. Libertarianism is incompatible with direct tax deductions or regulations. What matters most of all is the philanthropic value of those entrepreneurs and their social importance in creating jobs.
European egalitarian cynics, on the other hand, would describe them as a bunch of moguls bloated by un-measurable hubris praying to a doctrine of sovereign egotism.
GAFA + Microsoft’s market capitalization reached a whopping $2.9 trillion last year – bigger than India’s GDP; their collected revenues are larger than Sweden’s GDP.
According to the OECD, globally, states are not collecting as much as $240 billion a year in taxes. According to a 2015 report from the European Parliament, the EU loses as much as 70 billion euros a year because of “fiscal optimization,” due uniquely to the transfer of GAFA profits towards fiscal paradises.
So what we have is GAFA working as political parties, actively changing the world without ever submitting themselves to a vote. It’s a case of “freedom” being incompatible with Western liberal democracy. That’s exactly what PayPal founder Peter Thiel wrote in 2009; “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”
In The Black Box Society (Harvard University Press), Frank Pasquale stresses how the industry, facing no accountability, will end up risking the very own legitimacy of sovereign states.
Which brings us to the monopoly question. Zuckerberg was asked if he considered Facebook a monopoly. Brussels certainly does, in its drive to regulate an economic model based on systematic smashing of competition and limitless privatization of personal data (which the EU has been unable to stop). Once again Peter Thiel, one of Facebook’s earliest investors: “Competition is for losers.”
The main complaint in Brussels, as officials stressed to Asia Times, is that the EU’s “fair competition” model is being corroded. Yet the paradox is the EU – because of ferocious fiscal competition – is actually the largest tax paradise on the planet.
The EU condemns international tax evasion while the enemy inside is represented by Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Ireland – a sort of Bermuda Triangle of corporate tax. The savory combination of a single free market and a sophisticated service economy in which almost no physical goods cross borders offers unlimited opportunities for tax evasion. No wonder the digital giants have accumulated over $600 billion in tax-free profits.
The limits of ‘self-ownership’
While GAFA in the US essentially controls the politics limiting the capacity for regulation, Brussels will continue to insist the only path towards healthy regulation comes from the EU.
The other model is of course China. Beijing has domesticated its sprawling digital industry – which is a de facto extension of the state apparatus as well as a growing instrument of global influence.
When Zuckerberg was asked whether Facebook should be broken up – the monopoly issue once again – he said that would weaken the US’s competitive advantage against China, which by the way is fast disappearing.
Facebook’s customer base though is not American; it’s global. Inside the Facebook HQ, the consensus is that it is a global company. So all these issues at stake – from monopoly to regulation to privacy – are indeed global issues.
Zuckerberg dodged extremely serious questions. Who owns “the virtual you?” Zuckerberg’s response was that you own all the “content” you upload, and can delete that content any time you want. Yet the heart of the matter is the advertising profile Facebook builds on each user. That simply cannot be deleted. And the user cannot alter it in any way.
The GAFA galaxy, in fact, owns you when you click accepting those massive terms and conditions of use. As argued by philosopher Gaspard Koenig, director of the GenerationLibre think tank in France, data property should logically follow the evolution of property rights, land property, financial property and property of ideas, thus replacing the current figure of the “proletarian 2.0” at the heart of the value chain of the digital economy.
The whole debate may revolve in fact about algorithmic determinism. Every algorithmic model is influenced by economic and financial interests. “Our” data is de facto monetized by all those massive, user-friendly platforms. The four billion profiles generated every three months by Facebook are derived from content that real people produce and let Facebook use. Even Zuckerberg himself admitted he cannot lock down his own privacy settings.
Thus the key question that Libertarianism refuses to answer: If “self-ownership” is being configured as the future of our social contract in a secular world, how do we mere consumers profit from our rampant, digital marketization?
Lately, when he isn’t trying to blame China on America’s competitiveness woes, President Donald Trump has become obsessed with the online retailer Amazon. While there’s speculationthat Trump is using the reins of government to carry out a personal grudge because Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, also owns The Washington Post, the more recent obsession is based on his belief that the United States Postal Service is subsidizing Amazon’s activity.
The claim is that, based on a cost-plus method of pricing, Amazon is being subsidized $1.47 per package delivered by the USPS as a last-mile carrier. With an estimated608 million boxes shipped by the online retailer in 2017, Trump is implying that Amazon has shorted the postal service by $893 million.
Considering the USPS lost $2.7 billion, this further implies that Amazon is a key reason why the USPS is struggling financially. Trump goes on to state that Amazon should fork over the entire $2.7 billion to cover the difference.
A key problem here is the assumption that businesses operate on a cost-plus basis. This kind of thinking is a result of how warped government operations are, which frequently engage in cost-plus kinds of contracts. Cost-plus contracts are where the government agrees to cover all the applicable costs of performing the work plus a guaranteed profit. These forms of contracts are relatively unusual in the private business sector, where bidding on price are the primary form of activity. Because of the nature of cost-plus, and how they will frequently go over-budget because there is little incentive to control costs of performance, companies generally don’t engage in them. This means, in the world outside of tax-funded activity, the USPS has to compete with other package carriers like UPS and FedEx and doesn’t have the luxury of guaranteeing itself a profit on every activity.
When it comes to the USPS, the organization has significant fixed costs. In business planning, prices are usually lower-bound by the variable cost of activity. Any revenues that are collected above and beyond the variable costs are able to contribute toward fixed expenses. This is referred to as the contribution margin. Because the fixed component exists whether the product or service is sold or not, companies will be pressured to lower prices until they reach this contribution margin is exhausted. Companies then hope to generate sufficient volume at this margin to cover the fixed expenses. If the choice is between no sale and a sale below an optimal price with some contribution margin, the organization will usually go with the lower than optimal price to at least slow the resource deterioration.
The reason the USPS is in trouble and is struggling to cover its estimated $29 billion in fixed costs is because of its status as a partial legal monopoly. From the own words of the USPS, Congress has granted, with criminal penalty, the USPS total monopoly over the delivery of letters, with some carve-out exceptions (such as urgent or free of charge). Like most monopolies, the USPS had little incentive to keep costs controlled. In 1999, the USPS even went so far as to shrug off the burgeoning Internet, e-mail in particular, as some fad and engaged in sorting facility expansions with the expectation that letter volume would continue to grow. Since peaking in 2001, the number of letters delivered by the USPS has since collapsed to nearly half as much in 2017. The USPS costs, however, continued to increase, from $62 billion in 2000 to $72.3 billion in 2017, despite the collapse of business volume. The USPS was only able to remain solvent by leveraging its monopoly status by driving up the price of stamps from $0.34 for a first class stamp in 1999 to $0.50 later this year. But even this is running into limitations as the decline in mail volume accelerates.
This monopoly, however, doesn’t cover package delivery, putting the USPS in a strange position of having a legal monopoly on only part of its business. This creates the impression that the package business is subsidized by the letter business since the prices on the letter side aren’t limited by a competitive force. This then creates the further impression that the expenses, which were never controlled because of the historical reliance on letter delivery, should be evenly applied to package delivery as well. Thus the assumption there is a subsidy at all when in reality the costs are grossly overinflated due to a lack of market discipline.
When a private business is threatened by decreased volume, they usually have to trim operations to adjust their size to meet the new market demands. The USPS, on the other hand, does not do this. The organization continues to operate on the assumption it must make daily deliveries, six days a week, to every address in the nation. Even the old rural excuse has become weakened as the nation becomes more urban (assuming it was ever justified to tax city residents to provide city amenities to those who elected to live in remote places). Not that rural residents need a monopoly organization to deliver junk mail.
Repeal the Postal Service’s Monopoly
So what’s the answer to the failings of the USPS? Repeal the Private Express Statutes and let the USPS loose to manage its own affairs without Congressional interference in its operations. As Lysander Spooner famously proved back in 1844 with the American Letter Mail Company, the private sector can not only deliver the mail, it can deliver the mail profitably for a fraction of the cost of the postal service. This solves two problems:
The appearance that Amazon is subsidized through the USPS is eliminated
Profitable, stable delivery organizations can come into play
Repealing the private express statutes and getting government out of the mail delivery business may also very well save the USPS as not only can the USPS get out from under populist mandates, such as the overly generous retirement program and maintaining an absurd number of postal service locations; the USPS maintains over twice as many postal stops as McDonald’s has restaurants. It will also open up the market to more competition and competition breeds superior operations for competing members as creative methods of operation are more likely to be identified and can be mimicked, leading to superior operations for all players.
In the end, the “problem” with Amazon is self-inflicted by the government insisting it operates a monopoly letter carrier. Trump can fix the problem with one fell swoop by pressuring Congress not to pass laws imposing higher rates on Amazon delivered packages, which will only accelerate the failure of the USPS since Amazon would just pick an alternate carrier, but to open up unrestricted competition in mail delivery and cut the USPS loose from the government tether. It certainly worked out well in New Zealand.
Trump stands by decision to pull US troops out of Syria soon
“The US mission has not changed — the president has been clear that he wants US forces to come home as quickly as possible,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday. She made this point in response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement that he had convinced Trump to keep US forces there. Macron also said he told Trump that it was necessary to limit the airstrikes in Syria, suggesting Trump wanted to go further. “We also persuaded him that we needed to limit the strikes to chemical weapons sites after things got a little carried away over tweets,” Macron told reporters. He also said Syrian ally Russia is complicit.
Update 7: Russia responds. Here is the full statement posted by Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anataoly Antonov:
The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard.
A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.
All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.
Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.
The U.S. – the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons – has no moral right to blame other countries.
Update 6: The White House has released the list of US demands from Assad regime
Dismantle the chemical weapons program
Declare the weapons
Destroy the stockpile
Allow OPCW fact-finding mission
Comply with the de-escalation zone
* * *
Update 5: Video showing the moment a tomahawk missile hits a research facility in Syria:
* * *
Update 4: Joint Chiefs chairman Dunford said that while the strikes sought to minimize risk of Russian casualties, the US did not pre-notify Russia of the Syria strikes; separately Mattis said that double the number of weapons used compared to last year’s Syria strike – when 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched.
More from Dunford:
“We did have some surface-to-air missile activity from the Syrian regime.”
“The US did not pre-notify Russian forces in Syria about tonight’s kinetic activity.”
“Russia was alerted of Syria strikes through “deconfliction” line in Qatar”
“U.S. forces in Syria did make adjustments to force protection levels ahead of the combined air operations against the Syrian regime.”
“This wave of airstrikes is over. More information will follow in the morning.”
“Manned aircraft involved in Syria operation”
“Pentagon will brief tomorrow will more strike details”
“We used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year…We were very precise and proportionate, but at the same time, it was a heavy strike.”
“I am confident the Syrian regime conducted a chemical attack on innocent people.”
“Right now we have no more attacks planned”
* * *
Update 3: at 10PM ET, Defense Secretary Mattis and Joseph Dunford, the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff provided the Pentagon’s update, repeating that U.S., British and and French forces struck Syrias chemical weapons infrastructure tonight. Mattis said that “Clearly, the Assad regime did not get the message last year. This time, our allies and we have struck harder.”
Mattis adds that “I want to emphasize these strikes are directed at the Syrian regime. In conducting these strikes, we have gone to great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties.”
Then, Dunford said that the first target was a Syrian research facility, and adds that the US selected targets that would minimize risk to innocent civilians. He adds that attacks on multiple sites of Syria chemical weapons infrastructure “inflicted maximum damage.”
In total, Targets were specially associated with the Syrian regime’s CW program. These included:
Scientific research center in the greater #Damascus area.
Chemical weapons storage facility west of #Homs.
Chemical weapons equipment storage facility and command post west of #Homs.
The third target, which was in the vicinity of the second target, contained both the chemical weapons equipment storage facility and an important command post.”
Meanwhile, the White House said that the US is confident the Syrian regime was behind the chemical weapons attack, based on:
“reliable information indicating coordination between Syrian military officials before the attack.”
* * *
Update 2: Witnesses are reporting explosions heard in Damascus, including residential areas, although the first wave of US, UK and French attacks is allegedly targeting the following:
Republican Guard headquarters
Chemical weapon production sites
Meanwhile, Reuters adds that a total of three scientific research centers struck in the attack.
According to media reports in addition to American ships, Tomahawk missiles and aircraft – including B-1 bombers, leading the attacks, four British Tornado GR4s have targeted a military facility in Homs with Storm Shadow missiles.
While unconfirmed, Syria state TV claims that it shot down 13 missiles near Damascus.
Pentagon: There will be a press briefing at 10 p.m. EDT, tonight, April 13, in the Pentagon Briefing Room on operations in Syria.
* * *
Update 1: President Trump has now confirmed that in a combined operation with France and UK, a military strike is now under way against Syria…
“A short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad.”
“This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.”
“These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead.”
“The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power, military, economic, and diplomatic.”
“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”
“In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons.”
“Assad’s recent attack and today’s response are the direct result of Russia’s failure to keep that promise. Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace.”
“The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”
“Tonight, I ask all Americans to say a prayer for our noble warriors and our allies as they carry out their missions. We pray that God will bring comfort to those suffering in Syria.”
Theresa May has commented:
*MAY: AUTHORISED FORCES TO CONDUCT TARGETED STRIKES IN SYRIA
*MAY: WE ARE ACTING TOGETHER WITH OUR AMERICAN & FRENCH ALLIES
*U.K.’S MAY SAYS STRIKE IS LIMITED, TARGETED
*MAY: SYRIA’S PERSISTENT PATTERN OF BEHAVIOUR MUST BE STOPPED
*MAY: ATTACKS `NOT ABOUT REGIME CHANGE’ IN SYRIA
*MAY: CAN’T ALLOW CHEMICAL WEAPONS TO BECOME NORMALISED
Russia Warns “Cannot Exclude The Possibility” Of War With United States
Shortly after CNBC reported that the US is planning to strike 8 targets in Syria, including two airfields, a research center and a chemical weapons facility, after US officials told a reporter they were “fairly confident” the Syrian regime had been behind a gas attack in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, Sky News reported – citing Russian officials – that the Russian military would protect its people on the ground in Syria if missile strikes are launched by the US and its allies.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, said the current situation is a “test for each and every country in the world to protect its people on the ground.”
“Russia should protect its people on the ground of course…we came to Syria at the invitation of the people,” Zakharova told Sky News Presenter Dermot Murnaghan in Moscow.
Earlier in the day, Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo intimated during his confirmation that hundreds of Russian mercenaries had been killed by airstrikes during a clash on Feb. 7. Media reports said the US would give Russia fair warning of the sites it plans to attack.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador at the United Nations, said he unfortunately “cannot exclude any possibilities” when asked about the danger of war between the US and Russia.
A Map Of The Coming War: Who Is Who (And Where) In Syria
The first and most useful one, courtesy of Turkey’s Omran Dirasat think tank, shows updated areas of control and influence in Syria by international military forces with reference to the most prominent international military sites in Syria.
