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U.S. to Begin Enforcing Labeling of West Bank Products
Feb 1st, 2016
Daily News
Israel News
Uncategorized

After months of heated debate over the European Union (EU) labeling products made in Judea and Samaria, the US is now quietly doing the same, but without the fuss or discussion.

The US Customs Department released a statement last Saturday reminding importers of a regulation from 1995 that goods produced in the West Bank must be labeled as such, and not labeled “Made in Israel”.

“Goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip shall be marked as originating from ‘West Bank,’ ‘Gaza,’ ‘Gaza Strip,’ ‘West Bank/Gaza,’ ‘West Bank/Gaza Strip,’ ‘West Bank and Gaza,’ or ‘West Bank and Gaza Strip’. It is not acceptable to mark the aforementioned goods with the words ‘Israel,’ ‘Made in Israel,’ ‘Occupied Territories-Israel,’ or any variation thereof. Goods that are erroneously marked as products of Israel will be subject to an enforcement action carried out by US Customs and Border Protection,” the memo read.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner was asked at a press conference if this was intended as a rebuke to Israel for recent settlement expansion.

He responded that it was “simply a restatement of previous requirements” and does not “impose additional requirements”. He stressed that it was in no way a boycott.

It was pointed out that the policy had not been enforced in 20 years.

Toner claimed the decision to enforce it now came as a result of recent complaints, but he declined to specify where the complaints originated.

Toner was then asked if this was a move towards a universally stricter adherence to customs regulations and labeling, for example in the case of “Transnistrian products going to the US [labeled] as made in Russia”.

He responded that no changes were anticipated in regards to any other countries.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) told the Forward it doesn’t object to the reminder being issued.

“This long-standing Customs policy, in contrast to the actions of the European Union, was not intended to stigmatize Israeli products but to merely facilitate duty free access to the US market for Palestinian goods,” said AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittman. “It does not distinguish among manufacturers in the territories.”

This may be true, but the US policy carries a sting the EU policy does not. The EU policy does not bear a fine for non-compliance, but the US Customs policy carries a fine of 10% the value of the product, which the US Customs Department will presumably remember to begin enforcing.

It is true that this policy, passed through Congress and duly legislated, was a result of the Oslo Accords and as such, was welcomed by Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, but it is unwelcome by the Israelis in its new incarnation.

An Israeli official told YNet, “It is hard to believe that customs officials would randomly decide to publish a notice just because someone complained that guidelines are not being enforced. It’s convenient for them to present it as being a technical issue but in the US things never happen just by chance.”

He added that “under the guise of a technical notice the Americans are taking a political step. Israel will have to decide whether this is a technical reissuing of guidelines or a politically important directive.”

Ted Cruz: If Christians Vote, Race Would be Over (Excerpts)
Feb 1st, 2016
Daily News
WND
Categories: Contemporary Issues

As I write this today, I’m campaigning for president. Our campaign is enjoying enormous momentum; I could not be more encouraged.

We need strong leadership. Principled, constitutional leadership.

If I am elected president, let me tell you what I intend to do on the very first day in office:

The first thing I intend to do is rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional action taken by President Obama.

The second thing I intend to do is instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and the horrible videos that have emerged and exposed them, and to prosecute any and all criminal violations by that organization. The administration of justice should be blind to party and ideology; the only allegiance of the Department of Justice should be to the laws and Constitution of the United States.

The third thing I intend to do is to instruct the Department of Justice, and the IRS, and every other federal agency, that the persecution of religious liberty ends today. That means that our servicemen and women will be able to pray and worship God, and their commanding officer has nothing to say about it. That means that the Little Sisters of the Poor – a Catholic charity against which the Obama administration is currently litigating to try to force the nuns to pay for abortion-inducing drugs – will have the case against them dismissed.

The fourth thing I intend to do is to rip to shreds Obama’s catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal. The single greatest national security threat facing America is the threat of a nuclear Iran – we should not be sending over $100 billion to a theocratic zealot like the Ayatollah Khamenei, who pledges “death to America” – and if I am president, under no circumstances will Iran be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.

The fifth thing I intend to do is begin the process of moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the once and eternal capital of Israel.

All of that is on day one. It is an example of how quickly things can change. The Left, and the media (who are in cahoots), try to convince us that nothing can change. They want us to give up. But strong presidential leadership, backed by the American people, can usher in dramatic change.

In the days that follow, as president I intend to do the following:

Go to Congress and repeal every word of Obamacare. In its place, we will pass commonsense health care reform that makes health insurance personal, portable, and affordable, and keeps government from getting between our doctors and us.

Instruct the Department of Education – which should be abolished – that Common Core ends today. Education is too important to be dictated by unelected bureaucrats in Washington; it should be controlled at the state or local level, where we parents have direct control over our children’s education.

Expand school choice – the civil rights issue of the twenty-first century – so that every child, regardless of race, ethnicity, income, or zip code, has a right to access an excellent education.

Rebuild our military, and honor the commitments made to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. Peace through strength should always be our goal, but we must remember that we can’t have the first without the second. If we are committed to peace, we need an equally profound commitment to maintaining America’s strength.

