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Nov 06

As China aims for ‘world-class army’, Asia starts to worry

AFPNovember 1, 2017

China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is expected to enter service in 2020

China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is expected to enter service in 2020 (AFP Photo/ANTHONY WALLACE)

Beijing (AFP) – Chinese President Xi Jinping’s pledge to build a “world-class army” by 2050 is making his neighbours nervous, but analysts say Beijing’s military ambitions do not constitute a strategic threat — for now.

With purchases and construction of fighter jets, ships and hi-tech weaponry, China’s military budget has grown steadily for 30 years, but remains three times smaller than that of the United States.

Now, Beijing wants to catch up.

“We should strive to fully transform the people’s armed forces into a world-class military by the mid-21st century,” Xi told 2,300 delegates of the Chinese Communist Party, which he heads and which controls the army.

The comments, made during the party’s twice-a-decade congress, were aimed in part at domestic nationalists, but also intended to show other countries “China’s desire to be strong economically as well as militarily,” said James Char, a military analyst at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.

During China’s so-called Century of Humiliation, starting around the mid-19th century, the country lost almost every war it fought, and was often forced to give major concessions in subsequent treaties.

“That’s why China, more than any other country, dreams of a strong army. Not to bully other countries, but to defend ourselves,” said Ni Lexiong from Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

– Worried neighbours –

But Xi’s call to build a military that can “fight and win” has alarmed China’s neighbours, several of whom are embroiled in tense border disputes with the superpower.

This summer India and China engaged in a bitter, weeks-long military confrontation over a disputed area in the Himalayas.

Japan regularly faces off with Chinese maritime patrols close to the Senkaku islands, which are called the Diaoyu in Mandarin and claimed by Beijing.

And Beijing asserts sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, despite rival claims from countries including Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Beijing has reclaimed islands it controls in the sea in order to cement its claims and installed military aircraft and missile systems on them, causing tensions to spiral in recent years.

“Chinese activities are a security concern for the region encompassing Japan and for the international community,” said a recent Japanese defence report.

“It is incontestable that the country’s rise as a military power is setting off an arms race in Asia,” said Juliette Genevaz, China researcher at the France-based Military School Strategic Research Institute.

“This arms race in Asia has several causes,” she said, noting North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme as one of the contributors.

But, “China’s military build-up and reclaiming activities in the South China Sea is a major factor.”

China’s military expenditure in 2016 was an estimated $215 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, putting it in first place in Asia, well ahead of India ($56 billion), Japan ($46 billion) and South Korea ($37 billion).

The country has not participated in any conflict since a month-long border war against Vietnam in 1979 that killed tens of thousands of people and a 1988 skirmish, also with Hanoi, over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, that left 64 dead.

But it has been busy boosting its military activities abroad.

This year, Beijing opened its first foreign military base, in Djibouti. Since 2008, its navy has participated in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

The country is the largest contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations among the permanent members of the security council, with some 2,500 soldiers and military experts deployed.

The moves are all part of a larger, decades-long effort to modernise the country’s military, which had become riddled with corruption, incompetence and waste.

– ‘Absolute control’ –

But while Xi flexed his muscles at the head of China’s central military commission during his first term, he is likely to observe more caution in future, having consolidated his power base by bringing down two of the country’s highest-ranking army officers for corruption, said James Char.

He also reaffirmed the party’s “absolute control” over the army during the recently concluded congress.

“Now that it’s done, he does not need to risk an external crisis any more. Therefore, we can reasonably expect Beijing will conduct less coercive diplomacy in the near- to medium-term,” Char said.

“The Chinese military will continue to operate further and further away from China’s shores, and probably also establish more overseas bases,” he added.

But, while it will continue to aggressively defend its own territorial claims, “it will likely act cautiously abroad and will not engage in overseas constabulary missions such as those carried out by the US military in Iraq or Afghanistan for example.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8803

Nov 06

Pope Francis has abolished hell, purgatory, heaven: papal confidant

October 27, 2017 (Sandro Magister) — In the important newspaper “la Repubblica” of which he is the founder, Eugenio Scalfari, an undisputed authority of Italian secular thought, last October 9 returned to speaking in the following terms about what he sees as a “revolution” of this pontificate, in comments by Francis that are derived from his frequents conversations with him:

“Pope Francis has abolished the places where souls were supposed to go after death: hell, purgatory, heaven. The idea he holds is that souls dominated by evil and unrepentant cease to exist, while those that have been redeemed from evil will be taken up into beatitude, contemplating God.”