The second map, from Dirasat employee Nawar Sh. Oliver lays out the control and influence zone in Syria as of April 2018, revealing the relative % of gains and losses in the last 24 days.
Finally, from the regional political journal, Suriye Gündemi English, here is a map showing the latest military situation as well as location of key military bases in Syria ahead of the expected US strikes.
There are at least two European nations who remember that when it gets cold in the winter, there is one country they call to provide the natural gas they need for heating.
One of them is Germany, which realizing that any strike on Syria would further jeopardize its relationship with the Kremlin, said that it will not join any military strikes against Syria in response to the alleged chemical gas attack on an opposition enclave which Russia claims was a “white helmet” false flag, but all too diplomatically supports Western efforts to show the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
“Germany will not take part in possible – there have not been any decisions yet, I want to stress that – military action,” Merkel said according to Reuters after meeting Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen in Berlin. “But we support everything that is being done to show that the use of chemical weapons is not acceptable,” she added.
Of course, Merkel could have simply said “we are happy to do anything except whatever puts us on Putin’s black list: the rest of you can do that.”
Meanwhile in Dublin, Germany’s new Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany expects to be consulted before any Western allies conduct an attack on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces as the allies must be united on the matter.
Earlier, Merkel spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron about the suspected gas attack and expressed her concern that the international community’s ability to ban chemical weapons was eroding, her spokesman said. Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the German parliamentary foreign affairs committee and an ally of Merkel’s, said: “Shamefully, there is still no policy from the EU – or even individual EU states – for the Middle (East) countries.
“If it came to military strikes with the participation of France and Britain, that is still not a policy.”
Amusingly, instead of focusing on the nature of the schism between Germany and its allies, Europe’s most powerful nation deflect to the lack of a coherent European policy on the matter: an easy excuse in a continent in which there is virtually no cohesion on any matter:
Roettgen urged the European Union to develop a policy for the Middle East as a whole, adding: “Germany should work together with others for a Middle East peace conference. We have various diplomatic options to not let the topic rest.”
He called for a “step-by-step approach”, which could start with humanitarian access in Syria. “The situation is so burdened with multiple conflicts that one can only proceed gradually.”
Asked about such a conference, Merkel told reporters: “We know a lot of things are linked in the Middle East, no question, but now we must urgently deal with a situation where there is a lot of evidence that the Syrian regime again used chemical weapons.”
Another option floated by Germany would be to use what oil-importing leverage Europe has over Iran to pressure Syria. Roettgen said Europe could talk to Iran in connection with its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which Trump has criticised as “the worst deal ever negotiated”.
Iran needed to understand that its economic prospects would be constrained if it “pursues a permanent bellicose expansion of power,” he said, adding Turkey should be told “there cannot be a warrant for warfare in Syria.”
In other words, Europe would stop importing Iranian oil (for Euros) if Tehran refused to betray its Syrian friends.
“But there is no country – neither the U.S. nor a European country – that is taking the initiative. That’s the shameful thing about Western politics,” Roettgen said.
The other country, which moments after Germany said would not participate any Syrian strikes, said it took would refuse to participate in any military action against Russia Assad, was Italy:
ITALY WILL NOT TAKE PART IN ANY MILITARY ACTION IN SYRIA
However, just like Germany…
ITALY WOULD PROVIDE LOGISTICAL SUPPORT TO ALLIES -PRIME MINISTER’S OFFICE
Which means that the two nations that will lead the attack on Syria when it inevitable comes – whether with or without the US – will be the UK, whose subs are already on location off the coast of Syria, and most likely France.
The list goes on, but the point is that the Lord presently endures enormous pain because He wishes that none would perish, but that all would be blessed with everlasting life through Christ Jesus. (John 3:16).
The Lord, for a long time past and in the present, tempers His fury and righteous indignation with His enduring pain. He turns the other cheek continually in the practice of what He preaches. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Pain tolerance has its limits within humanity. Some can endure suffering longer than others, but eventually, we all succumb to a final dose. But God, has in the past and continues to suffer in the present, beyond what humans can conceivably imagine or definitively measure. His Son, Jesus Christ evidenced this when He obediently went through the scourging’s, crown of thorns, the crucifixion and the burial in the tomb.
The reality that a believer must soon come to grips with is that the Lord is presently in the longsuffering condition but will someday shift His focus to the fury mode. Vengeance is the Lord’s privilege as the Divine Creator and as per Deuteronomy 32:35 and elsewhere.
There are numerous unfulfilled biblical prophecies, like in Jeremiah 49:37 and Ezekiel 25:14-17, that forecast severe judgments are forthcoming upon various nations. These judgments come because the Lord is furious with those specific nations. This means that at some point in the future, the Lord says, “I have had enough!” However, this is not likely because He can’t endure the pain any further, His millenniums of longsuffering prove that, but because He recognizes that any further longsuffering from Him is futile.
In other words, longsuffering is not fruitful to the end of one’s salvation and / or even for the future survival of mankind’s upon the planet. Matthew 24:22 tells us, And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
In essence, His longsuffering reaches a point whereby it causes more harm than good. Knowing the end from the beginning, He foreknows when that point of no return occurs.
Thus, judgment then comes and fortunately when that scenario happens, some will realize that even in judgment, the Lord is just and righteous. The Holy Scriptures are bountiful in acknowledging that many become saved believers when the wrath of God is poured out upon a Christ rejecting humanity.
As a student of the prophetic Scriptures, I have come to understand that the Lord will destroy several nations and ethnicities, and that He is just in so doing this. I have been taken back by His patience and for a prolonged period of time have prayed the specific supplication of:
“HOW LONG OH LORD, UNTIL YOU CURSE THOSE THAT ARE CURSING ISRAEL?”
The Lord’s foreign policy in this matter is in Genesis 12:3, which says that He will bless those who bless Abraham, but curse those who curse them. This extrapolates down through the generations to the Jewish descendants of Abraham today. This foreign policy is effectually intact.
I prayed over this matter for a longsuffering period. Then, one day, a few years ago, the Lord spoke to me and simply answered my prayer by asking me a simple question. He asked,
“WHAT PART OF I’M A LONGSUFFERING GOD DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?”
Therein, that statement was my answer. The measurement of time until the Lord would curse those that curse Israel was not a matter of time, but a matter of spiritual condition. And, that spiritual condition was under His sole longsuffering discretion.
Now the question for the Lord is,
“HOW LONG WILL YOU CONTINUE TO LONGSUFFER BEFORE YOU CURSE THOSE THAT CURSE ISRAEL?”
Stay tuned for the answer to that question….As we see things rapidly deteriorating in the Middle East, we may discover God’s answer very soon!
11 Russian Warships Leave Syrian Port To Conduct Exercises
by Tyler Durden
Wed, 04/11/2018 – 13:05
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Update: The Russian warships leaving port has been reported as a drill, as InterFax reports:
Russian Navy ships, starting from April 11, will conduct exercises near the coast of Syria, follow from the international notification for aviation personnel (NOTAM) and navigational warning for seafarers.
The reports contain the coordinates of the closed area, as well as the conduct of training shooting there.
The training area, located in the international waters of the Mediterranean, is adjacent to the sea border of Syria. It will be closed on 11-12, 17-19 and 25-26 April from 10 to 18 Moscow time.
Currently, as part of the permanent operational connection of the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean Sea, there are about 15 warships and vessels providing the Black Sea Fleet, including the carriers of the Caliber cruise missiles Frigates Admiral Grigorovich and Admiral Essen, as well as submarines that repeatedly struck at the targets of terrorists in Syria.
* * *
US equity markets are re-surging following headlines that satellite images show eleven Russian battleships leaving a port in Syria. It appears the market has interpreted this as potentially reducing the immediate fears of a proxy war becoming a world war, though some would argue it is the opposite as ships cannot fight at port and are potentially moving into a more strategic position.
A snapshot of the port of Tartus, shows the Russian warships at anchor before, according to ISI:
And after: a single Russian submarine remains at Tartus.
More details from Fox News:
Additionally, a Russian lawmaker has confirmed that Moscow is in direct contact with US military staff for Syria.
This sent Nasdaq above yesterday’s highs as the machines ran stops.
And the Ruble has reversed all its losses for the day and is now higher..
Trump Will Make Decision On Syria Strike Tonight: BBG
Update (3:20 pm ET): Apparently, Trump’s meeting with Mattis and Dunford has been a productive one.
Bloomberg reports that Trump will decide tonight whether to strike Syria – but the timing of the execution (or abstention) is undetermined.
Minutes after Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford arrived at the White House to meet with President Trump, Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs reported that, despite Trump’s belligerent tweets from earlier in the day, his administration is still weighing options for military action in Syria, and no military strikes are expected to be announced on Wednesday.
The delay should not come as a surprise considering only today the US deployed the USS Truman carrier strike group and 7 warships for Syria; the crossing of the Atlantic will take at least a couple of weeks, and earlier today the Pentagon said that the ship will reach its target in “mid-May.”
The news follows a Fox News report, citing satellite images, showing 11 Russian battleships leaving a port in Syria. That report sent equities higher, though it was later reported that their departure was part of a Russian military drills, according to local Russian media.
Earlier in the day, Mattis said the US was “still assessing” whether the Syrian government was behind the deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town near Damascus. It also follows reports that Russia is blaming the US-funded “White Helmets” group for staging the chemical attack.
Ironically, as the US hesitates, UK Prime Minister Theresa May – still angry over embarrassing disclosures that it jumped to conclusions when blaming Russia for the nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter – has also decided “to act” on Syria, even without the approval of Parliament, according to the BBC.
Earlier this week, the UN Security Council was blocked by Russia from authorizing an investigation into who was responsible for the Syrian gas attack.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has signaled restraint, saying Wednesday that he hopes cooler heads will prevail before the tensions between Russia and the West escalate into a full-blown military conflict, which some have called simply “World War III.”
For his part, Trump again blamed Special Counsel Bob Mueller and the Democrats for the deterioration in US-Russia relations in a tweet this morning, just minutes after warning Putin that “nice and new and smart” missiles will be fired at “gas killing animal” Assad.
More concrete news about the US’s plans for retaliation will likely surface after Trump’s meeting with Mattis and Dunford ends later this afternoon. At least one US warship is anchored in the water off Syria, and is loaded with 60 tomahawk missiles should the order come down.
Finally, keep in mind this is Trump, where mood swings are not optional, and why a few hours from now there may well be a mushroom cloud in the middle east.
US P-8 Poseidon “Submarine Killer” Flying Off Syria Coast
A highly sophisticated US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol plane, also known as a “submarine killer” was observed by the Strategic Sentinel flying south of Cyprus, having likely departed from Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, and headed eastward toward Syria on Tuesday.
The flight comes at a time when not a single commercial plane can be observed over Syria, as per the guidance of Europe’s Air traffic control which last night warned that airstrikes on Syria are imminent.
A recent flight path history shows the Poseidon engaged in heavy shore “sniffing” designed to uncover whether any Russian subs are hiding near Syria.
There is a decent chance you have already flown on one of the U.S. Navy’s key new aircraft—or rather, the 737 airliner it is based on. The P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol plane may not be as sexy as an F-35 stealth fighter, but in some ways it is far closer to the forefront of international flashpoints in the Pacific Ocean. Maritime patrol planes are essential for tracking the movement of ships and especially submarines across vast oceanic waters—and potentially sinking them in the event of hostilities.
Hunting submarines from the air, however, is an airpower-intensive job that requires numerous airframes spending thousands of flight hours flying long-distance patrol patterns over the ocean. Since 1962, the U.S. Navy has operated the P-3 Orion patrol plane, based on the four-engine L-88 Electra airliner. The turboprop-powered aircraft could spend a dozen hours flying low over the ocean to drop sonar buoys, scan the water for metallic hulls of submarines with its Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) and potentially launch torpedoes. After fifty-five years of able service, however, the P-3s have accumulated thousands of service hours and their hulls are growing fatigued.
In 2004 the U.S. Navy selected the jet-powered Boeing P-8 Poseidon to succeed the aging P-3. Development proceeded relatively smoothly, in part due to the use of a preexisting airframe and the decision to phase in the P-8’s advanced systems in a series of increments rather than delivering them all at once. This led the P-8 unit costs to actually come in under budget, at $150 million per aircraft.
The P-8 is based on the 737-800ERX short-to-medium-range airliner. It typically has a flight crew of three and boosts stronger power generators for its onboard electronics. The Poseidon reportedly offers a much smoother ride than the Orion, thanks to its broader-swept wings and flight computers. Orion crews were often nauseated by the strong turbulence their low-altitude flight operations required.
The Poseidon’s primary payload is its diverse array of sensors. These include an APY-10 multi-mode synthetic aperture radar, which not only can track the position of ships over hundreds of miles away, but possesses a high-resolution mode which can spot submarine periscopes poking above the waves and even identify different classes of ships. An MX-20 electro-optical/infrared turret provides a shorter-range search option, while an ALQ-240 Electronic Support Measure (ESM) derived from a system onboard the EA-18G Growler functions as an electromagnetic sensor, particularly useful in tracking the positions of radar emitters.
A recent addition is the Advanced Airborne Sensor, a dual-sided AESA radar that can offer 360-degree scanning on targets on land or coastal areas, and which has potential applications as a jamming or even cyberwarfare platform.
A number of key systems on the P-8 are designed to track submerged submarines. A rotary launcher system in the rear of the P-8 can dispense sonar buoys into the water. A recent upgrade allows P-8s to employ new Multistatic Active Coherent buoys that generate multiple sonar pulses over time, allowing for greater endurance and search range. The P-8 also has its own acoustic sensor, and even a new hydrocarbon sensor that can “sniff” for fuel vapor from submarines.
However, the P-8 lacks the tail-mounted MAD sensor of the P-3 Orion, useful for detecting the metallic hulls of submarines while flying at low altitude. Various reasons have been offered for its removal: the MAD weighed too much at 3,500 pounds, it did not fit with the high-altitude search profile of the P-8, or the new sensors on the P-8 rendered it unnecessary. However, the U.S. Navy is reportedly developing a variant of the an air launched drone, called the High-Altitude Unmanned Targeting Air System, which can carry a MAD sensor and transmit its findings back up to the P-8.
Five operator stations on the port side of the plane carry multifunction displays that can be configured to display whatever sensors and controls are most useful under the circumstances. The P-8’s computers are designed to fuse the data into a single coherent picture for the operators—and can then “push” that data to friendly ships and airplanes. This is a capability the U.S. Air Force has been struggling to integrate into its new E-3G radar planes. The P-3 is also designed to be especially compatible with Navy RQ-4N drones.
In the event of hostilities, the Poseidon can carry five missiles, depth charges or torpedoes in a rotary launcher in the rear hull, and six more on underwing racks. While the P-3 had to fly low to deploy its torpedoes, the P-8 can use a special High Altitude Air Launch Accessory to transform its Mark 54 324-millimeter lightweight torpedoes into GPS-guided glide bombs that can be dropped from altitudes as high as thirty thousand feet. These shed their wings upon hitting the water and hone in on targets using onboard sonar. Poseidons can also carry Harpoon AGM-184H/K antiship missiles with a range of 150 miles.