Reform the VA to give our veterans the right to choose their own doctors at whatever hospital they wish, and protect the right of our servicemen and women to keep and bear arms and protect themselves.

Stand up and defeat radical Islamic terrorism. Confront it by its name. Utterly destroy ISIS, which is the face of evil, crucifying Christians, beheading children, and working to establish an Islamic caliphate to spread their theocratic hate. And as commander in chief, make clear to jihadist militants across the globe, “If you go and join ISIS, if you take up arms and wage jihad against America, trying to kill innocent men and women, you are signing your death warrant.”

Finally, finally, finally secure the borders and end sanctuary cities. Put an end to the Obama administration’s indefensible practice of releasing violent criminal illegal aliens, and pass Kate’s Law, ensuring that fewer violent criminals go free.

Take on the EPA, and the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), and the alphabet soup of federal agencies that are strangling small businesses and killing jobs. Unchain booming economic growth, so that young people coming out of school once again have two, three, four job offers and a brighter economic future.

Unleash an American energy renaissance, allowing America finally to become energy self-sufficient and ushering in millions of high-paying jobs. Stopping the Obama administration’s war on coal and crushing regulatory assault will revitalize manufacturing across America, enabling us to bring back millions of jobs from foreign nations like China, based not on low-cost labor, but on abundant God-given low-cost energy.

And work with Congress to pass fundamental tax reform, passing a simple flat tax. Where all Americans can fill out their taxes on a postcard. And when we do that, we should abolish the IRS.

This is a bold, aggressive agenda. And yet it’s simple common sense. Return to the free-market values and constitutional liberties that built America. Live within our means. Don’t bankrupt our kids and grandkids. Follow the Constitution.

Study of World Best Countries Ranks Israel As 8th Most Powerful
Feb 1st, 2016
Daily News
Israel News
Categories: The Nation Of Israel

Israel ranks high among the world’s most powerful countries, according to a new study measuring “a nation’s worth beyond hard metrics”. The 2016 Best Countries report, which looked at countries’ rankings in nine areas, identified Israel as the eighth most powerful nation of 60 examined.

According to US News, which published the results, “The 2016 Best Countries report and rankings are based on how global perceptions define countries in terms of a number of qualitative characteristics, impressions that have the potential to drive trade, travel and investment and directly affect national economies.”

The nine subcategories included in the study were adventure, citizenship, cultural influence, entrepreneurship, heritage, movers, open for business, power and quality of life. In the power category, defined as being  “a leader, economically influential, politically influential, strong international alliances, strong military,” Israel placed behind US, Russia, China, Germany, the UK, France and Japan, but ahead of many others, including Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Canada, Iran, Australia, India, Italy and Pakistan.

The study was designed by John Gerzema and Anna Blender from UK-based public relations company WPP’s brand strategy firm BAV Consulting and David Reibstein from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, in consultation with U.S. News & World Report. It included a survey of 16,000 people worldwide asking how closely they associated 65 different attributes with the 60 countries on the list. The attributes were then sorted by related category. The more closely a country was associated by more people with a certain attribute, the higher that country rose in the rankings.

The sixty countries included in the study were those which reached all four of the following benchmarks: the United Nation’s top 100 countries in terms of 2013 gross domestic product, the World Bank’s top 100 countries in terms of 2012 international tourist arrivals, the top 100 countries in terms of foreign direct investment inflows from the United Nation’s 2013 World Investment Report and the top 150 countries of the United Nation’s 2014 Human Development Index.

Retail Apocalypse: 2016 Brings Empty Shelves and Store Closings Across America
Feb 1st, 2016
Daily News
Michael Snyder
Categories: Contemporary Issues

Major retailers in the United States are shutting down hundreds of stores, and shoppers are reporting alarmingly bare shelves in many retail locations that are still open all over the country.  It appears that the retail apocalypse that made so many headlines in 2015 has gone to an entirely new level as we enter 2016.  


As economic activity slows down and Internet retailers capture more of the market, brick and mortar retailers are cutting their losses.  This is especially true in areas that are on the lower portion of the income scale.  In impoverished urban centers all over the nation, it is not uncommon to find entire malls that have now been completely abandoned.  

It has been estimated that there is about a billion square feet of retail space sitting empty in this country, and this crisis is only going to get worse as the retail apocalypse accelerates.

We always get a wave of store closings after the holiday shopping season, but this year has been particularly active.  The following are just a few of the big retailers that have already made major announcements&

-Wal-Mart is closing 269 stores, including 154 inside the United States.

-K-Mart is closing down more than two dozen stores over the next several months.

-J.C. Penney will be permanently shutting down 47 more stores after closing a total of 40 stores in 2015.

-Macys has decided that it needs to shutter 36 stores and lay off approximately 2,500 employees.

-The Gap is in the process of closing 175 stores in North America.

-Aeropostale is in the process of closing 84 stores all across America.

-Finish Line has announced that 150 stores will be shutting down over the next few years.

-Sears has shut down about 600 stores over the past year or so, but sales at the stores that remain open continue to fall precipitously.

But these store closings are only part of the story.