Observing immediately afterward:

“The universal judgment that is in the tradition of the Church therefore becomes devoid of meaning. It remains a simple pretext that has given rise to splendid paintings in the history of art. Nothing other than this.”

It is seriously doubtful that Pope Francis really wants to get rid of the “last things” in the terms described by Scalfari.

There is in his preaching, however, something that tends toward a practical overshadowing of the final judgment and of the opposite destinies of blessed and damned.

On Wednesday, October 11, at the general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, Francis said that such a judgment is not to be feared, because “at the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus,” and therefore “everything will be saved. Everything.”

In the text distributed to the journalists accredited to the Holy See, this last word, “everything,” was emphasized in boldface.

At another general audience a few months ago, on Wednesday, August 23, Francis gave for the end of history an image that is entirely and only comforting: that of “an immense tent, where God will welcome all mankind so as to dwell with them definitively.”

An image that is not his own but is taken from chapter 21 of Revelation, but from which Francis was careful not to cite the following words of Jesus:

“The victor will inherit these gifts, and I shall be his God, and he will be my son. But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

And again, in commenting during the Angelus of Sunday, October 15 on the parable of the wedding banquet (Matthew 22: 1-14) that was read at all the Masses on that day, Francis carefully avoided citing the most unsettling parts.

Both that in which “the king became indignant, sent his troops, had those murderers killed and their city burned.”

And that in which, having seen “one man who was not wearing the wedding garment,” the king ordered his servants: “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the darkness; there shall be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth.”

On the previous Sunday, October 8, another parable, that of the murderous vine dressers (Matthew 21:33-43), had undergone the same selective treatment.

In commenting on the parable during the Angelus, the pope left out what the owner of the vineyard does to those farmers who killed the servants and finally the son: “He will put those wretches to a miserable death.” Much less did he cite the concluding words of Jesus, referring to himself as the “cornerstone”: “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on any one, it will crush him.”

Instead, Pope Francis insisted on defending God from the accusation of being vindictive, almost as if wanting to mitigate the excesses of “justice” detected in the parable:

“It is here that the great news of Christianity is found: a God who, in spite of being disappointed by our mistakes and our sins, does not go back on his word, does not stop, and above all does not avenge himself! Brothers and sisters, God does not avenge himself! God loves, he does not avenge himself, he waits for us to forgive us, to embrace us.”

In the homily for the feast of Pentecost, last June 4, Francis argued, as he often does, against “those who judge.” And in citing the words of the risen Jesus to the apostles and implicitly to their successors in the Church (John 20:22-23), he intentionally cut them off halfway through:

“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven.”

Omitting the following:

“Those you do not forgive, they will not be forgiven.”

And the fact that the truncation was deliberate is proven by its repititon. Because Francis had made the exact same deletion of the words of Jesus on the previous April 23, at the Regina Coeli of the first Sunday after Easter.

Last May 12 as well, while visiting Fatima, Francis showed that he wanted to set Jesus free from his reputation as an inflexible judge at the end of time. And to do this he warned against the following false image of Mary:

“A Mary of our own making: one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God; one sweeter than Jesus the ruthless judge.”

It must be added that the liberty with which Pope Francis cuts and stitches up the words of Sacred Scripture does not concern only the universal judgment. Deafening, for example, is the silence in which he has always shrouded Jesus’ condemnation of adultery (Matthew 19:2-11 and parallel passages).

In a surprising coincidence, this condemnation was contained in the Gospel passage that was read in all the churches of the world precisely on the Sunday of the beginning of the second session of the synod of bishops on the family, October 4, 2015. But neither in the homily nor at the Angelus on that day did Pope Francis make the slightest reference to it.

Nor did he make any reference to it at the Angelus of Sunday February 12, 2017, when that condemnation was once again read in all the churches.

Not only that. The words of Jesus against adultery also do not appear in the two hundred pages of the post-synodal exhortation “Amoris Laetitia.”

Just as no appearance is made in it by the terrible words of condemnation of homosexuality written by the apostle Paul in the first chapter of the Letter to the Romans.

A first chapter that was also read – another coincidence – at the weekday Masses of the second week of the synod of 2015. To tell the truth, those words are not included in the missal. But in any case, neither the pope nor anyone else ever cited them while discussions were being held at the synod about changing the paradigms of judgment on homosexuality:

“Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romani 1, 26-32).

Moreover, at times Pope Francis even takes the liberty of rewriting the words of Sacred Scripture as he sees fit.