“Imminent Announcement” Of US Action In Syria Coming Amid Expectations Of Air Strikes “Within Hours”
Update: FoxNews just reported that an announcement on US Action in Syria is imminent.
Reports are pouring in of US and French aircraft headed towards Syria for what we assume is a major operation if true. As of now, these reports remains unconfirmed:
Amid the loud war drums, the EU’s air traffic control body, Eurocontrol, has issued a 72-hour Rapid Alert Notification to flight operators in the eastern Mediterranean – warning of possible rocket launches into Syria.
“Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and / or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken when planning flight operations in the Eastern Mediterranean / Nicosia FIR area,” reads the alert.
For now an imminent airstrike appears unlikely as Russian warplanes are still in the air, and the US will hardly risk taking down a Russian fighter jet.
However, according to subsequent reports, Russia appears to have received a warning as Russian military helicopters are reportedly relocating from the T-4 – which was struck by Israel on Monday morning – and Dumeyir airbases in Southern Syria to Hmeymim.
The notification comes on the heels of several geopolitical developments in response to last weekend’s alleged chemical attack on Syrian rebels.
The USS Donald Cook has been parked off of Syrian waters, and has been buzzed by Russian pilots
President Trump has deployed the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) to the Mediterranean Wednesday, where it will join the USS Donald Cook off Syrian territorial waters.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, speaking shoulder-to-shoulder with Emmanuel Macron from Paris, announced his “readiness to work with allies on any military response in Syria if needed.”
Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to investigate the chemical attack. Russia’s UN envoy says the draft was designed to fail, which would thus “justify” unauthorized action in Syria.
Russia is jammingmilitary signals for some US drones operating in the skies over Syria, according to NBC, which cited four military officials.
There is some good news: according to the Pentagon Press Parking Index (PPPI) strikes against Syria tonight are unlikely:
But just in case, you may want to grab your popcorn… and if you live near a military installation, you may not need a microwave.
[This comes from Hal Turner’s site, but what I am putting below, mostly are quotes from other people, not commentary. We are very very close to war in Syria, which will provoke Russia to take action against America (their quotes not mine)…It leaves a prophecy watcher with one question: Is this why the U.S. isn’t mentioned in future prophecy? Does the U.S. get taken out of the picture after being crippled following war with Russia? Thus paving the way for Ezekiel 38-39? It’s certainly food for thought. The purpose here is to reveal how close we are to war with Syria/Russia. And based on a false premise. What is the deep state thinking? Why would they want to trigger war with Russia? It’s not exaggerating to say we are almost at “Cuban Missile Crisis” Stage. ]
1:35 PM EDT — US Ambassador to NATO has told me President Assad is guilty of “genocide” and military action would be “an appropriate response”
On military action the Ambassador said this:
“I believe a military response, taking out perhaps some of the places where these missions are taking place – the bases from which they’re flying to drop chemical weapons – I think that would be an appropriate response.”
1:40 PM EDT — RUSSIAN STATE MEDIA: “US WON’T BE ABLE TO CONDUCT SYRIA STRIKES WITH IMPUNITY, UNLIKE THE LAST TIME”
2:00 PM EDT — Russian jets buzz American and French warships near the Syrian coast line. The jets were fully armed with missiles.
2:34 PM EDT — A senior Russian lawmaker warns the US against a strike against Syria, says it could trigger a direct military clash between Russia and the U.S.
“Shamanov emphasized that a retaliatory Russian strike could target U.S. navy ships and aircraft. He added that the use of nuclear weapons is “Unlikely… as yet” (not ruled out)
2:55 PM EDT — ALERT According to reports, British forces are mobilizing at their bases in Cyprus and Rafale fighter jets could takeoff from St Dizier airbase in France for possible strikes against Syria
3:15 PM EDT — The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) hs now gone on high alert in northern Israel as regional tensions soar with Syria.
3:30 PM EDT — Nikki Haley now speaking before the UN vote. Says US proposal is the “bare minimum”. Says Russian proposal allows Russia to choose the investigators and would not be independent. Says we can not delay any longer.
VOTING BEGINS AT UN SECURITY COUNCIL ON AMERICAN RESOLUTION FOR SYRIA: 12 in favor, 2 against, China abstains
3:42 PM EDT — RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO LEBANON ALEXANDER ZASYPKIN:
“RUSSIA WILL RETALIATE AGAINST THE UNITED STATES IF THE LATTER LAUNCHES AN ATTACK ON SYRIA”
359 PM EDT — ‘ALL NECESSARY ASSETS’ IN PLACE TO ATTACK SYRIA, ORDERS FROM TRUMP EXPECTED ‘ANYTIME’ – U.S. MILITARY OFFICIALS TO I24 NEWS.
4:05 PM EDT — RUSSIAN DRAFT RESOLUTION NOT APPROVED, NOT ENOUGH VOTES
The die has been cast. THERE WILL BE***NO*** PEACEFUL RESOLUTION OF THE SYRIA ISSUE.
5:15 PM EDT — A U.S. military official indicated that in the event of Iranian missile strikes against Israel, “we will have fighting forces moving within 72 hours”.
5:20 PM EDT — The UN Security Council HAS RECONVENED behind closed doors.
5:30 PM EDT — Russian Kalibr crusie missiles locked on US bases in Syria
The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are put on full combat readiness
6:09 PM EDT — Russian ambassador at the #UNSC: The strike that you’re planning against #yria will lead to a catastrophic results.
6:12 PM EDT — “Any Russia-U.S. military clash will expand beyond a local conflict and a confrontation will be inevitable.” –
Retired Lt. Gen. Yevgeny Buzhinsky (former chief of the Russian Defense Ministry’s international department)
6:59 PM EDT — Israeli media is reporting that “Israeli Prime minister has revealed during a security meeting that the US will strike a military blow to the Syrian regime.”
7:02 PM EDT — Russian Defense Ministry public advisory council member Igor Korotchenko: “Trump has to understand that we’re going to be talking about the possibility of nuclear escalation if we have a collision of the U.S. and Russian militaries”
US, France, UK prepare air, navy units for sustained assault in Syria
US President Donald Trump’s “major decision” on Syria is contingent on the rallying of sufficient air and naval strength and allied participation. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the only US warship immediately available for the promised US military response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Douma is the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook, which sailed from Larnaca Monday, April 9, on its way to the eastern Mediterranean. The USS Iwo Jima strike group, which visited Haifa last month, is now cruising in the Arabian Sea, days away from the scene, whereas the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group only departs the US port for the Middle East on Wednesday, April 11, and is not due in the Mediterranean before next week.
The Trump administration is negotiating with Britain, France and other allies, including Arab governments, for their roles in the Syrian operation. Our Washington sources report that the commander-in-chief is looking at a major operation in Syria, to unfold over several days and lead to a concerted allied assault on the Iranian military presence embedded in that country. This extended goal may give US allies pause.
Trump’s line to UK Prime Minister Theresa May is this: You owe me for supporting you against Russia in the spy poisoning affair; now, back me up in holding Russia and Iran to account for the chemical attack in Syria. Britain maintains an air base in Cyprus. France’s only aircraft carrier, the FS Charles de Gaulle-R 91, is in dock for lengthy repairs. On April 6, 350 French airmen started a joint training exercise aboard the USSGeorge HW Bush in the West Atlantic. Bringing them over would entail complicated, time-consuming coordination between their two headquarters.
Trump has promised to reach a decision on the Syrian operation by Thursday after consulting his security chiefs and allies. What he has in mind is much more than a one-off strike like the Tomahawk assault he ordered on a Syrian air base a year ago to punish the regime for a chemical attack that left 80 civilians dead. This operation is likely to be sustained and continue well into the second half of April.
Moscow and Tehran link up to strike Israeli targets in response for US-led operation in Syria
Tehran’s resolve to make Israel pay for its airborne missile attack on the T-4 air base was conveyed on April 11 by outing the 7 Rev Guardsmen killed in the attack. Iran has never, in all seven years of its intervention in the Syria war, released its military casualties. But on Wednesday, April 11, for the first time, the Iranian Guards mouthpiece, the Tasnim News Agency, ran the names and photos of the seven members of its aerospace unit, who died in the airborne missile strike on the Iranian compound of the big T-4 bases it shares with the Russian and Syrian air forces. The agency also ran pictures of heavily damaged equipment.
By coming clean about its painful setback, the Tehran regime implicitly assured the public that it was not in vain and it was committed to a reckoning with the enemy for the deaths and damage on display. The supreme leader’s senior adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati, said so bluntly when he arrived in Damascus on Tuesday: “Israel’s air strike on the Syrian air base will not go unanswered,” he said, As he spoke, Tehran gained support from its ally in Moscow with the visit of Alexander Lavrentiev, the special Russian emissary on Syria. In a long meeting with Iran’s national security adviser Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the Russian said Iran’s decision for a military response to the T-4 attack was understandble. He then proposed combining Iran’s action against Israel with Russia’s plans for countering the forthcoming US-British-France operation in Syria.
The Iranian and Russian officials were of one mind that Israel’s T-4 strike was the opening shot for that operation, and the next round of attacks would target Iranian and possibly also Russian targets in Syria. On this point, they cited President Donald Trump who said on Monday, April 9, in response to the chemical attack in Douma: “We can’t allow atrocities like that… If it’s the Russians, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out.”
The Russian veto Tuesday night on the US motion at the UN Security Council for an investigation into Douma attack sent this message to Washington: Moscow has completed its preparations for countering a US-led strike in Syria. It also nixed a scenario advanced by some sources in Washington: They maintained that delaying the US operation for final consultations with London and Paris, would be beneficial, since it would give the Russians time to evacuate the bases they shared with Iran and whisk their troops out of harm’s way.
Those sources misread Moscow’s intent. The Russian ambassador to Beirut put them straight on this when he said on Wednesday. “If there is a strike by the Americans then … the missiles will be downed and even their launch sites would be targeted.”
Equally out of sync was the theory put about in the last 24 hours by some sources in Jerusalem, that Israel has no part to play in the US-British-French punitive operation against the Assad regime in Syria, since its only interest lies in preventing Iran from establishing a military presence in that country.
That theory is no longer relevant, because whatever Israel does now, it is not off the hook. For Moscow, Tehran and Damascus, Israel is an integral part of the US-led alliance and is seen to have fired the first shot for the main operation against Syria. Therefore, while Israel geared up initially for a limited Iranian strike from its northern border, it is now feared that a military location deep inside the country may be targeted. During Wednesday, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu conducted back-to-back consultations with his top security advisers: Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenklot, Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin, Military Intelligence Director Maj. Gen. Tamir Heiman and head of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat.
Iranians Panic – “Can’t Find Dollars” After Government Enforces Currency Controls
This prompted an angry response from Iran’s First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri who said in a statement recorded for state TV and published on its website that enemies of the Islamic Republic and of the government were behind the instability.
As Bloomberg reports,Jahangiri said the sudden decline was “unnatural and unprecedented” because tens of billions of dollars worth of foreign currency had flowed into Iran in recent weeks from the country’s export revenues and this showed that a wider political plot sought to discredit the government of President Hassan Rouhani and foment instability.
“It’s natural that our enemies and opponents, especially the Americans, after the nuclear deal was agreed and after Trump took office, have made great efforts to try and present Iran’s economy as turbulent and try to discourage anyone from working with Iran,” Jahangiri said.
And so Iran enforced a rate of 42,000 Rial per USD warning that anyone found selling the dollar at rates higher than 42,000 rials “will be dealt with severely” by judicial authorities and the police, Jahangiri said.
“We do not officially recognize any other rate than this one,” he said.
“From tomorrow, any other price that’s offered in the market will be considered contraband, in the same way that illegal drugs are contraband.”
Still, things remain ugly for those holding Rials…
As one would expect, this news prompted widespread concern among Iranians who flocked to exchange offices on Tuesday only to find there were none to buy.
As GulfNews reports, on Ferdowsi Street in central Tehran, home to dozens of banks and currency exchanges, many had hoped to find much cheaper dollars than the day before.
But all along Ferdowsi Street, exchangers were turning hundreds of people away or had signs up saying: “We have no dollars to sell”, while rate boards showed blank spaces for US and European currencies.
“Last night on TV I heard it’s 42,000 so I came here to buy some for my son who is overseas. I’ve checked every exchanger but I couldn’t find any dollars,” said Tahmoores Faravahar, a 71-year-old retired oil sector worker.
Many businesses were forced to halt work amid the uncertainty created over prices and the availability of imported materials.
“After speaking to my usual printer, I’ve had to cancel a project because they weren’t selling anything,” said Payam, a 38-year-old in Tehran who owns a small advertising and publishing company. “I was also planning to advertise for new personnel on Saturday — I’ve also canceled that plan now.”
Some said this had only created fear and confusion.
“People don’t have hope in the political and economic situation in this country. People are confused and just want to keep their money safe by turning it into dollars.”
One exchange office said it was never clear when the central bank would deliver dollars for them to sell.
“I don’t know why they haven’t come yet today,” he said in the early afternoon. “But the new rate is good. The price was not normal these last few days.”
But this seemed to sum things up well…
“The truth is that the people can’t trust the word of the government that their money will be safe,” said a trader who sold currency on the street and asked to remain anonymous.
One street trader said exchangers would find ways to fiddle the system to get round the new fixed rate, even though Vice-President Eshagh Jahangiri warned this would be considered smuggling.
As the world continues to advance technologically, so do more initiatives that encroach on our basic human rights. It seems we’re on our way to becoming a card-less, cashless society. Remember when our credit and debit cards didn’t have a chip, and we had to sign for our purchases? Well, they got a chip, and the next step might be a chip inside of our body, and not inside of the card.
In fact, microchip implants in humans are already on the market. For example, an American company called Applied Digital Solutions (ADS) has developed one approximately the size of a grain of rice, and has already had it approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for distribution and implementation. (source)
Not long ago, Ex DARPA director and Google Executive (now a Facebook executive), Regina Dugan, was promoting the idea of microchipping humans. You can view that clip here.
Ask yourself, what if this becomes a requirement for authentication and identification? To withdraw money or go to the grocery store, to access your health card, social security information or passport.. Would you do it?
Last year, a Wisconsin company held a ‘chip party’ to microchip their workers, as the Chicago Tribune points out:
“A brief sting is all employees of a Wisconsin technology company said they felt Tuesday when they received a microchip implant in their hand that will allow them to open doors, log onto computers or buy breakroom snacks by simply waving their hand.
Three Square Market, also known as 32M, said 41 of its 85 employees agreed to be voluntarily microchipped during a “chip party” at company headquarters in River Falls.”
Another example would be the Swedish technology firm, Epicener. Over 100 employees there agreed to have a microchip implanted inside their hands, which allows them to open doors and use electronic devices more efficiently.