All over the country, shoppers are noticing bare shelves and alarmingly low inventory levels.  This is happening even at the largest and most prominent retailers.

I want to share with you an excerpt from a recent article by Jeremiah Johnson.  The anecdotes that he shares definitely set off alarm bells with me.  Read them for yourself and see what you think.

I came across two excellent comments upon Steve Quayles website that bear reading, as these are two people with experience in retail marketing, inventory, ordering, and purchases.  Take a look at these:

#1 (From DJ, January 24, 2016)

Steve-

[Regarding the] alerts about the current state of the RR industry. This is in line with what Ive been noticing as I visited our local/regional grocery store, Walmart, and Target this week in WI. I worked in big box retail for 20 years specializing in Inventory Management. These stores are all using computerized inventory management systems that monitor and automatically replenish inventory when levels/shelf stock get low. This prevents out of stocks and lost sales. These companies rely on the ability to replenish inventory quickly from regional warehouses.


As I shopped this week and looked at inventory levels I was shocked. There were numerous (above and beyond acceptable levels) out of stocks across category lines at all three retailers. And even where inventory was on the shelf, the overall levels were noticeably reduced. Based on my experience, working for two of these three organizations in store management, they have drastically/intentionally reduced their inventory levels. This is either due to financial stresses/poor sales effecting their ability to acquire new inventory, or it could be the result of what was mentioned earlier regarding the transporting of goods to these regional warehouses. Either way this doesnt bode well for the whats to come.  Stock up now while you can!

#2 (From a Commenter following up #1 who didnt provide a name, January 26, 2016)

Id like to tailgate on the SQ Alert based on my experience& regarding stock levels in big box stores. This weekend we were in two such stores, each in fairly isolated communities which are easily the communities best source for acquiring grocery items in quantity.

I myself worked in retail (meat) for thirty years so I know exactly what a well-stocked store looks like, understand the key categories and category drivers, and how shelves are stocked and displays are built to drive sales and profits. I also understand supply chain and distribution methodologies quite well.

Each of the stores we were in were woefully under-stocked. This time of year-the few weeks following the holidays-is usually big business in groceries and low stock levels suggest either poor ordering at the store level, poor purchasing at the distribution level or a purposeful desire to be under-stocked.

Anyone familiar with the retail grocery industry is also familiar with how highly touted the big box stores infrastructure is. They know exactly when demand is high and for what items and in what quantities. It is very unlikely that both stores somehow got surprised by unusually high demand. It is reasonable then to imagine that low stock levels in rural areas with few options is a purposed endeavor to assure that both the budget conscious and the folks in more remote areas are not fully able to load up their pantries.

Simply put I believe the major retailer in question is doing their part to limit the ability of rural America to be sufficiently prepared. Nevertheless, we are wise to do our best to keep ahead of the curve. God bless your efforts, Steve.

*****

Yes, this is just anecdotal evidence, but it lines up perfectly with hard numbers that I have been discussing on The Economic Collapse Blog.

Exports are plummeting all over the globe, and the Baltic Dry Index just plunged to another new all-time record low.  The amount of stuff being shipped around by air, truck and rail inside this country has been dropping significantly, and this tells us that real economic activity is really slowing down.

If you currently work in the retail industry, your job is not secure, and you may want to start evaluating your options.

We have entered the initial phases of a major economic downturn, and it is going to be especially cruel to those on the low end of the income spectrum.  Do what you can to get prepared now, because the economy is not going to be getting better any time soon.

 

Paving the Way for the Antichrist - the Consolidation of Power
Feb 1st, 2016
Commentary
Kade Hawkins
Categories: Prophecy

Today, consolidation of power throughout society is increasing at a rapid pace. From the television shows we watch, to the news sites we visit, to the music we listen to and our financial institutions, the amount of control has passed from the many to the few.

The many different brands we use give us the illusion of choice but, more often than not, the real power is consolidated in just a few corporations or individuals.

Earlier this month Oxfam, in a complaint against tax havens, reported how that even those who hold the greatest wealth and influence in society, have regrouped into an 'ultra' elite, as a mere 62 individuals control as much money as the poorest 3.5 billion people on the entire planet.

Back in 2010, 388 members of the elite had as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity. But since then that number has been steadily falling and now it is down to just 62. At this pace, Oxfam is projecting that in just a few years a single person will have as much money as the poorest half of the global population combined.

Have you noticed your banking options are much more limited than 20 years ago?  In the last few decades 37 banks have merged to became just 4 mega-banks: Citibank, JPMorgan/Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

This same trend can be seen in the corporate media world. Thirty years ago 50 different corporations dominated what, today, we call the mainstream media. Now that control has been centralized around 6 major corporations: Time Warner, Walt Disney, Viacom, Rupert Murdochs News Corp., CBS Corporation and NBC Universal. Together, the "big six" absolutely dominate news and entertainment in the United States. If you look at any type of media outlet today, chances are they will have links to one of these companies.

It is not without significance that all these major media conglomerates are also corporate members of the Council on Foreign Relations. This organization is a US think-tank whose members have been instrumental in formulating US government policies including greater media deregulation, which is how we arrived at such media ownership concentration in the first place.