For example, in the morning homily at Santa Marta on September 4, 2014, at a certain point the pope attributed to Saint Paul these “scandalous” words: “I boast only of my sins.” And he concluded by inviting the faithful present to “boast” of their own sins, in that they have been forgiven from the cross by Jesus.

But in none of Paul’s letters can such an expression be found. The apostle instead says of himself: “If it is necessary to boast, I will boast of my weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 11:30), after having listed all the hardships of his life – the imprisonments, the floggings, the shipwrecks.

Or: “About myself I will not boast, except of my weaknesses” (2 Corinthians 12:5). Or again: “He said to me: ‘My grace is enough for you; strength is in fact made fully manifest in weakness.’ I will therefore gladly boast of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9), with more references to the outrages, persecutions, anguish he has suffered.

Coming back to the final judgment, Pope Benedict XVI also acknowledged that “in the modern era, the idea of the Last Judgement has faded into the background.”

But in the encyclical “Spe Salvi,” which he wrote entirely on his own, he forcefully reaffirmed that the last judgment is “the decisive image of hope.” It is an image that “evokes responsibility,” because “grace does not cancel out justice,” but on the contrary “the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favour of faith in eternal life,” because “with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ’s return and for new life become fully convincing.”

And again:

“Grace does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value. Dostoevsky was right to protest against this kind of Heaven and this kind of grace in his novel ‘The Brothers Karamazov.’ Evildoers, in the end, do not sit at table at the eternal banquet beside their victims without distinction, as though nothing had happened.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8801

Nov 06

NATO May Retaliate if Turkey Buys Russian Missiles

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to purchase a Russian surface-to-air missile system could create major problems for NATO, of which his country is a member.

October 30, 2017

Turkey has already agreed to purchase the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, but has not yet signed the contract with the Russian government to complete the transaction, however the head of NATO’s Military Committee is warning of “necessary consequences” if it follows through.

Gen. Petr Pavel said:

“The principal of sovereignty obviously exists in acquisition of defense equipment, but the same way that nations are sovereign in making their decision, they are also sovereign in facing the consequences of that decision.”

Among those consequences could be excluding Turkey from the alliance’s integrated air-defense system, as well as other technical restrictions. The general said he felt it was “fair” for the member countries to have a full discussion of “concerns and potential difficulties.”

Turkey plays a vital role in the NATO development and sustainment of the F-35 Lightning II and the Joint Strike Fighter Program. Many experts have suggested the S-400 system could provide Russia with vital information about the fifth-generation stealth fighter that could impact the alliance’s future operations.

Pavel said his concerns with the potential purchase are “security” focused, saying that the S-400 system, even if it isn’t integrated with the NATO, it “creates challenges for allied assets potentially deployed onto the territory of that country.” The general said, in spite of the current flap over the missile issue, the alliance still considers Turkey to be a “valuable strategic ally.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8799

Nov 01

Astronomy Study Confirms Biblical Account of Joshua’s Sun-Stopping Miracle

By Abra Forman October 31, 2017 , 12:30 pm

“Yehoshua addressed Hashem; he said in the presence of the Israelites: ‘Stand still, O sun, at Givon, O moon, in the Valley of Aijalon!’” Joshua 10:12 (The Israel Bible™)

The Biblical patriarch Joshua ‘stopped the sun’ on October 30, 1207 BCE by way of a solar eclipse that may have been the first recorded in history, Cambridge researchers announced Monday.

In a paper published in the scientific journal Astronomy and Geophysics earlier this month, researchers from England’s Cambridge University confirmed a theory first suggested by Ben Gurion University researchers last January: that Joshua’s miraculous ‘stopping of the sun’ during battle to allow the Israelites more time to defeat their enemies was actually an annular solar eclipse.

They even pinpointed the exact date – the afternoon of October 30, precisely 3,224 years ago.

In the Biblical account, Joshua led the Israelites into battle with the armies of five kings in order to help the besieged Gibeonites, with whom they had signed a pact. As the Israelites began to gain the upper hand, Joshua prayed for the sun and the moon to stand still in order to complete the defeat. His prayers were answered.

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. Joshua 10:13

The Cambridge researchers understood this passage as an important historical account.

“If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was being reported,” said paper co-author Professor Sir Colin Humphreys from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. “The question for us to figure out is what the text actually means.”

The British researchers used the original Hebrew Bible to better understand the exact connotations of the verse.

“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the sun and moon stopped moving,” explained Humphreys. “But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the sun and moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining.

“In this context, the Hebrew words could be referring to a solar eclipse, when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, and the sun appears to stop shining.”