Although it’s claimed that the data in these microchips is encrypted and does not use GPS (so we cannot be tracked and private information obtained), who really knows if that’s true. With all of the leaks from Edward Snowden, and now the revelations about Facebook and how much they’ve creeped into their users private lives via storing data, is this something we can really trust? The concerning thing is that it’s creeping towards being the norm, as the technology is slowly being used and developed by multiple countries around the world.
It actually started years ago when animals began being implanted with devices.
An associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Noelle Chesley, stated that many of those at the edge of developing these technologies “believe we are going to be combining technology in our bodies.”
“It has the potential to change the very essence of what it is to be human.. It’s not possible to interact in society today in any meaningful way, without having a mobile phone. I think human implants will go along as similar route. It will be such a disadvantage not to have the implant that it will essentially not be optional.”
Microchipping has always attracted attention as being some part of a hidden agenda plan, one that continues to take away our rights. The backbone of the American ruling elite’s ideology has long been neoliberalism and neoconservativism, a state creeping towards the description given by George Orwell’s 1984.
Not long ago, mass surveillance on the global population was considered a mere conspiracy, but it’s not anymore.. And the reasons to justify these actions seem to be based on false premises.
George Orwell’s 1984 is a classic book depicting a populace ruled by a political regime that persecutes individualism and independent critical thinking as “thoughtcrimes” that must be enforced by the “thought police.” This party seeks power above all, and, through the propagandist Ministry of Truth, presents the people with their version of truth. Sound familiar?
Within the past few years, so much information has come out contradicting the mainstream rhetoric. Election fraud, as made evident by WikiLeaks, is one example, and false flag terrorism, with 9/11 being the perfect example, is another.
My YouTube channel was deleted and unable to be viewed for ONE DAY – starting April 2nd to April 3rd. For one 24 hour period, I and my subscribers were unable to access the contents on my channel UNLESS you KNEW the correct video title you were looking for and then and ONLY then, could you see my content.
Then… this happened…???? WHAT????? IS ??????? Going ????? ON ???????
YouTube Shooter Identified As Nasim Aghdam
As it turns out, Tuesday’s shooting at YouTube headquarters (which has so far resulted in zero deaths other than that of the shooter, who committed suicide) had nothing to do with domestic violence and everything to do with blowback to YouTube’s demonetization efforts – as many initially feared.
The shooter was identified as Nasim Aghdam who slammed YouTube for purportedly censoring her after she claimed that they demonetized her channels, including an exercise one devoted to exercise videos and another devoted to veganism. Aghdam channeled her anger toward YouTube into a paranoid manifesto published online. She wrote in her purported manifesto: “Be aware! Dictatorship exists in all countries but with different tactics! They only care for personal and short-term profits and do anything to reach their goals even by fooling simple-minded people, hiding the truth, manipulating science and everything, putting public mental and physical health at risk, abusing non-human animals, polluting the environment, destroying family values, promoting materialism and sexual degeneration in the name of freedom and turning people into programmed robots!”
She identified herself as an Iranian activist as well as an animal rights activist. Shortly after she was identified, photos of her holding signs with anti-YouTube messages were found online and shared.
She recently published a video ranting about her treatment by YouTube, complaining that they’d deprived her of views. She said the practice was tantamount to censorship. She also maintained a website that remained live late Tuesday evening. It lists five channels for Aghdam.
And driving that point home, she published a video debating whether the US or Iran did more to protect freedom of speech.
A Facebook artist page she created had more than 1,600 followers according to a cached version from archive.org. The Facebook page contains a trove of videos. They range in subject matter from lighthearted and comical to recipes for helping people eat vegan, as well as her exercise videos.
Contrary to initial reports, ABC said Aghdam wasn’t in a relationship with anyone at the facility (so much for those initial suspicions).
She did not have an ID badge, and was carrying a purse. Aghdam was apparently a prolific maker of YouTube videos, maintaining several accounts for videos of different subjects.
DEBKAfile Exclusive: French special ops troops have moved into two US Syrian bases, Manbij and Remelin, as the US boosts its lines against Turkey.
While US President Donald Trump was saying Tuesday, April 3, that he would “decide very quickly” to remove US troops from Syria, our exclusive military sources report that US Marines were heading toward the northern Syrian town of Manbij as reinforcements against Turkish inroads. They took up positions along the Sajur River, one of the three tributaries that feed the Euphrates River in Syria from sources in Turkey. This action blocked the Turkish army’s land access to Manbij, its next target after capturing Afrin. The Marine unit is equipped with a large fleet of armored vehicles, heavy artillery and engineering equipment. US military engineers are also building a new facility at the tiny Dadat village 8km east of the Sajur river as a rear base for the new US defense line.
DEBKAfile’s military sources also reveal that on Sunday and Monday, April 1-2, French forces moved into northern Syria, marking France’s first substantial military feed into the Syrian civil war. French troops formed up alongside US marines in Manbij and their jets and battle helicopters landed at the US air base in Remelin to provide air support for the US and French contingents posted in Manbij.
The French units drove into Manbij at the moment on Monday that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visited his troops with congratulations on their capture of Afrin from the US-backed Kurdish YPG militia. Clad in the army fatigues of a Turkish general, Erdogan signaled in the speech that the Afrin venture was the start of a major Turkish military campaign against the Kurds in northern Syria and Iraq. It would start next at Manbij and go on to seize Sinjar in northern Iraq.
This time, according to our sources, President Donald Trump moved swiftly to beat the Turkish leader to the draw and snatch away his two main targets in Syria and Iraq. He put to good use the good understanding he has quickly developed with French President Emmanuel Macron for cooperating in a number of international arenas, in contrast to his uneasy relations with most other West European leaders.
As for Erdogan’s Iraq destination, Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi, after being leaned on heavily by the Trump administration, sent the Iraqi Army’s 5th Division to Sinjar province and lined his troops up on the Iraqi-Syrian border to obstruct the Turkish army’s advance from Syria into Iraq. Erdogan was unable to make good on his threat to seize the Iraqi province unless the Kurdish PKK withdrew from its bases there. President Macron had meanwhile acted to consolidate Trump’s plans for the Kurdish districts of Syria. On March 29, he received a delegation of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and the Syrian Democratic Army, which led the battle for driving ISIS out of Raqqa. After praising their military feats, he pledged French support for “the stabilization of their security zone in northeastern Syria within the framework of an inclusive and balanced governance to prevent any resurgence of ISIS.”
Erdogan vented his rage on Macron by accusing him of “fraud” and later of conducting “a French military invasion of Syria.” For daring to offer to mediate between Turkey and the Kurds, he accused the French president of interfering with Turkey’s military operations. Instead of answering the Turkish president’s charges, Macron sent French troops to Manbij to support the US military’s counter-offensive against the Turkish army’s plans.
The Trump administration therefore acted through two allies to frustrate Erdogan’s military plans for Syria and Iraq.
Leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey to meet on Syria
The leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey are meeting in the Turkish capital for talks on Syria’s future.
The leaders are expected to reaffirm their commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity and the continuation of local ceasefires when they meet today.
The three countries have been working to try and resolve the conflict, which is now in its seventh year. Russia and Iran have provided crucial support to President Bashar Assad’s forces, while Turkey has backed the rebels seeking to overthrow him.
They have sponsored a series talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, and have set up “de-escalation zones” aimed at reducing the fighting.
New Study Provides Yet More Proof Of Saudi State Sponsorship Of ISIS
During the same week Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) admitted to the The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that Saudi nationals have funded terror groups, a prominent Georgetown University counterterrorism expert and field researcher has published his findings based on extensive interviews with former ISIS members which identifies Saudi Arabia as a key source of the now defunct Islamic State’s prior rapid growth.
“The majority of the ISIS shaykhs (imams and teachers) who were preaching in ISIS-controlled territories and schools were from Saudi Arabia.”
Though documentation on Saudi Arabia’s role in financing global jihad has been abundant over the past years of war in Syria and Iraq, Professor Yayla’s field research provides yet further empirical confirmation and proof of Saudi Arabia’s role in fueling both ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorism.
Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). Image source: Getty via Daily Express
Salafism is usually described as an ultraconservative, puritanical, grim and fundamentalist branch within Sunni Islam established on the teachings of the 13th-century scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, whose ideas were introduced by puritanical scholar Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the Arabian Peninsula during the mid-18th Century. Wahhab advocated a return to the traditions of the first generations of Muslims (the salaf).
And as also summarized in a 2016 New York Times investigation, ISIS terrorists rely on official Saudi religious instruction books as primary sources informing their ideology.
ISIS and al-Qaeda appropriate foundational texts of al-Wahhab, including The Book of Monotheism (Kitab at-Tawhid), in their curriculum, in their Sharia (ideological) training in military camps, online training and the school systems they control.
Additionally, several ISIS defectors I interviewed specifically told me how al-Wahhab’s Kitab at-Tawhid was the chief and the most important part of their training, a book also widely and historically adopted by today’s Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, I observed that Salafist literature and books were adopted by terrorists including al-Qaeda for their indoctrination and training during the investigations I carried out as a counterterrorism police chief in Turkey.
Notably, one of Saudi Arabia’s most visible sheikhs – who recently held the title of ‘Imam of Kaaba, the Grand Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca’ – admitted that ISIS is a product of Saudi Salafi/Wahhabi Islam, which has been described by scholars and historians alike as the official state religion of Saudi Arabia, despite MbS’ feigning confusion over the issue during his recent Atlantic interview.
Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani, the former Imam of Kaaba, the Grand Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad in Mecca, and a Salafi himself, openly and sincerely admitted that “ISIS is a true product of Salafism” and we must deal with it with full transparency.
But the key section of the summary study Homeland Security Today, which links the highest levels of the Saudi state (including Saudi princes) with ISIS terrorism is worth quoting in full.
According to the below excerpt from the summary findings, Saudi Arabia spreads Salafist terror ideology “all over the world”:
“The fact is, some Saudi princes, clerics, and charities for decades have been pouring out billions of dollars to promote their understanding of Islam, Wahhabism. They have found willing partners among the vulnerable populations in the Central Asian and Afghan-Pakistani regions, Africa, the Balkans and even in Europe. These funders indirectly assist ISIS and al-Qaeda-friendly organizations to fast-track their recruitments process on their behalf.In the leaked U.S. embassy cables, it was openly addressed that Saudi Arabia was ‘a critical source of terrorist funding’ where the money is mostly spent on training of Wahhabi clerics, production and distribution of Wahhabi textbooks, media outreach and donations to local schools or cultural centers.
Thanks to the Saudis spreading Salafism all over the world, these terrorists reach ideologically ripe people among their targeted groups who are already educated by the Wahhabis.
For a more comprehensive and effective long-term counterterrorism policy, the world should understand that regardless of the political costs and outcomes there is no true dealing of jihadi terrorism without countering the Salafist jihadist ideology. The majority of the ISIS shaykhs (imams and teachers) who were preaching in ISIS-controlled territories and schools were from Saudi Arabia and hence had the kunya of ‘al- Jazrawi.’ Wahhabi teachings around the world with Saudi-supported Imams have established the grounds for easier jihadist terrorism recruitments.”
Though MbS was clearly lying as well as attempting to dodge the topic altogether when he awkwardly told Jeffrey Goldberg, “There is no Wahhabism, we don’t believe we have Wahhabism,” he was right about one thing: the US itself led the way in promoting the spread of Wahhabi jihad near the end of the Cold War.
The crown prince was recently quoted by the Washington Post while in DC: “Mohammed said that investments in mosques and madrassas overseas were rooted in the Cold War, when allies asked Saudi Arabia to use its resources to prevent inroads in Muslim countries by the Soviet Union.”
And MbS repeated these comments to The Atlantic: “This is what America wanted us to do.”
SOMETHING REALLY WEIRD IS HAPPENING TO MY POSTS… I CAN’T POST ANYTHING WITHOUT A SIMILAR “ERROR” GLITCH POPPING UP. FOLKS I SINCERELY DON’T KNOW HOW LONG THEY WILL BE ALLOWING ME TO POST BUT… FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS ALMOST DEAD!!!!!!!!
This is the message I NOW RECEIVE FROM WORDPRESS . COM
SADDDDDD STATE OF AFAIR’S WE ARE NOW A PART OF THE A. I. AGENDA ( OR ) THE BEAST!!!!!
Trump Deploys U.S. Military To Southern Border
President Trump said on Tuesday that he will deploy U.S. troops along the southern border to guard against illegal crossings into the country “until we can have a wall.”
“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we are going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,” Trump told reporters at the White House while sitting nearby Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Trump’s comments follow several comments he’s made about a “huge caravan” of Central American immigrants traveling through Mexico unobstructed by local authorities until the Mexican government announced late Monday night that the caravan would be broken up.
“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic…it’s like we have no border,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments mark a significant escalation in U.S. border policy, as troops along the frontier with Mexico – not the U.S. border patrol, would be the most aggressive action taken to date by the President who promised voters a giant wall.
The President closed the door on a DACA deal over the past several days – an Obama-era program designed to protect young immigrants brought here illegally to the United States as children. In a Sunday tweet, Trump railed against “ridiculous liberal (Democratic) laws” like “catch and release”. And with more “dangerous caravans coming” to the US border, “Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!”
Trump left the door open to a 2.5 year extension of the DACA program as long as it included $25 billion to fund the border wall, however Democrats wouldn’t bite, instead insisting on a pathway to citizenship for the larger population of 1.8 million “dreamers.”
Meanwhile, Trump floated the possibility of pulling out of NAFTA if Mexico doesn’t take steps to curb the flow of illegal immigrants flowing into the United States.
In response to Trump sending troops to the border, former Mexican president Vicente Fox lashed out over Twitter, tweeting “.@realDonaldTrump to militarize the southern border is to provoke more hate and distance even further our nations. Somebody has to talk some sense into him, he’s elevating his hate towards Mexico causing a greater conflict.”
Yesterday, the former Mexican president ripped Trump for “acting like a spoiled child” over his “DACA is dead” comments.
Fox then told Trump that NAFTA “is a “win-win” scenario, which has made not only Mexico but the U.S. and Canada, the most thriving region in the world.”
Deploying troops to the border is not an unprecedented move. Both Obama and George W. Bush used the National Guard to help with illegal immigration – however the moves were both temporary.
“The United States is not going to militarize the southern border,” said Bush when announcing the deployment in 2006. “Mexico is our neighbor, and our friend.”
Let’s see if our friend can stop a horde of Guatamalan “refugees” making a run for the border.
Trump Having Dinner With Co-CEO From Amazon Competitor Oracle
Bloomberg may have launched today’s last hour marketwide buying panic, when it reported that there have been no ongoing talks in the White House about action on Amazon, and it may be Bloomberg that now sinks futures, because in a report that at least partially refutes what it said earlier, according to Bloomberg, tonight President Trump will have dinner with Oracle co-CEO, Safra Catz, whose company is competing with Amazon.com Inc. for a multibillion-dollar Pentagon contract.