These same corporations also have significant influence over what news information is available on the Internet, it being only slightly more diverse - but that number is shrinking as well.

A new study by research outfit SimilarWeb, which compiled figures for the top news publishers covering both mobile and desktop audiences in 2015, found that the top 10 publishers -- together owning around 60 news sites -- account for 47% of total online traffic to news content.  The other half was made up primarily of another 140 web publishers.

The biggest online news publisher for the U.S. audience was MSN, owner of MSN.com, with just over 27 billion combined page views, followed by Disney Media Networks, owner of ESPN and ABC  News, with 25.9 billion.

Time Warner, owner of CNN and the Bleacher Report, had 14.8 billion, followed by Yahoo with 10.3 billion, and Time, Inc. with 10.2 billion.

A bit farther down the list were CBS Corp., owner of Cnet.com, with 9.9 billion combined page views; NBC Universal, with 9.5 billion; Matt Drudge, with 8.5 billion; and Fox Entertainment Group, owner of Fox News, with 7.9 billion.

Considering how vast the potential Internet options are for information, this is a relatively small group of publishers who dominate Americans online news consumption.

Even how one finds information online is dominated by one company: Google.  Although it's hard to nail down metrics for just how much control Google has over our Internet lives, an interesting thing happened in 2013 that might give us some insight. 

The entirety of Googles services went offline for just a few minutes but, during that time, GoSquared, a real time analytics company saw a 40% drop in overall Internet traffic suggesting that 40% is a pretty safe number for Google's dominance on the Internet. That is a lot of power behind one company that can determine what you see and what you don't see, as any business fighting for position rankings on Google will tell you.

When one considers that, according to Nielsen's Total Audience Report (March, 2015), Americans aged 18 and older are spending more than 5hrs per day on the Internet or watching TV - these companies have tremendous power to shape and influence one's views on just about everything.

 

Let the Headlines Speak
Feb 1st, 2016
Daily News
From the Iternet
Categories: Today's Headlines

A New Madrid Earthquake Is Coming And America Will Be Shaken Like Never Before
In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey has admitted that the New Madrid fault zone has the “potential for larger and more powerful quakes than previously thought“, and the number of significant earthquakes in the middle part of the country has more than quintupled in recent years.  

Leviathan’s First Deal Signed With Israeli-Turkish Consortium
The Leviathan natural gas field is launching its debut into the world of domestic production and foreign export, simultaneously. The mammoth natural gas field will supply two private companies with its natural resource in a new $1.3 billion contract signed with Edeltech Group (owned by the Edelsburg family) and its Turkish partner, Zorlu Enerji.  

Comment: Shooting attack in Beit El signals the start of an armed intifada
The terror attack yesterday [Sunday] in Beit El seems to mark the beginning of the next armed intifada we have so far sought to avoid.  

Will Two-Thirds of Israelis Perish?
There is a popular belief, even among Christian lovers of Israel, that according to Zechariah’s prophecy, two-thirds of the Jewish people in Israel “will be cut off and perish” (Zech. 13:8). This interpretation is tied to the belief of how God will bring about Israel’s ultimate salvation.  

Very shallow M6.0 earthquake hits Balleny Islands region, Antarctica
A very shallow earthquake registered by the USGS as M6.0 hit Balleny Islands region, Antarctica at 17:39 UTC on January 31, 2016. The agency is reporting a depth of 10 km (6.2 miles). EMSC is reporting M6.0 at a depth of 40 km (25 miles). There are no people living within 100 km (62 miles) radius.  

Gov't approves mixed prayer area at Western Wall
According to the proposed arrangement, a new prayer area will be set up south of the existing separate prayer areas. The new prayer area will be modeled on the one set up at Robinson's Arch two years ago where Women of the Wall could worship, and will allow Reform and Conservative Jews to pray according to their custom.  

60% of Jordanian students have never heard of 'Al-Aqsa'
A new survey published by the University of Jordan raises a startling statistic which challenges quite a few deeply-rooted fundamental assumptions surrounding the Temple Mount. The survey, conducted among 6,000 Jordanian students, asked only one question: What is al-Aqsa Mosque? The result: More than 60 percent of the students did not know how to answer.  

We Need a New Government Agency to Oversee the Search for Immortality
Scientists increasingly agree that we’re fast approaching a moment in medicine—probably within 30 years—where we won’t just be significantly lengthening human lifespans, but probably conquering death too. Medicine’s main goal will no longer be to just improve health, but to attempt to guarantee survival for every person that exists on the planet. We must remember the greater good for society and ourselves...  

China shares fall as economic pulse slows
Chinese shares stumbled lower on Monday after an official measure of activity in the giant factory sector fell to its lowest since mid-2012, offering no respite for markets from the country's economic drift.  

Pope Francis Said to Bless Human-Animal Chimeras
A Spanish scientist working at the Salk Institute in California told Scientific American that Pope Francis personally blessed his cutting-edge research to mix human cells into animal bodies.  

4.1 Earthquake Recorded in Western Montana
The quake occurred at 7 a.m. yesterday in a sparsely populated area about 15 miles east of the small community of Lincoln or 28 miles northwest of Helena.  