He added that the interpretation was supported by the fact that the Hebrew word meaning ‘stand still’ shares a root with a Babylonian word describing eclipses found in ancient astronomical texts.

While historians have long suspected that Joshua’s feat was an astronomical phenomenon, none were able to date the possible eclipse because they were only looking for total eclipses. However, Joshua’s eclipse was annular, meaning that rather than obscure the sun entirely, the moon’s passage in front of the sun was too far away to cover it completely and left a characteristic ‘ring of fire.’

With the help of the Merneptah Stele, an Egyptian artifact which independently confirms the Israelites’ presence in Canaan, historians have dated Joshua’s entry into the land to between 1500 and 1050 BCE. Using complex calculations, the researchers determined that the only annular eclipse visible from the Canaan during that period took place in October of 1207 BCE. The path of this eclipse passed directly over Canaan.

The researchers were thus able to date the exact hour of Joshua’s miraculous feat: between 3:27 PM and 4:53 PM in local time (determined by sundial).

Though there may be a scientific explanation for the Biblical miracle, this in no way refutes its divinity, Rabbi Arieh Trugman told Breaking Israel News when the Israeli research was announced early in the year.

“Despite the fact that in many different areas people want to pit science against Torah, what is much closer to the truth is that in most cases there is no conflict between science and Torah,” said Rabbi Trugman. “It is very common to find many areas in which there exists an amazing confluence of  secular knowledge and Torah wisdom.”

The Cambridge researchers also noted that should the date be accepted by general historians, it could help clarify the dates of pharaonic reigns, including that of Ramses the Great.

According to the calculations and verified with Egyptian records, the reign of the pharaoh Merneptah began in 1210 or 1209 BC, dating the reign of his father, the famous Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses the Great, to 1276–1210 BC, plus or minus one year, the researchers determined.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8796

Nov 01

Key Kurdish-held border crossing falls to Iranian control, cuts US army land supply line to Syria

Oct 29, 2017 @ 23:03 Iran, Iraqi army, Iraqi-Syrian border crossing, IRGC, Kurds, US army

The Iraqi army and Shiite Hashd Shaabi Brigades militias under Iranian Revolutionary Guards command seized the strategically important northern Iraqi-Syrian border crossing of Faysh Khabur on Saturday, Oct. 28, forcing the Kurdish Peshmerga into another retreat after this month’s fall of oil-rich Kirkuk.

The joint Iraqi-Iranian operation was conducted surreptitiously, masked as an Iraqi military operation “to liberate al Qaim from ISIS” – with which Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi laid a red herring.

This operation, choreographed by Guards General Qassem Soleimani, wrapped up his scheme to round off Iran’s control of the northern sector of that border, in order to achieve four strategic objectives:

  1. To cut off the overland corridor between Iraqi Kurdistan and the three Syrian enclaves ruled by the YPG militia. The Syrian militia is now barred from coming to the aid of its Iraqi brothers, the peshmerga.
    2. To shut the only open door remaining to Kurdish residents wishing to travel outside Iraqi Kurdistan. The Iraqi government has cut all its air links by seizing the international airports of Irbil and Suliemeniyeh and threatening to shoot down any planes using them. The siege of semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdistan is therefore complete.
  2. Faysh Khabur was also the only land crossing the American army had the use of used for moving supplies to US forces stationed in northern Syria. The US army is now left only with air transit.
  3. Iran’s overland bridge to Syria via Iraq is now complete unimpeded by either the US or Israel.

Many people in the Middle East are asking again where were the US Trump administration and its pledges not to let Iran build a land bridge through Iraq to Syria. And where were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and their tough rhetoric vowing not to allow Iran to deepen its military grip on Syria? While they made speeches and tweeted, Tehran with swift cunning ran off with high-value strategic and military assets.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8794

Oct 30

Bridge Tying Saudi Arabia to Africa May Need Israeli Signoff

By Jonathan Ferziger

October 25, 2017, 4:18 AM EDT October 25, 2017, 1:25 PM EDT

  • Massive project would span waterway that sparked 1967 war
  • Israel sees Gulf of Aqaba as arena for regional cooperation

Connecting Egypt to a new $500 billion Saudi city via a bridge across the Red Sea will require cooperation from Israel, analysts say. Could it one day help integrate the Jewish state with its Arab neighbors?

Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt guarantees it access to the Red Sea’s Straits of Tiran, which the planned bridge and causeway would cross. That makes Israel’s involvement in the project crucial, says Yoram Meital, chairman of the Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies & Diplomacy at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Egypt’s closing of the straits to Israeli shipping in 1967 was one of the central actions that led to that year’s Mideast War.