Joining them will be Trump supporter and venture capitalist, Peter Thiel, according to Bloomberg’s sources.
While Trump has aggressively attacked Amazon in both tweets and before the press since March 29, sending its market value by as much as $55 billion before Tuesday’s last hour ramp, he has not mentioned the competition to provide cloud computing services to the Defense Department.
That is now changing.
According to Strategas analyst Dan Clifton, “Of all the stories we read [on Wednesday], however, we saw very little attention paid to the one area where Trump could actually hurt Amazon – cloud computing contracts,” Clifton wrote. “Tech companies have been fuming at the possibility of Amazon being the sole company awarded a multi-year cloud services contract at DoD. Congress was forced to intervene in the recent omnibus.”
Clifton adds that, “We believe other tech companies are largely funding [negative ads] to bring attention to the fact that Amazon is about to receive a windfall from the Trump Administration and one that will allow it to squeeze out the other tech companies.”
Indeed, as Yahoo News recently noted, “while regulating Amazon from an anti-trust position by arguing that its retail business is uncompetitive may appear to be outside the current political appetite from DC lawmakers, there is an area of Amazon’s business that Trump could directly, and negatively, impact with haste — Department of Defense contracts.”
The president now appears to be doing just that.
The Pentagon intends to award a single company the multi-year contract, plans that have drawn criticism from lawmakers as well as Amazon competitors including Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp. and industry groups that include Oracle. They’re worried the move will favor Amazon, which is dominant in the cloud services market.
After tonight’s dinner, and if Catz plays her cards right, they won’t have to worry any more.
Meanwhile, billions are at stake:
The Washington Business Journal reported that the omnibus spending bill signed by Trump earlier this month contained a provision which requires the DoD to explain why awarding a contract that could run in excess of $10 billion to a single vendor is the best way to execute this plan.
Previously, in 2013, Amazon Web Services won a $600 million contract from the CIA. While the current contract is likely far greater, it suddenly appears much less likely that Bezos will be the winner.
According to Yahoo, Amazon’s cloud business pulled in $17.5 billion in revenue in 2017 and earned the company $4.33 billion in profit, more than the $4.1 billion the company made as a whole. And if Amazon’s tech rivals get Trump’s attention on a potential multi-billion dollar Defense award seemingly destined for Amazon, the President could have an opening to hit his favorite target in its most profitable business unit.
Chinese authorities claim they have banned more than 7 million people deemed “untrustworthy” from boarding flights, and nearly 3 million others from riding on high-speed trains, according to a report by the country’s National Development and Reform Commission.
The announcements offer a glimpse into Beijing’s ambitious attempt to create a Social Credit System (SCS) by 2020 — that is, a proposed national system designed to value and engineer better individual behaviour by establishing the scores of 1.4 billion citizens and “awarding the trustworthy” and “punishing the disobedient”.
Liu Hu, a 43-year-old journalist who lives in China’s Chongqing municipality, told the ABC he was “dumbstruck” to find himself caught up in the system and banned by airlines when he tried to book a flight last year.
Mr Liu is on a “dishonest personnel” list — a pilot scheme of the SCS — because he lost a defamation lawsuit in 2015 and was asked by the court to pay a fine that is still outstanding according to the court record.
“No one ever notified me,” Mr Liu, who claims he paid the fine, said.
“It’s baffling how they just put me on the blacklist and kept me in the dark.”
Like the other 7 million citizens deemed to be “dishonest” and mired in the blacklist, Mr Liu has also been banned from staying in a star-rated hotel, buying a house, taking a holiday, and even sending his nine-year-old daughter to a private school.
And just last Monday, Chinese authorities announced they would also seek to freeze the assets of those deemed “dishonest people”.
As the national system is still being fully realised, dozens of pilot social credit systems have already been tested by local governments at provincial and city levels.
For example, Suzhou, a city in eastern China, uses a point system where every resident is rated on a scale between 0 and 200 points — every resident starts from the baseline of 100 points.
One can earn bonus points for benevolent acts and lose points for disobeying laws, regulations, and social norms.
According to a 2016 report by local police, the top-rated Suzhou citizen had 134 points for donating more than one litre of blood and doing more than 500 hours of volunteer work.
In Xiamen, where the development of a local social credit system started as early as 2004, authorities reportedly automatically apply messages to the mobile phone lines of blacklisted citizens.
“The person you’re calling is dishonest,” whoever calls a lowly-rated person will be told before the call is put through.
Many observers fear human rights could be increasingly violated via the social credit system, and — combined with a growing surveillance system and technologies such as facial recognition being rolled out across the country — the Chinese Government could have the ability to turn the system on its citizens.
“China is characterised by a system of ‘rule by law’, rather than true rule of law,” Elsa B Kania, an expert in Chinese defence innovation and emerging technologies at the Centre for a New American Security, said.
“That law [and extra-legal measures] can be used as a weapon to legitimise the targeting of those whom the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] perceives as a threat.
“In such an environment, such a system could be abused to those same ends.”
The question that remains to be answered in coming years, experts say, is where the line between “bettering society” and “controlling society” will be drawn.
The Risks Of Cashlesness – Swedes Turn Against Concept
Sweden’s central bank governor has called for public control over its payment system. Others say a fully digital system is vulnerable to fraud and attack
It is hard to argue that you cannot trust the government when the government isn’t really all that bad. This is the problem facing the small but growing number of Swedes anxious about their country’s rush to embrace a cash-free society.
Most consumers already say they manage without cash altogether, while shops and cafes increasingly refuse to accept notes and coins because of the costs and risk involved. Until recently, however, it has been hard for critics to find a hearing.
“The Swedish government is a rather nice one, we have been lucky enough to have mostly nice ones for the past 100 years,” says Christian Engström, a former MEP for the Pirate Party and an early opponent of the cashless economy.
“In other countries there is much more awareness that you cannot trust the government all the time. In Sweden it is hard to get people mobilised.”
There are signs this might be changing. In February, the head of Sweden’s central bank warned that Sweden could soon face a situation where all payments were controlled by private sector banks.
The Riksbank governor, Stefan Ingves, called for new legislation to secure public control over the payments system, arguing that being able to make and receive payments is a “collective good” like defence, the courts, or public statistics.
“Most citizens would feel uncomfortable to surrender these social functions to private companies,” he said.
“It should be obvious that Sweden’s preparedness would be weakened if, in a serious crisis or war, we had not decided in advance how households and companies would pay for fuel, supplies and other necessities.”
The central bank governor’s remarks are helping to bring other concerns about a cash-free society into the mainstream, says Björn Eriksson, 72, a former national police commissioner and the leader of a group called the Cash Rebellion, or Kontantupproret.
Until now, Kontantupproret has been dismissed as the voice of the elderly and the technologically backward, Eriksson says.
“When you have a fully digital system you have no weapon to defend yourself if someone turns it off,” he says.
“If Putin invades Gotland [Sweden’s largest island] it will be enough for him to turn off the payments system. No other country would even think about taking these sorts of risks, they would demand some sort of analogue system.”
In this sense, Sweden is far from its famous concept of lagom – “just the right amount” – but instead is “100% extreme”, Eriksson says, by investing so much faith in the banks. “This is a political question. We are leaving these decisions to four major banks who form a monopoly in Sweden.”
Skarec points to problems with card payments experienced by two Swedish banks just during the past year, and by Bank ID, the digital authorisation system that allows people to identify themselves for payment purposes using their phones.
Fraudsters have already learned to exploit the system’s idiosyncrasies to trick people out of large sums of money, even their pensions.
The best case scenario is that we are not as secure as we think, Skarec says – the worst is that IT infrastructure is systemically vulnerable.
“We are lucky that the people who know how to hack into them are on the good side, for now,” he says. “But we don’t know how things will progress. It’s not that easy to attack devices today, but maybe it will become easier to do so in the future.”
The banks recognise that digital payments can be vulnerable, just like cash.
“Of course there are people trying to abuse them, but they are no more vulnerable than any other method of payment,” says Per Ekwall, a spokesperson for Swish, the immensely popular mobile payments system owned by Sweden’s banks.
“From a macro perspective Swish has made it safer, and cheaper,” he says. There is little point in fighting a trend that customers themselves are driving, the banks argue.
But an opinion poll this month revealed unease among Swedes, with almost seven out of 10 saying they wanted to keep the option to use cash, while just 25% wanted a completely cashless society. MPs from left and right expressed concerns at a recent parliamentary hearing. Parliament is conducting a cross-party review of central bank legislation that will also investigate the issues surrounding cash.
“If you have control of the servers belonging to Visa or MasterCard, you have control of Sweden,” Engström says.
“In the meantime, we will have to keep giving our money to the banks, and hope they don’t go bankrupt – or bananas.”
Virtual reality, augmented reality, immersive reality, mixed reality and finally merged reality … Welcome to the world of digital layering, awash with cutting-edge technologies that are mostly powered by rather dorky and clunky hardware, but fascinating nonetheless.
The digital reality industry is exploding, and tech titans are in an arms race to cut themselves a niche in the sector, earn bragging rights for the snazziest devices that will drive future billion-dollar valuations.
VR and AR have been creating the most buzz, though the average user might be hard-put to tell one from the other. That’s hardly surprising when the media, and sometimes the innovators themselves, tend to use the two terms interchangeably. But when it comes to alternate realities, either one will emerge to redefine existence, or the two leaders will merge to become an even bigger reality.
Similar Digital Realities, Different Technologies
VR and AR are two sides of the same coin though they have significantly different capabilities.
Much earlier attempts at VR had been made in the form of 360-degree murals. And modern examples of VR devices include Oculus VR, Samsung GearVR and HTC Vive.
AR has been slower off the blocks, mainly because the underlying technology requires more fine-tuning for things like motion controllers, depth sensors and cameras for a truly awesome user experience. Apple’s brand new ARKit, Microsoft’s HoloLens, Snap glasses, Google Cardboard and Magic Leap’s soon-to-come AR glasses all belong to the AR camp.
VR is a totally immersive experience that completely shuts out the outside world by creating a virtual environment for the user to inhabit. VR experiences can be totally cool but lack a real-world feeling because they involve little or no sensory input from the user or their environment.
AR, on the other hand, works by mapping the real world and then laying virtual objects on top of it. The real world becomes the backdrop of the AR environment that the user is able to control. AR, unlike VR, is like a half-complete painting that allows you to add your own details.
Another significant difference is the hardware. VR mostly relies on those unmissable head-mounted-displays (HMD), while AR devices mostly use smartphone cameras as their portal.
Inflection point for AR
VR has found a ready market in the entertainment industry, though CAVE automatic virtual environments might be fun for big labs and academia where they can be used to display virtual content in room-sized screens.
AR, on the other hand, has more potential for long-term commercial applications.
A case in point is this AR app by IKEA that allows customers to ”virtually” move furniture around and see how it’s going to look in their sitting rooms.
Similarly, Snapchat has come up with a comparable albeit more goofy idea of a dancing hotdog that can be placed into different camera views. It’s only a matter of time before other marketing teams jump into the AR bandwagon.
Gartner has placed AR only behind VR in its 2017 Hype Cycle chart of emerging technologies. Remarkably, the two are ranked as the most advanced emerging technologies, implying that an investment in either sector might pay off in the long-run.
“Rogue” Network Of Cellular Eavesdropping Devices Discovered Throughout Washington D.C.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has acknowledged a 2017 discovery of several “rogue devices” placed throughout Washington D.C. often used by spies and criminals to track and eavesdrop on private cellular devices, APreports.
The DHS admission came in a March 26 response to a November request from Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden (D), however the agency did not say how many devices were detected or where they found them.
The agency’s response, obtained by The Associated Press from Wyden’s office, suggests little has been done about such equipment, known popularly as Stingrays after a brand common among U.S. police departments. The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the nation’s airwaves, formed a task force on the subject four years ago, but it never produced a report and no longer meets regularly. –AP
American intelligence and law enforcement agencies use similar eavesdropping equipment in the field, which can cost anywhere between $1,000 to around $200,000. The devices are typically the size of a briefcase but can be as small as a cell phone. Police use Stingrays to track down and implicate perpetrators of mainly domestic crimes.
The devices can be mounted in vehicles, drones, helicopters, and airplanes, allowing police to gain highly specific information on the location of any particular phone, down to a particular apartment complex or hotel room.
The Stingray units operate by tricking a cellular device into locking onto them instead of a legitimate cell tower – revealing the exact location of a particular phone. As AP notes, more sophisticated versions can eavesdrop on calls by forcing phones to step down to the older, unencrypted 2G wireless channel. Other Stingray devices can plant malware on a phone.
Thousands of members of the military, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI and the rest of the national-security apparatus live and work in the Washington area. The surveillance-savvy among them encrypt their phone and data communications and employ electronic countermeasures. But unsuspecting citizens could fall prey. –AP
The DHS reply from official Christopher Krebs said that the agency had observed “anomalous activity” consistent with Stingrays in the Washington area. Another DHS official speaking anonymously to AP says that the devices were detected during a three-month trial of equipment provided by Las Vegas-based agency contractor, ESD America.
Krebs notes in his letter that the DHS lacks the equipment and funding for wide-scale detection of Stingrays – even though their use by foreign governments “may threaten U.S. national and economic security.”
Legislators have been raising alarms about the use of Stingrays in the capital since at least 2014, when Goldsmith and other security-company researchers conducted public sweeps that located suspected unauthorized devices near the White House, the Supreme Court, the Commerce Department and the Pentagon, among other locations.
The executive branch, however, has shied away from even discussing the subject.
Aaron Turner, president of the mobile security consultancy Integricell, was among the experts who conducted the 2014 sweeps, in part to try to drum up business. Little has changed since, he said.
Like other major world capitals, he said, Washington is awash in unauthorized interception devices.Foreign embassies have free rein because they are on sovereign soil. –AP
Turner says that every embassy “worth their salt” has a cell tower simulator installed, which they use “to track interesting people that come toward their embassies.” The Russians’ equipment is so powerful it can track targets a mile away, he said.
How to shut them down?
As AP notes, shutting down rogue stingray devices is an expensive prospect which would require the wireless industry to completely upgrade its infrastructure, which security experts say companies are loathe to pay for.
The upgrade could also lead to conflict with U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies. At least 25 states and the District of Columbia use the devices, according to the ACLU.
After the 2014 news reports about Stingrays in Washington, Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla, wrote the FCC in alarm. In a reply, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency had created a task force to combat illicit and unauthorized use of the devices. In that letter, the FCC did not say it had identified such use itself but cited media reports of the security sweeps.
That task force appears to have accomplished little. A former adviser to Wheeler, Gigi Sohn, said there was no political will to tackle the issue against opposition from the intelligence community and local police forces that were using the devices “willy-nilly.” –AP
“To the extent that there is a major problem here, it’s largely due to the FCC not doing its job,” said Laura Moy of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University. Moy says that the agency should require wireless carriers to protect their networks, thus “ensuring that anyone transmitting over licensed spectrum actually has a license to do it.”