Scientists get 'gene editing' go-ahead
UK scientists have been given the go-ahead by the fertility regulator to genetically modify human embryos. The research will take place at the Francis Crick Institute in London and aims to provide a deeper understanding of the earliest moments of human life. The experiments will take place in the first seven days after fertilisation and could explain what goes wrong in miscarriage.  

Lift-off for Europe's space laser network
Europe has begun to roll out a data superhighway in orbit above the Earth. The first node in the network is a telecommunications satellite that was launched from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. It will use a laser to gather pictures of the planet taken by other spacecraft and then relay them to the ground.  

Liberal Jews to get prayer site at Jerusalem's Western Wall
The Israeli government has approved the creation of a new prayer space for non-Orthodox Jews at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, allowing men and women to pray together. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a "creative solution" that would "unify the people of Israel". Orthodox Jews voted against the move but said they accepted the decision.  

Syria conflict: Dozens killed near Sayyida Zeinab shrine
At least 71 people have died in blasts near the Shia shrine of Sayyida Zeinab, south of Syria's capital Damascus. A bus station and a building housing military headquarters were hit by the blasts, which mangled nearby vehicles. It happened as the government and opposition groups gathered in Geneva in a bid to start talks aimed at a political solution to the conflict.  

African Union abandons plans to send peacekeepers to Burundi
The African Union has abandoned its plan to send 5,000 peacekeepers to help restore stability to troubled Burundi. Officials said they would instead encourage political dialogue between Burundi's opposing sides. Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza had fiercely opposed the AU plan's to send peacekeepers.  

IDF partial blockade in Ramallah response to alerts of future attacks from city
The IDF has placed a partial blockade around Ramallah on Monday morning, allowing only residents of the Palestinian city to enter and leave it. An army spokeswoman said the partial closure placed around the major city...came following "concrete alerts regarding future acts of terrorism originating in the city," as well as a spate of recent attacks, including the shooting attack by a PA policeman on IDF soldiers on Sunday.  

Company Developing ‘Tech Tattoos’ So People Can Track Their Medical, Financial Info
Could we soon be carrying all of our medical and financial information on a tattoo? Software company Chaotic Moon has developed a “tech tattoo” that gets embedded into a person’s arm and can track a person’s financial and medical information.  

Israel's Netanyahu Warns Gaza Militants Against Attacking
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza on Sunday that his country will retaliate with "greater force" than deployed in the 2014 Gaza war if cross-border tunnels are used to attack Israel.  

Was Zika outbreak caused by release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Brazil?
The Zika virus outbreak currently gripping the Americas could have been sparked by the release of genetically modified mosquitoes in 2012, critics say. The insects were engineered by biotechnology experts to combat the spread of dengue fever and other diseases and released into the general population of Brazil in 2012.  

Ouch: U.S. economy stumbles with 0.7 percent growth in 4Q 2015
Obama will be gone this time next year, but have we learned enough from the past seven years not to elect another socialist or a socialist who masquerades as something else?We’re always told that consistent economic growth will get us out of all our fiscal problems. That’s not true, although it would certainly help. We recently told you that deficit projections for coming years are looking pretty scary, and even those projections depend on some pretty rosy assumptions about future economic growth.  

Election 2016’s about Obama’s visceral hatred of America
Election 2016 is about the turnaround survival or continuing downfall of Western Society as we know it.The 2016 election is about the possibility of releasing the USA from its lockdown of hatred; a hatred that has all but swiped America off the world map; a hatred that gutted America’s role as leader of the Free World, the same way as it gutted the nation’s Armed Forces; a hatred that allows murderers and rapists to be set free from prisons; a hatred that gives carte blanche to ISIS, which the current administration refuses to even name, and everything in between.  

Boko Haram burned children alive in Nigeria, witness says
A survivor hidden in a tree says he watched Boko Haram extremists firebomb huts and heard the screams of children among people burned to death in the latest attack by Nigeria's homegrown Islamic extremists.  

Global Trade Collapsed In January: Bellwether South Korea Exports Crash "Most Since Lehman"
As the first major exporting nation to report each month, all eyes and hopeful speculative capital was glued to tonight's South Korean trade data. After a brief respite in November, December's drop was worrisome, but January's just reported 18.5% crash - the most since the financial crisis - has only been seen during a US economic recession.  

US pledges $97M to combat Ethiopia's drought
The U.S. has boosted its emergency food aid to Ethiopia by nearly $100 million to combat one of the worst droughts in decades, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced Sunday.

Humans could become GMO
Genetic engineering is currently an immature and imprecise science. Scientists cannot forecast all the impacts of a particular genetic modification. They do know, however, that many modifications come with strings attached. For instance, a genetic modification to establish HIV resistance would also increase susceptibility to West Nile Virus, not to mention that the changes are permanent and heritable.  

Colorado to Iowa, Michigan face blizzard Monday into Groundhog Day
Snow and slippery travel over the central United States will evolve into dangerous blizzard conditions to start February, including Groundhog Day. A storm will strengthen and gather snow and wind as it tracks across the Southwest states into Monday to the central Plains and Upper Midwest during Monday night into Tuesday night.  