The FCC, however, said the agency’s only role is “certifying” that said devices don’t interfere with other wireless communications.
In other words, despite the prevalence of stingray devices throughout our nation’s capital and most assuredly in use across the rest of the United States, nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.
Lomperis warns of ‘dirty tricks’ and progressive plans
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Bill Bumpas (OneNewsNow.com)
A special committee, appointed by the Council of Bishops in the United Methodist Church, will soon present its final report which could lead the denomination to officially change its stance on biblical sexuality.
The 32-member Commission on a Way Forward has been meeting since January 2017 after being charged by bishops to come up with a way to move Methodists forward on LGBT issues.
John Lomparis, with the Institute on Religion & Democracy, downplays the significance of the commission because the Council of Bishops will have the final say on the final report. He also predicts the most outspoken leaders of the Council have been pushing a more liberalizing agenda on sexuality.
“The fact is that the Council of Bishops often operate in a very liberal echo chamber,” he complains, “where they really don’t care much or don’t understand how many conservative United Methodists are out there.”
He also observes that the Way Forward Commission was “stacked” by design with liberal members, meaning it underrepresents conservative Methodists.
Although the Council of Bishops can take this final report and make their own proposal at the 2019 General Conference in St. Louis, scheduled for next February, delegates can also make proposals.
Lomperis, himself a delegate, will be pushing for United Methodists to maintain their Biblical standards; have stronger accountability; and have generous exit ramps for congregations, bishops and others who say they cannot follow those standards.
He hopes that there will not be any “parliamentary dirty tricks or heavy-handed manipulation of the rules” by liberal bishops to limit consideration of alternatives to their preferred plan.
Just as tensions between the US and North Korea are finally beginning to cool (while animosity between the US and Russia intensifies), a recent industry report argues the US government isn’t doing nearly enough to safeguard the US electric grid from a potentially devastating attack.
In its report, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) revealed that much of the US electricity grid is vulnerable to attack – and neither the industry or the government are doing anything about it. NERC is the organization responsible for overseeing the US’s massive electric grid, which is subdivided into eight regional entities.
Though the report didn’t include a “comprehensive” assessment of the myriad physical threats to the US’s energy infrastructure, worries that North Korean could execute a massive electromagnetic pulse (or EMP) attack have been intensifying as the prospect of a nuclear showdown with the restive communist state looms large (Kim Jong Un’s recent actions aside). The research was also inspired by a series of gun attacks on transformers, including a rifle attack on a transformer in Utah that occurred in September 2016, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
Many organizations, including recently the National Academy of Sciences, have warned of the catastrophic consequences should a malicious actor – be it a state or a terrorist organization – manage to take down the US energy grid.
“There is widespread belief that bulk power critical assets are vulnerable to physical attack, that such an attack potentially could have catastrophic consequences, and that the risks of such attacks are growing,” according to the report. “But the exact nature of such potential attacks and the capability of perpetrators to successfully execute them are uncertain.”
“Although the electric power sector seems to be moving in the overall direction of greater physical security for critical assets, many measures have yet to be implemented and the process of corporate realignment around physical security is still underway,”according to the report, which omitted a comprehensive overview of all the pressing threats due to national security concerns.
To be sure, the Edison Electric Institute has highlighted the fact that it would be nearly impossible to completely secure the grid (the costs would be immeasurable). However, the US could be doing a lot more than it’s doing.
A massive attack on the US energy grid could leave large swaths of the country without power without weeks or months. The end result would resemble Puerto Rico following last year’s devastating hurricane season – but on a much larger and deadlier scale.
In this scenario, hundreds of thousands – if not millions of Americans – could die.
“While to date there have been only minor attacks on the power system in the United States, large-scale physical destruction of key parts of the power system by terrorists is a real danger,” the academy warned. “Some physical attacks could cause disruption in system operations that last for weeks or months.”
But unfortunately for the US citizens whose security is predicated on a functioning power grid, the power industry and US government have failed to organize a cohesive response to these threats. Because of the industry’s utter lack of preparation, even crude attacks could have devastating consequences.
I used to be an atheist. My understanding of “atheism” was simply that it is the belief that there is no God. I was an empiricist: I believed in what could be seen – the material world and nothing more. I did not hate Christians. At worst, I thought they were naïve and foolish for their religious beliefs, but I knew many Christians I respected, including for their insight and intelligence.
Today, “atheism” means something entirely different from a simple lack of belief in God. What atheism has become can be more accurately described as “the anti-Christian movement.” It is a movement that assumes that Christianity isn’t merely naïve and false, but a major cause of social ills, something worth the effort to actively ferret out and purge from our society. This anti-Christian crusade has been both supported by, and a natural outgrowth of, the much larger program of cultural Marxism.
Anti-clericalism is nothing new, but many atheists of the past were at least coherent. They believed that the complex triune God of Christianity was silly, but they didn’t think Shiva, Allah, or Zeus was any better. Like me, they simply believed in the here and now and not in the unseen and scientifically unverifiable.
The new atheists are different. They are not really bound by cold, materialist, scientific facts. Although they claim that science and reason are on their side, they often are not very knowledgeable about either. More often, they are interested only in co-opting the human authority science has acquired. Science is a brand for today’s atheists, not a discipline. The new atheism is generally forgiving toward Hinduism and can be almost reverent regarding Buddhism. While I grant that Buddhism is essentially godless, it’s a long way from being a collection of empirical facts. Buddha’s claims are certainly no more objectively verifiable than Christ’s. Nirvana is no easier to find on a star chart than the Christian Heaven.
Uninterested in hard materialism, today’s atheists believe in an emotional narrative invented and reinvented at the whim of politically motivated human beings. Today’s atheism is not a philosophical position, but a political one. Superficially, the anti-Christian movement espouses the view that Christianity is uniquely evil in its intolerance – their word for the fact that we have standards.
Christianity, like Western civilization, is squeezed into the usual Marxist mold as just another instrument of oppression. But without batting an eye, many of today’s atheists manage to believe that Islam, an objectively more intolerant, more misogynistic, and far more bloodthirsty system of beliefs than Christianity – is somehow forgivable, or even a net social boon. In truth, the new atheism isn’t about helping the “oppressed” – any more than it is about the non-belief in God or the exclusive belief in the world we can grasp with our senses. It is about being a vocal part of the identity group of avid Christian-haters. A political entity. It is about inventing yet another substitute sense of identity and purpose to replace the Christian sense of identity and purpose that it struggles to destroy.
The anti-Christian movement of today, like all other Marxist or neo-Marxist splinter groups, draws its strength from a simple, if unstated, promise: All the world’s aggrieved can acquire social acceptance and the unholy grail of victim status by denouncing someone else as an oppressor and working for his destruction.
The anti-Christian movement of today, like all other Marxist or neo-Marxist splinter groups, draws its strength from a simple, if unstated, promise: All the world’s aggrieved can acquire social acceptance and the unholy grail of victim status by denouncing someone else as an oppressor and working for his destruction.
NBC’s Chuck Todd has been slammed online after he took to Twitter last week to offer his thoughts about Good Friday.
The “Meet the Press” host said that he was a “a bit hokey” about the religious occasion.
“I don’t mean disrespect to the religious aspect of the day, but I love the idea of reminding folks that any day can become “good,” all it takes is a little selflessness on our own part,” he wrote. “Works EVERY time.”
I’m a bit hokey when it comes to “Good Friday.” I don’t mean disrespect to the religious aspect of the day, but I love the idea of reminding folks that any day can become “good,” all it takes is a little selflessness on our own part. Works EVERY time.
Todd’s words drew ire online from some.
“The day of Jesus’ crucifixion is considered a victory of Good over Evil, Chuck,” one critic responded. “Your ignorant and insensitive comment should get you fired.”
“Chuck, you just don’t get it, another example of Media snobbery and dis’ing Christians in your own subtle way,” a different account tweeted.
Persecution of Christians is worse today “than at any time in history”, a recent report by the organization Aid to the Church in Need revealed. Iraq happens to be “ground zero” for the “elimination” of Christians from the pages of history.
Iraqi Christian clergymen recently wore a black sign as a symbol of national mourning for the last victims of the anti-Christian violence: a young worker and a whole family of three. “This means that there is no place for Christians,” saidFather Biyos Qasha of the Church of Maryos in Baghdad. “We are seen as a lamb to be killed at any time”.
A few days earlier, Shiite militiamen discovered a mass grave with the bodies of 40 Christians near Mosul, the former stronghold of the Islamic State and the capital of Iraqi Christianity. The bodies, including those of women and children, seemed to belong to Christians kidnapped and killed by ISIS. Many had crosses with them in the mass grave. Not a single article in the Western mainstream media wrote about this ethnic cleansing.
French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia made an urgent plea to Europe and the West to defend non-Muslims in the Middle East, whom he likened to Holocaust victims. “As our parents wore the yellow star, Christians are made to wear the scarlet letter of nun” Korsia said. The Hebrew letter “nun” is the same sound as the beginning of Nazareen, an Arabic term signifying people from Nazareth, or Christians, and used by the Islamic State to mark the Christian houses in Mosul.
Now a new report by the Iraqi Human Rights Society also just revealed that Iraqi minorities, such as Christians, Yazidis and Shabaks, are now victims of a “slow genocide“, which is shattering those ancient communities to the point of their disappearance. The numbers are significant.
According to the report, 81% of Iraq’s Christians have disappeared from Iraq. The remaining number of Sabeans, an ancient community devoted to St. John the Baptist, is even smaller: 94% have disappeared from Iraq. Even 18% of Yazidis have left the country or been killed. Another human rights organization, Hammurabi, said that Baghdad had 600,000 Christians in the recent past; today there are only 150,000.
Many ancient Christian churches and sites have been destroyed by Islamic extremists, such as Saint George Church in Mosul; the Virgin Mary Chaldean Church, attacked by car bomb, and the burned Armenian Church in Mosul. Hundreds of Christian homes have been razed in Mosul, where jihadists also toppled bell towers and crosses. The Iraqi clergy recently warned, “The churches are in danger“.
Tragically, Christians living in lands formerly under the control of the “Caliphate” have been betrayed by many actors in the West. Governments ignored their tragic fate. Bishops were often too aloof to denounce their persecution. The media acted as if they considered these Christians to be agents of colonialism who deserved to be purged from the Middle East. And the so-called “human rights” organizations abandoned them.
European public opinion, supposedly always ready to rally against the discrimination of minorities, did not say a word about what Ayaan Hirsi Ali called “a war against Christians“.
Some communities, such as the small Christian enclaves of Mosul, are now lost forever. Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said there is a “real danger” Christianity could just become a “museum” in the Middle East. He noted that Iraq has lost 80-90% of its Christian population.
Among European governments, only Hungary took a principled position and openly committed itself to save Iraqi Christianity from genocide. Recently, the Hungarian government opened a school for displaced Christians in Erbil; Hungary’s Minister of Human Resources, Zoltan Balog, attended the event.
Imagine if all the other European countries, such as France and Germany, had done the same. The suffering of Christians in Iraq would today be much less and their numbers much higher.
Facebook Rejected Ad Because It Showed Jesus On The Cross, Zuckerberg Explains How Facebook Will Try To Kill Alternative Media
Franciscan University posted a series of ads on Facebook Friday to promote some of its online theology programs, but it says one of them was rejected because it included the Crucifixion of Christ on the San Damiano Cross.
The Catholic university in Steubenville, Ohio sent out a tweet on Friday saying its ad was rejected for content that is “shocking, sensational, and excessively violent.”
“An ad we placed was rejected by Facebook today for content that is “shocking, sensational, and excessively violent,” said the tweet, which included a link to a blog post.”We must agree with them.”
An ad we placed was rejected by Facebook today for content that is “shocking, sensational, and excessively violent.”
In the blog post, the university acknowledges that Facebook is correct to say that the Crucifixion of Christ was “sensational and excessively violent,” but they castigated Facebook for rejecting the image. They used multiple Bible verses to describe the Crucifixion:
And it was certainly excessively violent: a man scourged to within an inch of his life, nailed naked to a cross and left to die, all the hate of all the sin in the world poured out its wrath upon his humanity.
“but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews, an absurdity to Gentiles. But to those who are called, both Jew and Gentile, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24)
As Father Mike Schmitz points out in today’s #ShareJesus message, it was not the nails that held Jesus to the cross: he was God, he could have descended from the Cross at any moment. No, it was love that kept him there. Love for you and for me, that we might not be eternally condemned for our sins but might have life eternal with him and his Father in heaven.
This is sensational, this is shocking. This is only possible because of the excessive violence that he endured for us.
In his recent interview with the far-left online publication Vox, Mark Zuckerberg explained Facebook’s new system of favoring “broadly trusted” news sources, via a mechanism designed to favor established outlets and crush new media.
Facebook introduced its new system in January, and the results were immediately apparent. Facebook traffic to establishment outlets including CNN and NBC soared upwards, while traffic to conservative outlets fell. Facebook engagement (likes, shares, and comments) also fell across multiple new media outlets, including those on the right and the left. Facebook engagement on President Trump’s posts fell by 45 per cent.
In his Vox interview, Mark Zuckerberg explained these changes as neutrally as he could, talking about providing a more “meaningful experience” for Facebook users. But despite tamely couching his words, the truth slipped out — Facebook is going to act like a publisher, with a view on what counts as “quality news,” and make judgments about the accuracy and reliability of news publications.
Zuckerberg outlined three categories of “fake news” — spammers, state actors, and “real media outlets who are saying what they think is true but have varying levels of accuracy or trustworthiness.”
Zuckerberg then explained Facebook’s methodology for determining a “trusted” news source. As Breitbart News previously reported, the method is designed to favor establishment media.
“This year, we’ve rolled out a number of changes to News Feed that try to boost in the ranking broadly trusted news sources” said Zuckerberg. “We’ve surveyed people across the whole community and asked them whether they trust different news sources.”
“Take the Wall Street Journal or New York Times. Even if not everyone reads them, the people who don’t read them typically still think they’re good, trustworthy journalism. Whereas if you get down to blogs that may be on more of the fringe, they’ll have their strong supporters, but people who don’t necessarily read them often don’t trust them as much.”
Zuckerberg then explained how his company will try to help out the establishment media by helping them attract paying subscribers.
“So I do think a big responsibility that we have is to help support high-quality journalism. And that’s not just the big traditional institutions, but a big part of what I actually think about when I’m thinking about high-quality journalism is local news. And I think that there are almost two different strategies in terms of how you address that.”
“For the larger institutions, and maybe even some of the smaller ones as well, subscriptions are really a key point on this. I think a lot of these business models are moving toward a higher percentage of subscriptions, where the people who are getting the most value from you are contributing a disproportionate amount to the revenue. And there are certainly a lot of things that we can do on Facebook to help people, to help these news organizations, drive subscriptions. And that’s certainly been a lot of the work that we’ve done and we’ll continue doing.”