Pope Francis Said to Bless Human-Animal Chimeras
While the Catholic Church has opposed research on human embryos, it endorses evolution and generally takes a liberal view on scientific matters. In fact, the Vatican’s position on “human-animal chimeras,” as the mixtures are known, may be more liberal than that of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which in September instituted a ban on funding chimera research until it can weigh ethical questions associated with it.  

Satanic group set to lead Phoenix City Council in prayer
A Satanic group is set to deliver an opening prayer at an upcoming meeting of the Phoenix City Council, sparking controversy. The local Satanic Temple will deliver the invocation at the Council’s Feb. 17 meeting after winning approval -- and at least one Councilman is calling that a joke, Fox 10 reported Thursday.

Gene Drive Can Quickly Change Entire Species
Feb 1st, 2016
Daily News
WND
Categories: Contemporary Issues

One of biologist Ethan Bier’s graduate students at the University of California, San Diego, recently conducted an experiment on fruit flies with far-reaching implications – both beneficial and nightmarish – for humanity.

“It was one of the most astounding days in my personal scientific career. When he first showed me, I could not believe it,” Bier told Oregon Public Broadcasting on Thursday.

Graduate student Valentino Gantz’s used a technique called “gene drive” to accomplish something simple, yet profound: He forced a generation of brown fruit flies to have mostly blond offspring. Bier told the station his students were “jumping up and down” when the next generation maintained the mutation.

“I believe it’s going to transform the world of genetics, because it’s going to allow researchers to bypass the rules of genetics in many different spheres of activity. The gene drive immediately makes the organisms that carry [a desired mutation] have the characteristic and then secondly it causes them to have all their children have the same characteristic,” Bier said.

The effectiveness of the gene drive technique used by the University of California is amplified when combined with a method called CRISPR, which WND reported on Oct. 29.

“We’re basically able to have a molecular scalpel for genomes. All the technologies in the past were sort of like sledgehammers. … This just gives scientists the capability do something that is incredibly powerful,” biologist Jennifer Doudna told Tech Insider Oct. 28.

Proponents of the technology say it may rid the world of countless diseases or allow scientists to genetically modify insects that do not eat valuable crops. Critics warn of the unintended consequences of changing entire species, and the threat posed to humanity if such technology lands in the wrong hands.

New York University bioethicist Brendan Parent told OPB that scientists are walking a precarious tightrope.

“There are inherent problems with gene drives. We don’t know what other impacts we’re having. We don’t know whether the elimination of malaria specifically won’t somehow have genetic effects that cause a super-virulent pathogen to be released or to bring in much greater catastrophic consequences,” Parent said.

New York Medical College cell biologist Stuart Newman then turned the discussion to genetic terrorism.

‘If any group or country wanted to develop germ warfare agents they could use techniques like this. It would be quite straightforward to make new pathogens this way,’ he said.

Kevin Esvelt, an evolutionary engineer who works on gene drives at Harvard, acknowledged “profound ethical issues” exist, but said labs are working on built-in biological reset buttons for modified species.

“What that means is if someone makes a mistake then we can undo that change. It is potentially a way for us to interact with nature in a whole new way – using biology rather than bulldozers and toxic pesticides,” said Esvelt, OPB reported.

Blood Money
Feb 1st, 2016
Daily News
Israel News
Categories: Contemporary Issues

Last Thursday, at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “I think that some of it (the money from the Iranian nuclear deal), will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists”, adding, “You know, to some degree, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented. But I can tell you this, right now, we are not seeing the early delivery of funds going to that kind of endeavor at this point in time.”

Now that the money has already been released, Kerry casually acknowledges an inevitability that we, who have been in opposition of the Iranian nuclear deal, have been arguing all along.

Last May, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked by a reporter whether or not when the sanctions are dismissed, there will be an increase in Iran’s destabilizing operations in the region and funding of Hezb’allah and other groups, he responded, “I think, most importantly it’s the hope of the Iranian people that the influx of resources will be devoted to meeting the needs of the population there.”

This is yet another example of the triumph of “hope” in Obama’s foreign policy over “realism”. We have all known that since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran has chosen to use most of its GNP for guns and not butter.

Those of us who were against the deal, were not simply opposed to it because Iran will legally be allowed to have access to nuclear weapons in a mere 10 years — and that is assuming that they will not cheat. (One might do well to ask: What is ten years in the life of a nation?) It was because we knew that an enormous cash influx will go to the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, which will be used to further carry out more dastardly acts against civilians. We knew it would go to further destabilize the region with its proxy wars, and would only contribute to a feeling of growing triumphalism and empowerment against its Sunni Arab rivals, what it regards as “the minor Satan”, Israel, and “the great Satan”, the United States.

In 2012, when Iran was under its most stringent sanctions, the Islamic Republic contributed $2 billion to Hezb’allah alone, and about $6 billion to the forces of Bashir Assad in Syria. How could anyone with a brain is his head not conceive of the possibility that Iran will use some of this money to carry out further acts of terrorism and to use it to foment more instability and chaos in the most explosive region of the world, and beyond.

The cavalier tone the Secretary had injected into his Davos comment further enrages anyone who appreciates the menacing nature of the Iranian regime. It has long been known that Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and that billions of Iranian rials have found their way to the coffers of Hamas, Hizb’allah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Sa’na, Yemen, the forces around Bashir Assad in Syria, and fueling the threatening flames of the fourteen-century internecine fissure between Shia and Sunni Islam that portends to further destabilize the entire region, as each side is vowing for Islamic hegemony.

Since “Implementation Day”, January 16th, Iran has access to the SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication banking system, which now enables Iran to easily move money around to its various terrorist proxies. As a result of the sanctions, SWIFT had disconnected 15 Iranian banks from this global financial network, but as of “Implementation Day” Iran now has access to over 10,800 financial institutions worldwide.

It gives little comfort to know that Secretary of State Kerry says that the opponents of the deal inflated the amount that Iran will now have access to, that after “settling their debts” the more accurate sum will not be the $100 to $150 billion dollars, but “would more likely be about 55 billion dollars”.

Yes. A mere $55 billion, and that is assuming you buy into the secretary’s generous calculations on Iran’s behalf.

Then the Secretary of State resumed the role of attorney for Iran, with the baffling statement that “The Saudis alone spend $80 billion a year on defense. The entire Gulf state community spends $130 billion a year on defense”, he said. “Iran spends $15 billion a year on its military activities. So it’s incredibly disproportionate.”

First of all, that was before this enormous sum, (whether it be $50 billion or $150 billion, it is still enormous), was released. Further, does that mean we have got to fill these coffers to the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, just to even the score?

President Obama has made similar statements, right after the JCPOA was agreed to, flippantly saying on July 15th, “We know that Iran just won’t spend it on daycare centers and roads and paying down the debt”.

The cavalier nature of these statements demonstrate that these individuals have never spent any time talking to some of the American victims of Iranian terrorism.

I have spent much time over the last few decades meeting with people who have lost loved ones to Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorism. You can see the enormous pain etched upon each one of their faces.

When a loved one is murdered by a terrorist, it is an irreparable loss, as though a chamber has been ripped out of one’s heart. There is always loss when a loved one dies, but the pain of having a son or a daughter, or loved one, ripped out of one’s life by something so earth-shattering and unpredictable as terrorism, is almost too much to bear.

When I was in Israel two weeks ago, I met with Arnold Roth, Malki Roth’s father. Malki was a beautiful 15-year-old girl who played the violin exquisitely and wanted to be a special education teacher. She was one of two Americans who was blown up the Sbarro Pizza Restaurant suicide bombing in Jerusalem in August 9, 2001. The other American was Judith Greenblum, 31, who was pregnant at the time. There were 15 people, all told, who were killed at that event.

Malki is one of at least 64 Americans that I know of who have been killed by Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorism since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Each one of their stories is more difficult to listen to than the last.

I would like to ask President Obama or Secretary Kerry to spend an hour or two with Arnold Roth, or with the families of the other Americans who have lost loved ones at the hands of Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorists, and then to discuss the possibility that some of this money will end up in the hands of terrorists. And I wonder if their tone would then be quite so dismissive.

When the pursuit of a personal legacy becomes the driving force of a foreign policy, to the extent that one can be so cavalier about the fact that some of this money will go to fuel terrorism, we, as a nation, have lost an important part of our moral fiber.

As Iran Frees American Pastor, Persecution of Iranian Christians Rages on
Feb 1st, 2016
Daily News
Shalle McDonald
Categories: Persecution

While a high-profile Christian pastor saw his freedom as part of Iran's recent release of five American prisoners, the persecution of Christians in Iran rages on with no end in sight and no indication that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will prioritize the release of about 100 Christians who have been imprisoned for believing in a faith other than Islam. 

On Jan. 16, Iran freed four Americans in a prisoner swap and a fifth in a separate release, in transactions that most reports linked to the implementation of last summers nuclear deal. Among the newly released Americans was Pastor Saeed Abedini, who was imprisoned for three and a half years in Iran and received a groundswell of global support during that time, including legal aid from the American Center for Law and Justice as well as the advocacy of famed pastors such as Franklin Graham. Abedini had been arrested by Irans Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps while visiting relatives and building an orphanage.

While Abedinis long-awaited release brings joyous relief to many Christian communities around the world, there are still scores of Iranian Christians who are arbitrarily imprisoned by the Islamic Republic and face the prospect of execution or torture.
Joel C. Rosenberg, an evangelical Christian political strategist and best-selling author, has been particularly vocal about Irans mindset on the persecution of Christians and other non-Muslims.

"ISIS wants to commit genocide now to build a caliphate now. Iran is a longer-term player, they invented chess. [Iran says,] 'No, we dont build a caliphate now, you build a pathway to nuclear weapons now, then when you have an arsenal, then you can start a war to build a caliphate to kill millions, and not just thousands'...thats their plan. Its a different strategy, but the same objective, Rosenberg recently told a packed evangelical church in Austin, Texas.

Rosenberg added that generally, the predominantly-Muslim Iranian people do not support much of the Iranian government's policy.