By making editorial judgments about what counts as “quality” news, Facebook has shifted from a neutral platform to a publisher with an editorial opinion. As Sen. Ted Cruz explained to representatives of the tech giants in January, this undermines the case for continued legal immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which exempts online platforms from legal liability for content posted by their users
Just four days after Easter, George Washington University will host a training session for students and faculty that teaches that Christians — especially white ones — “receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.”
The April 5 diversity workshop is titled “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!”
Hosted by the university’s Multicultural Student Services Center, the event will teach that Christians enjoy a privileged, easier life than their non-Christian counterparts, and that Christians possess “built-in advantages” today, according to its online description.
The workshop will also discuss how Christians receive “unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.”
The “Christian Privilege” workshop is one of 15 “free training opportunities” offered through the center to “equip students and staff with the necessary skills to promote diversity and inclusion in the different environments,” according to its website.
Other workshops offered through the center focus on “heteroesexual privilege,” “cisgender privilege,” “abled-bodied privilege,” “socio-economic privilege,” “unconscious bias,” and more.
Efforts by The College Fix to reach a campus spokesperson, the multicultural center and the host of the Christian privilege workshop were to no avail Monday afternoon.
The Christian privilege event aims to make people aware of the privileges that Christians have and “what is meant by privilege overall and white privilege specifically,” the event description states. Furthermore, the event will try to educate those of the “role of denial when it comes to white privilege” and the difference between “equality and equity.”
By the end of the training, the organizers want participants to be able to name “at least three examples of Christian privilege” and “at least three ways to be an ally with a non-Christian person,” the website states.
Organizers also want the participants to be able to describe words like: “privilege, Christian privilege, denial, quality, equity, Christianity, bias, unconscious bias, micro-aggression, ally,” the website states.
The workshop will last 90 minutes and will feature a PowerPoint presentation and Q&A.
The Trump administration has done something no other administration – Republican or Democratic – has done: it has made religious freedom a priority in our national security strategy.
And the need has never been greater.
Now it appears that newly appointed national security adviser John Bolton will be taking the lead in fighting for the right of peoples around the world to worship how they wish without the threat of being killed or driven from their homes.
Bolton appears to be singularly qualified to take administration efforts to secure religious freedom to the next level. But as this article mentions, he will be battling skepticism and hostility from career State Department officials whose primary goal is not to rock the boat.
It’s one thing to formulate policy and announce it. It’s quite another to get the State Department bureaucracy to implement it. This is an age-old battle between the White House and Foggy Bottom. State Department bureaucrats believe they run U.S. foreign policy and that presidents and their advisers are transitory occupants.
So the question is, can Bolton, with his bulldog mentality, force meaningful policy changes that will actually do some good? I wouldn’t bet against him. Of course, the bureaucrats will scream bloody murder and run to the press telling the media what a meanie Bolton is. But Bolton is one guy who doesn’t care what the media think about him, which is why there is a real chance for substantive change.
Never missing an opportunity to confuse, disappoint, and demoralize the Catholic faithful, Pope Francis, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune, said on Good Friday that “Christians ought to express shame for the actions of those who are leaving future generations a world ‘fractured by divisions and wars.’”
Speaking to Jesus, the Pope said that “our gaze upon you is full of shame, repentance and hope. Before your supreme love, shame pervades us for having left you alone to suffer for our sins … shame for having chosen Barabbas and not you, power and not you, appearance and not you, the god of money and not you, worldliness and not eternity.”
The Pope added that Christians should also feel shame for those who “allowed themselves to be deceived by ambition and vainglory, losing sight of their dignity and first love,” leaving behind a world “fractured by divisions and wars” and “consumed by selfishness.”
In speaking of those who have left the world “fractured by divisions and wars,” Pope Francis doesn’t seem to have said a word about the religion that actually teaches that believers should wage war against and subjugate unbelievers. But of course, about that religion he has said, “Authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”
So it is the Christians who should feel shame for the strife in the world, not anyone else.
This is nothing new. Pope Francis last September met in the Vatican with Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League (MWL), a group that has been linked to the financing of jihad terror. During the meeting, al-Issa thanked the Pope for his “fair positions” on what he called the “false claims that link extremism and violence to Islam.”
In other words, al-Issa was thanking the Pope for dissembling about the motivating ideology of jihad terror, which his group has been accused of financing, and for defaming other religions in an effort to whitewash Islam.
Nor was that the first time a Muslim leader thanked this Pope for being so very useful. Last July, Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s al-Azhar, thanked him for his “defense of Islam against the accusation of violence and terrorism.”
Has any other Pope of Rome in the history of Christianity ever been heralded as a “defender of Islam”? In my forthcoming book The History of Jihad From Muhammad to ISIS, I detail the centuries of effort that the warriors of jihad poured into trying to conquer and subjugate the Christians of Europe, and the pivotal role that the Catholic Church played in the resistance to the jihad. Pope Francis, unlike his predecessors, would like not have called for a defense against the jihadis, but would have opened the gates to them.
After all, Francis is not just a defender of Islam, but a defender of the Sharia death penalty for blasphemy: after Islamic jihadists murdered the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists who had drawn Muhammad, Francis obliquely justified the murders by saying that “it is true that you must not react violently, but although we are good friends if [an aide] says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch, it’s normal. You can’t make a toy out of the religions of others. These people provoke and then (something can happen). In freedom of expression there are limits.”
So for the Pope, murdering people for violating Sharia blasphemy laws is “normal,” and it isn’t terrorism for “Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist,” he said in a speech last February. “There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia.”
So there is no Islamic terrorism, but if you engage in “intolerant generalizations,” you can “expect a punch.” The Pope, like the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, apparently thinks that the problem is not jihad terror, but non-Muslims talking about jihad terror; Muslims would be peaceful if non-Muslims would simply censor themselves and self-impose Sharia blasphemy restrictions regarding criticism of Islam.
Pope Francis has no patience with those who discuss such matters: “I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence, because every day, when I read the newspaper, I see violence.” He said, according to Crux, that “when he reads the newspaper, he reads about an Italian who kills his fiancé or his mother in law.” The pontiff added: “They are baptized Catholics. They are violent Catholics.” He said that if he spoke about “Islamic violence,” then he would have to speak about “Catholic violence” as well.
That comparison made no sense, for Italian Catholics who killed their fiancés or mothers in law were not acting in accord with the teachings of their religion, while the Qur’an and Islamic teaching contain numerous exhortations to violence.
But Pope Francis, defender of Islam, cannot concern himself with such minutiae. Nor does he appear to be particularly concerned about the fact that all his false statements about the motivating ideology behind the massive Muslim persecution of Christians over the last few years only enables and abets that persecution, for if that ideology is not identified and confronted, it will continue to flourish.
The Pope of Rome, whom Catholics consider to be the earthly head of the Church, should be a defender of Christianity, not a defender of Islam, the religion that has been at war with Christianity and Judeo-Christian civilization since its earliest days. That any Christian leader would be called a “defender of Islam” by anyone only casts into vivid relief the absurdity of our age and the weakness of the free world. The creeping idolatry of the papacy that is rampant in today’s Catholic Church, with all too many Catholics treating every word of the Pontiff as if it were a divine oracle, only makes matters worse.
10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,
Statista’s Niall McCarthy reports that the research found that the youth in Poland are still quite religious with only 17 percent of respondents aged 16-29 not associating themselves with any religion.
The situation is much different in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands where 7 out of 10 young adults identify as having no religion.
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
Members of China’s Christian community feel betrayed by the Vatican’s negotiations with Beijing over Chinese bishop appointments. In fact, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) writes of Catholics feeling as “betrayed and abandoned” as Jesus on Good Friday.
Christian faith occupies a curious position in Chinese society—frowned upon and distrusted by the Communist elite, but not currently oppressed as savagely as in neighboring North Korea. Some Chinese Catholics belong to churches authorized by the state, but others say those churches are controlled by the state and prefer to worship at “underground” churches free of political influence.
Some of those churches are not very far underground; the SCMP describes one that is festooned with government surveillance cameras, but forty or so Catholics congregate there anyway. Another passage in the article describes an entire village of 3,000 underground Catholics kept under creepy surveillance by cameras and undercover police. Some estimates suggested there are about 12 million Catholics in China, and 60 percent of them belong to state-sanctioned churches.
Amid much controversy, the Vatican has been negotiating the resumption of formal diplomatic relations with Beijing. One of the key issues concerns how bishops would be appointed. China’s authoritarian government wants politically reliable bishops to manage a Catholicism that harmonizes with the Communist Party’s political agenda.
To the dismay of many Catholics, the Vatican seems to have worked out a deal where it will retain an advisory role, but the government will have a major role in appointing bishops.
There is tremendous controversy over whether the arrangement would give the Pope or the Politburo the final say in appointments.
Even the most optimistic descriptions of the deal suggest that candidates will have to be acceptable to both parties, which angers many Catholics by putting the Chinese Communist Party on an equal footing with the papacy in a role no other government in the world enjoys.
Supporters of the arrangement hope that it will allow the Catholic Church to flourish in China because the regime will no longer view the faith as a threatening subversive force. They portray giving the Vatican a voice in China’s state-controlled church network as a tremendous accomplishment.
“It is not a great agreement but we don’t know what the situation will be like in 10 or 20 years. It could even be worse,” a source familiar with the negotiations told Reuters in February. “Afterwards we will still be like a bird in a cage but the cage will be bigger. It is not easy. Suffering will continue. We will have to fight for every centimeter to increase the size of the cage.”
One of the strongest critics of the deal, former Hong Kong bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun, frankly denounced the Vatican for selling out to China, described the deal as a suicide pact, and even suggested the diplomats working on the agreement were misleading Pope Francis about what it entailed.
The South China Morning Post on Friday quoted underground church members who felt the same, including priests who spoke of retiring in protest. One of the most infuriating aspects of the deal is that two underground bishops who were appointed by the Vatican have been ordered to step aside for Communist-appointed bishops.
One of those underground bishops, 59-year-old Vincent Guo Xijin of Fujian province, was arrested on Monday for unclear reasons and held for a day. Amnesty International researcher Patrick Poon was outraged at the semi-official explanation that Guo was brought in for “talks,” which he said, “In the Communist Chinese context is always about detention and threats.”
“Quite a number of underground parishioners who would never walk into an official church approached us recently asking if the Vatican is really giving up on legitimate underground bishops for illicit ones. No one can wrap their head around the Vatican’s rationale,” a priest who asked to be identified as “Father Pedro” who leads one of the state-approved Chinese churches, told the South China Morning Post.
As Christians around the world prepare to observe the holy weekend of Easter, many will be asked at their services to pray for the persecuted around the world.
After years of advocacy groups raising awareness, the plight of the Christians of the Middle East, particularly in the former Islamic State territories, has become common knowledge among American Christians. Yet they are far from the only group that will celebrate Easter this year in defiance of state persecution, mob violence, and repressive cultural norms imposed by groups threatened by the spread of the Christian faith.
Below, six countries where Christians struggle to practice their faith freely against systematic institutional and cultural pressure.
China has experienced a Christian population boom so great that some estimates suggest it could become home to the world’s largest Christian population in decades. The total number of Christians in China today could exceed 100 million, more than the total number of members of the Chinese Communist Party. There is no concrete count of the number of Christians in the country largely because of state repression – while legal Christian churches exist, they are tightly regulated by the communist regime of leader Xi Jinping and, thus, unpopular.
Xi Jinping has led a systematic crackdown on “unauthorized” Christianity that has worsened year after year since he became “president” in 2013. Xi has led a movement to “sinicize” Christianity, forcing the legal Christian churches to deliver sermons extolling the virtues of his regime. “Unauthorized” Christianity is deemed a “national security threat,” and Christians who dare worship in their homes face severe law enforcement reprimand.
Late last year, the Chinese Communist Party began forcing rural Christians to replace crosses in their homes with photos of Xi Jinping. Demolitions of churches and arrests of dissident Christians, particularly any involved in human rights activism, are common. In one of the most recent incidents documented, the advocacy group China Aid reported that local authorities in Henan began “going door-to-door, forbidding all meetings of Christian citizens and disbanding house church groups.”
Venezuela is a predominantly Catholic nation whose socialist leaders claim to be devotees of the faith, so it represents a bit of a blind spot for advocates for persecuted Christians. Its presence on this list, however, is largely a product of the fact that the government claims a stranglehold on interpreting Christianity that has led to violence and intimidation against Catholic clergy in the South American country.
Yet Christians in Venezuela who oppose the regime are not free to practice. The Catholic leadership of the country has vocally called for Maduro to step down and return the nation to democratic republican rule. In response, chavista gangs have attacked churches, threatened priests, forced Mass attendees to listen to socialist rants instead of their weekly sermon, and left many churches looted and desecrated.
In India, the repression faced by many Christians is not at the hands of the government, but at the hands of violent Hindu nationalist mobs. According to Open Doors, an organization that tracks the persecution of the Christian faithful worldwide, the permissive attitude of a Hindu nationalist government has allowed for the exacerbation of violence against these communities, some of the oldest Christian congregations on earth.
In one incident this year, a mob tortured and hanged a Christian pastor after six months of loudly disturbing Sunday services. Local police ruled the death a suicide, triggering thousands to protest for justice. Local protestors said police were afraid to prosecute individuals believed to be involved in the death because “if the four [suspects] are arrested, 10,000 will come out on the streets and there will be communal violence.”
In another incident last year, a woman who married a Christian was kidnapped and tortured by members of a “yoga center” repeatedly accused of threatening women out of conversions out of Hinduism.
In 2016, a mob estimated to contain 60 Hindu nationalists beat two Christian pastors and others at their church with cricket bats and forced them into a police station to file charges against the Christians for allegedly proselytizing. Radicals often cite local laws against proselytizing or converting to another religion to influence police into arresting Christians.
Nigeria’s population is 40 percent Christian, with many practicing freely in the nation’s south. In the north, however, Christians face severe persecution from jihadist groups like Boko Haram and violence by the majority-Muslim Fulani herdsmen against Christian farmers. The herdsmen are believed to be conducting raids targeting Christians and have killed an estimated thousands of civilians.
Boko Haram makes its home in Borno state, the furthest northeast territory in the country, where they routinely attack Christian villages and abduct Christian girls and women by the hundreds.
Boko Haram typically abduct Christian girls and women and force them to convert to Islam, “marry” their jihadist members, and serve as sex slaves and cooks. Some younger girls are used as suicide bombers, as they are considered less of a threat by civilian merchants and clergy who control the main targets of Boko Haram attacks.
Most recently, Boko Haram abducted over one hundred girls from a school in Dapchi, Yobe state, bordering Borno to the west. They returned all girls to their parents except for one – Leah Sharibu, who refused to denounce her Christian faith.
Sudan, a nation run by Muslim tyrant wanted for genocide, is one of the most repressive states in the world, a Muslim-majority tyranny where Christians face destruction of property and arbitrary arrest if they are too visible. Open Doors ranks Sudanese Christians in the top five most persecuted Christian nationalities in the world.
Christians face legal repercussions for converting from Islam, opposing the destruction of their churches, and attempting any journalism about Christian populations there. According to Open Doors, “some Christians are arrested on charges of espionage, and many churches have been demolished, with others on an official list awaiting demolition.”
Apostacy, or the abandonment of Islam, is a crime in Sudan, and many Christians can be persecuted for this crime even if they were never Muslim. The most prominent such case was that of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim, arrested for “apostasy” while pregnant and forced to give birth in prison because her father, who she never knew, was Muslim and she had married a Christian man. Despite being raised as a lifelong Christian, Ibrahim was arrested for leaving Islam, released only after intense international pressure from human rights groups.
Indonesian Christians are under growing public scrutiny. While Christians have long coexisted in the world’s most populous Islamic country, they have increasingly fallen victim to radical Islamic mobs. A report in March found that Christians accused of violations of Sharia, the law of Islam, are agreeing in larger numbers to accept Sharia punishments, like public caning, in order to avoid an expensive legal procedure against them. Sharia bans “crimes” such as eating haram food and “blasphemy,” which Christians can easily fall victim to accusations of.
The government in Indonesia, concerned about potential violence, is often responsive to radical demands from Islamic groups, such as growing calls for a ban on selling alcohol, bans on public Christmas decorations, and prosecuting those accused of blasphemy. In one high-profile case, the former governor of Jakarta, an ethnic Chinese Christian, was convicted of blasphemy for warning against radical clerics who use the Quran to manipulate voters.
It still amazes me when I read how the Jewish religious leaders of 2,000 years ago managed to completely miss Jesus’ first coming? These were highly educated men, especially in the signs that would indicate the emergence of Messiah. Yet they failed miserably at discerning the time of their own Messiah’s advent.
These were men who spent their entire lives, from early youth, memorizing and learning Scripture, especially the Torah. They were by any definition experts.
How then did they miss the significance of Jesus’ ministry, this remarkable preacher and miracle worker from Nazareth? The actions of the forthcoming Messiah were well known to all Jews, especially at that time. In fact, they were obsessed with the coming of the Messiah.
Isaiah and others described in detail who he would be and what he would do, that he would heal the sick, bring sight to the blind, heal the brokenhearted…raise the dead. The Bible told them that it would be through these signs that they should recognize Him.
This is why John the Baptist, in prison awaiting death, sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “…are you the coming one, or should we wait for another?” (Matthew 11:3).
Jesus responded, not by giving a straight “yes” or “no,” but by saying to John, “Go back and report what you hear and see: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matthew 11:4-5).
Jesus was telling John, “…don’t ask me! Judge for yourself by my works! By the signs you will know me!” And therefore, when we read the Gospels, we read accounts of one outstanding miracle after another. Each miracle, each healing, is a testimony to who Jesus is, that he is exactly who he says he is.
Jesus proclaimed himself to be the Messiah, and his works throughout his ministry validated that claim then, and still do today.
God loves us all deeply. He never does anything without revealing his ways to his prophets (Amos 3:7). That is why God gave, not general, but very specific details of what the Messiah would do and who he would be, so that those who were genuinely looking for him would be able to find him.
It was clearly written that the Messiah would be a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 12:3, 18:18, Matthew 1:1), be of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10, Luke 3:33), be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1, Luke 2:4-7); and the time of his birth was also prophesied (Daniel 9:25, Luke 2:1).
It was written that there would be a slaughter of innocent children (Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18) accompanying his birth. It was written that their King would come to them in humility, riding a donkey (Zechariah 9:9, John 12:13-14), that he would enter Jerusalem through the Golden Gate (Ezekiel 44:1-2, Mark 11:7-8), and that he would be betrayed by a friend for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12, Psalm 41:9, Mark 14:10, Matthew 26:14-15).
It was written that the money paid in exchange for his life would be returned for a potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13, Matthew 27:6-7), that he would be silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7, Matthew 26:62-63), that he would be spat upon and struck in the face (Isaiah 50:6, Matthew 26:67), and that he would be hated without reason (Psalms 69:4, 35:19, 109:3-5, John 15:24-25).
It was written that soldiers would divide his garments (Psalm 22:18, Matthew 27:35) and that he would be crucified (this prophecy, one thousand years before crucifixion was developed as a method of execution!) (Zechariah 12:10, Psalm22:16, Matthew 27:35, John 20: 27).
It was written that he would be crucified with malefactors and would agonize with thirst (Isaiah 53:12, Psalms 22:15, Mark 15:27-28, John 19:28), that in his thirst they would give him gall or vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21, John 19:19), that his side would be pierced but no bones would be broken (Zechariah 12:10, Psalm 34:20, John 19:32-36), and that he would be buried with the rich but deserted by his followers (Isaiah 53:9, Zechariah 13:7, Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 14:27).
The Bible tells us how the Messiah would be deserted and completely abandoned by God (Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46) but that ultimately he would rise from the dead (Hosea 6:2, Psalms 16:10, 49:15, Luke 24:6-7, Mark 16).
And these are just some of the signs of his first coming, and the leaders of his time completely failed to recognize who this miracle worker from Galilee really was.
So how did they miss his coming?
The Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day were expecting a Messiah; they just weren’t expecting the one they got. In Jewish tradition, there were two Messiahs to come, each fulfilling very different roles. There was Messiah ben Joseph and Messiah ben David.
Messiah ben Joseph is the suffering servant, the Messiah who had come to die. This is the Messiah who would come and take the place of sacrifice, and he is depicted in Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53 has always been a very difficult chapter for the Jewish people to accept or understand. Even to this day, Jews do not know what to do with it and what to do with this man of tragedy, this “suffering servant.” Most observant Jews simply try to ignore Isaiah 53 altogether and pretend it doesn’t exist.
Yet this was the role that Jesus fulfilled during his first coming, the role of the suffering servant who took the sins of the world onto his shoulders. The Jewish leaders missed him because they were not waiting for Messiah ben Joseph; they were waiting for Messiah ben David, an awesome political and military leader – a dramatic deliverer.
This will be how Jesus will present himself at his Second Advent, as Messiah ben David, the conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. And in that day, as surely as the Lord lives, “every knee will bow” to the name of Jesus.
Two thousand years ago, they were looking for someone to come and free them from the yoke of Roman servitude, and that was not Jesus’ role in his first incarnation. His role was to free humanity from the yoke of sin and eternal death! He didn’t fit their ideology, so they ignored him. Ultimately they killed him for it.
Even the disciples after the resurrection asked Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). They were still expecting Jesus to free them from Roman oppression and believed that now Jesus would finally fulfill the role of Messiah ben David and establish his kingdom.
The Jews knew that Messiah had two roles: a suffering servant – Ben Joseph, and a mighty warrior – Ben David. They were expecting two different Messiahs to fulfill two different roles. What they could not grasp, and still to this day fail to understand, was that one man would fulfill both roles, but at two separate times in human history, separated by thousands of years!
Two thousand years after the first coming of Messiah, it looks very much to me like many in this generation are repeating the mistakes of the leaders in Jesus’ day.
Jesus told us the signs which would indicate his second coming to this earth. He told us how to recognize the season of his return. How many of us are paying attention? If the hundreds of prophecies concerning his first coming were fulfilled, literally and to the letter, then surely those related to his second coming will be literally fulfilled too. To the letter. Why would it be any different?
There are approximately three hundred prophecies of the first coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament, but over five hundred of his second coming! George Heron, a French mathematician, worked out that the chances of 40 of those first-coming prophecies being fulfilled in one man were 1 in 10 to the power of 157!
Dr. Peter S. Ruckman calculated that the odds of 60 (not 300) being fulfilled in one man were 1 in 10 to the power of over 895. That’s a one with 895 zeros after it.
The prophecies related to the Second Advent of Jesus are coming to pass now, so why are so many in positions of “leadership” spending their time talking about Kingdom Now theology, talking about seeker-sensitive models of church growth, and about “Having Your Best Life Now.”
The signs Jesus told us to watch for that would indicate the end of the age are burgeoning. They are increasing in intensity and frequency.
There are false prophets everywhere; famines and diseases ravaging entire populations; earthquakes and tribulations; there is godlessness and apostasy; the Roman Empire is reforming before our eyes; Hebrew has returned as the spoken language of Israel; and preparation for the rebuilding of the temple is common talk, as is the news of Red Heifer births.
Knowledge has increased and we all travel to and fro! Ethiopian Jews have returned to Israel; Russia has risen and its Jews have returned “from the north country;” the technology for the mark of the beast is upon us; and the New World Order is common currency. Israel is fast becoming the pariah state of the world, and every nation is obsessed with dividing Jerusalem. And I personally think that the gospel has been preached to all the world.
Don’t make the same mistake the Pharisees and Sadducees made two thousand years ago. No one knows the day or the hour, but all the signs indicating the emergence of the Messiah are present now, and become more pronounced with each day that passes.
So take it upon yourself, this day, to make yourself ready so that you will be found to be at peace with him when he does come.
“When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16: 2-3).
“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
‘We believe we have made precise image,’ says professor
If indeed the Shroud of Turin is the burial cloth of Jesus, Professor Giulio Fanti of Italy’s University of Padua believes he has created the first 3D model of his image and body.
“We believe that we have the precise image of what Jesus looked like on this earth,” said Fanti, who teaches mechanical and thermal measurements and is a Shroud researcher. “This statue is the three-dimensional representation in actual size of the Man of the Shroud, created following the precise measurements taken from the cloth in which the body of Christ was wrapped after the crucifixion.”
Through the study and three-dimensional projection of the figure, Fanti was also able to count the numerous wounds on the body of the man of the Shroud.
“On the Shroud, I counted 370 wounds from the flagellation, without taking into account the wounds on his sides, which the Shroud doesn’t show because it only enveloped the back and front of the body. We can therefore hypothesize a total of at least 600 blows,” he said. “In addition, the three-dimensional reconstruction has made it possible to discover that at the moment of his death, the man of the Shroud sagged down towards the right, because his right shoulder was dislocated so seriously as to injure the nerves.”
He concludes: “Therefore, we believe that we finally have the precise image of what Jesus looked like on this earth. From now on, He may no longer be depicted without taking this work into account.”
In an interview with the weekly periodical Chi, he said the Man of the Shroud was nearly 5 feet, 11 inches tall, whereas the average height at the time is believed to be 5 feet, 5 inches.
“And he had a regal and majestic expression,” Fanti said.
The Shroud of Turin is a 14-foot linen cloth that is believed to have wrapped the body of Jesus Christ after the crucifixion.
The University of Padua and Padua Hospital worked in collaboration with sculptor Sergio Rodella to create the life-size image, according to Il Mattino di Padova, an Italian publication.
In August, researchers from the Institute of Crystallography found chemicals in the stains on the Shroud, confirming that the stains were actual blood. Researchers also learned that the blood belonged to someone who suffered from extreme amounts of injury and pain.
“The blood serum tells us that before dying the person was suffering,” said Elvio Carlino, a researcher from the Institute of Crystallography. “This means that the Turin Shroud is not fake … It is certainly the funeral fabric that wrapped a tortured man.”
“They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!'”
‘Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God.
You shall not make for yourselves idols, nor shall you set up for yourselves an image or a sacred pillar, nor shall you place a figured stone in your land to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’
He then returned the eleven hundred pieces of silver to his mother, and his mother said, “I wholly dedicate the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son to make a graven image and a molten image; now therefore, I will return them to you.”
Treasury of Scripture
You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
4. a graven image] an image of carved wood (sometimes enclosed in a metal casing, Isaiah 30:22) or stone, such as were common in antiquity, and are so, of course, still among heathen nations. Cf. Deuteronomy 4:16 f.
the likeness of any form, &c.] By an inexactness of language, the Heb. identifies the ‘form’ made with the ‘form’ (in heaven, &c.) upon which it is modelled: RV. eases the sentence by inserting ‘the likeness of.’
the water under the earth] cf. Deuteronomy 4:18. The waters meant are the huge abyss of subterranean waters, on which the Hebrews imagined the flat surface of the earth to rest (Genesis 49:25, Psalm 24:2; Psalm 136:6), and which they supposed to be the hidden source of seas and springs (see further the writer’s note on Genesis 1:9-10). Fish, at least in certain places, or of certain kinds, were regarded as sacred, and forbidden to be eaten, in Egypt, Syria and elsewhere; and Xen. (Anab. i. 4. 9) says that the fish in the Chalus, near Aleppo, were looked upon as gods. See Rel. Sem.2 pp. 174–6, 292 f.; EB. ii. 1530 f.
 W. R. Smith, The Religion of the Semites, ed. 2, 1894.
4–6. The second commandment, against image-worship. The prohibition is general; and includes both images of Jehovah,—who, as a spiritual Being, cannot be represented by any material likeness (see the development of this thought in Deuteronomy 4:15-19),—and also those of other gods, or of deified creatures, or objects of nature. Images were widely used by worshippers of Jehovah till the times of the prophets: on the bearing of this upon the date of the Decalogue, see p. 415 f.
Verse 4. As the first commandment asserts the unity of God, and is a protest against polytheism, so the second asserts his spirituality, and is a protest against idolatry and materialism. Verses 4 and 5 are to be taken together, the prohibition being intended, not to forbid the arts of sculpture and painting, or even to condemn the religious use of them, but to disallow the worship of God under material forms. When the later Jews condemned all representations of natural objects (Philo, De Orac. 29; Joseph. Ant. Jud. 8:7, § 5), they not only enslaved themselves to a literalism, which is alien from the spirit of both covenants, but departed from the practice of more primitive times – representations of such objects having had their place both in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-34; Exodus 28:33, 34) and in the first temple (1 Kings 6:18, 29, 32, etc.). Indeed, Moses himself, when he erected the “brazen serpent” (Numbers 21:9) made it clear that representations of natural objects were not disallowed by the law. To moderns in civilized countries it seems almost incredible that there should ever have been anywhere a real worship of images. But acquaintance with ancient history or even with the present condition of man in savage or backward countries, renders it apparent that there is a subtle fascination in such material forms, and that imperfectly developed minds will rest in them not as mere emblems of divinity, but as actually possessed of Divine powers The protest raised by the second commandment is still as necessary as ever, not only in the world, but in the very Christian Church itself, where there exists even at the present day a superstitious regard for images and pictures, which is not only irrational, but which absorbs the religious feelings that should have been directed to higher objects. Any graven image. Perhaps it would be better to translate “any image,” for the term used (pesel) is applied, not only to “graven” but also to “molten images” (Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 44:10; Jeremiah 10:14; etc.), since these last were in almost every instance finished by the graving tool. Or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above – i.e., “any likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air.” Compare Deuteronomy 4:17. The water under the earth. See Genesis 1:6, 7. The triple division here and elsewhere made, is intended to embrace the whole material universe. Much of the Egyptian religion consisted in the worship of animals and their images.