"The people of Iran are being held hostage by a regime thats evil... Most Iranians are against their government, but theres nothing they can do, its a tyranny&They have hanged and executed almost 1,000 people just in the past year," he said.

Polls by the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans show that while a majority of Iranian Americans are concerned about human rights and democracy in Iran, the percentage of Iranian Americans who prioritize the issue fell almost 20 percent from 2009 to 2015. In addition, 65 percent of respondents in the Public Affairs Alliances 2015 poll approved of world powers nuclear deal with Iran, mostly in hopes that the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran would improve economic conditions for the Iranian population.

"The plummeting price of oil has made the financial situation of the Iranian government even more difficult. Januarys prisoner exchange has taken place in the context of pressure on Iran to address its economic problems, and to regain more than $50 billion of frozen assets. The nuclear deal and the prisoner exchange both seek to address the same fundamental issue of gaining access to finance and global trade," Rev. Durie told JNS.org.

The Revolutionary Guard Corps controls most of the Iranian economy, which means the frozen assets and investments "are in danger of being soaked up by the bloated and inefficient state sector," rendering President Rouhani incapable of fixing the economy, Elam Ministries reported on its website.

In addition to the expectation that the nuclear deal will help boost Irans economy, some see the agreement as a watershed moment that opens the door for global leaders and advocacy groups to increase pressure on Rouhani to not only release a handful of prisoners, but fundamentally change Irans abusive policies toward Christians and other minority groups.

"I urge Iran to spare no effort in addressing long-standing human rights concerns repeatedly raised by the U.N. human rights mechanisms, especially the alarming surge in executions this past year, increasing restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assemblies, womens rights, discrimination against religious and ethnic minorities, and the ongoing prosecution of journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders," the U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, said in a statement. 

"While Iranian officials allowed Pastor Abedini to board the plane and put this horrible ordeal behind him, they continue to hold dozens of Iranian Christians on vague and overly broad national security charges like propaganda against the system. These detentions clearly violate not only Irans obligations under international law, but their own constitution," Heiner Bielefeldt, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, said in a statement.

Christians in Iran have been persecuted on various fronts since the 1979 rise of the countrys theocratic Shi'a Muslim government, whose primary goal is to root out all Western influences that threaten Islamic identity. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005, the threat of death, lashing, and torture intensified for Christians. Under Rouhanis leadership, the U.N. has reported that religious oppression is even greater than it was under Ahmadinejad. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in 2010 that Irans underground house churches "threaten the Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims."

Open Doors UK, a British organization supporting the persecuted Christian church in more than 50 countries, estimates that there are 475,000 Christians living in Iran. Others say it is a challenge to determine precise figures.

"There are 300,000 to 400,000 Christians currently living in Iran, with an additional unconfirmed number of converts from a Muslim background living in secrecy. Its difficult to obtain more precise numbers as access into Iran for human rights organizations is almost entirely closed off," Isaac Six, the advocacy director of International Christian Concern (ICC), told JNS.org.

ICC, which seeks to combat the persecution of Christians, said there are "approximately 100 Iranian Christians imprisoned or on trial because of their religious affiliation. We also just received unconfirmed reports this week of another 24 Christians being detained, which may bring the total higher."

Another ministry specifically dedicated to helping the church in Iran confirmed to JNS.org that the arbitrary arrests of Iranian Christians continue, yet the size of the countrys Christian population is increasing despite the fierce persecution.

"We are aware of 95 Christians in prison at present. There were more arrests over the Christmas period. History shows us that as the church is persecuted, it grows," said Andy Kittow, Coordinator for Elam Ministries.

According to various figures, Christianity remains the fastest-growing religion in Iran and the second-largest non-Muslim religion there.

The Iranian churchs growth, Elam states on its website, can be attributed to factors such as better-trained leaders, more than a million bibles that have been distributed to Iranians since 2003, the prevalence of underground house churches, and access to Christian TV through satellite technology (even though satellite dishes are banned by Iran).

The Iranian regime will sometimes levy criminal charges against Christians relating to the very factors that have aided the churchs growth, such as the use of religious propaganda and forming house churches that exceed the maximum allowance of 12 people. But usually, a typical conviction in Iran will imprison Christians on crimes against national security, espionage, or trying to overthrow the government. It is widely known that these charges are euphemisms for committing the apostasy of leaving Islam to become a Christian. 

"Iran has been escalating its internal persecution of Christians in recent months. The growing numbers of Iranians rejecting Islam and turning to Christianity is considered a serious political threat by the state. This is a symptom of the widespread disillusionment and sense of hopelessness felt by many Iranians after 37 years of the Iranian Revolution," Rev. Mark Durie, a human rights activist and research fellow with the Middle East Forum think tank, told JNS.org.

The "political threat" Durie mentioned is motivated by the Iranian regimes apocalyptic belief that it must kill all infidels, a belief embodied by Iranian leaders promotion of slogans such as Death to Israel and Death to America. For Iran, this will usher in the appearance of their Mahdi (Messiah) on Earth, and the Mahdi will establish a global Islamic caliphate.

 


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