“There couldn’t be anything close to this unless Israel and the Saudis had the opportunity to discuss in detail their relations and this bridge,” Meital said. “There have to have been back channels.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the project, whose plans were announced Tuesday by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at an international business conference in Riyadh.

Economic Benefits

U.S. President Donald Trump appears to believe Arab nations hold the key to securing peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and has touted economic ties with Saudi Arabia as one of the benefits Israel could see from a peace deal. Israeli leaders have identified the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba region as an ideal place to cement business ties with Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — which, like Israel, all border the waterway.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin addressed the Riyadh conference on Wednesday, and flies to Israel for meetings on Thursday with Netanyahu and other officials. Mnuchin said he is talking to all U.S. allies in the region to work together against “threatening activities” by Iran.

Planning for the 10-kilometer (six-mile) bridge, which would carry road and rail traffic, was made possible by Egypt’s acceptance of Saudi sovereignty last year over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir that sit in the straits between the two countries, in exchange for billions of dollars in aid. Egypt’s four-decade old guarantee of unfettered passage for Israeli ships could create complications for Saudi Arabia under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea if Israel isn’t consulted on the bridge construction, says Simon Henderson, director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“I have no doubt that there have been consultations, either directly or indirectly, perhaps through the United States,” Henderson said. “As long there is no change in the status quo, Israel is presumably happy.”

Hush-Hush

Netanyahu has repeatedly said that relations with moderate Sunni Arab nations are better than ever — though most of the cooperation can’t be discussed because the countries have no formal ties with Israel.

Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief and ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal, said this week that Netanyahu is exaggerating the extent of Saudi cooperation with Israel and that there are no “under-the-table” talks with the Jewish state. He spoke during an Oct. 22 conference sponsored by the Israel Policy Forum, a liberal advocacy group that distributed a video recording of his remarks.

Israeli business executives say ties with Saudi Arabia are flourishing, particularly in the fields of cybersecurity, infrastructure equipment and water conservation. Many, including Elbit Systems Ltd., Israel’s biggest non-state-owned defense contractor, deal with Saudi Arabia through U.S. subsidiaries and foreign front companies, according to employees, lawyers and Israeli government officials.

“Everybody recognizes the opportunities here, but in order not to ruin them, it’s best not to talk about them at this point,” Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara, a close Netanyahu lieutenant and the only Arab member of his cabinet, said in a phone interview. “We want to find a formula to get above the radar.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8792

Oct 30

La Palma volcano panic: Volcanologists monitor subterranean waters as ERUPTION fears grow

VOLCANO experts have begun to monitor the subterranean waters in La Palma over fears the deadly Cumbre Vieja could erupt.

By Rebecca Perring

PUBLISHED: 12:17, Tue, Oct 24, 2017 | UPDATED: 14:48, Tue, Oct 24, 2017 Britain faces mega tsunami threat from La Palma volcano

 A hydrogeochemical monitoring programme has been set up in a bid to strengthen the volcanic monitoring of the Canary Islands volcano.

This programme will see scientists sample subterranean waters and PH levels, conductivity, temperature and radon dissolved gas activity.

The work will be carried out three times a week in four different points of Cumbre Vieja for the subsequent chemical and isotopic analysis of the waters, as well as the gases dissolved in them.

It comes after a flurry of seismic activity beneath the surface saw red-hot magma lift the ground of La Palma. 

LA PALMA VOLCANO: WILL IT ERUPT?

IGN

Volcano experts will examine the subterranean waters

Experts investigating recent tremors – which saw nearly 400 mini earthquakes in 15 hours over the weekend – found the earth has lifted up to 3.5cm in the past year.

And, after four days of inactivity, La Palma recorded another tremor overnight when a 1.9 magnitude quake was felt nine kilometres deep.

There are increasing fears such tremors could spark an eruption from the La Palma earthquake.

Meanwhile, Involcan scientists are set to oversee the chemical and isotopic composition of the gases emanating from a nearby stream ‘Dos Aguas’ at La Caldera de Taburiente every week.

The Canary Islands has been struck by 100s of earthquakes

The stream, located near the deadly volcano, is the degassing point that registers the highest emission of helium-3 in the Canary Islands.

Experts will analyse the samples of gases for their chemical and isotopic analysis at the ITER Geochemical Laboratory.

To date, the geochemical monitoring of these gas emissions was carried out once a year.

A team from the National Geographic Institute (IGN) are monitoring the site around the volcano 24 hours a day.

The seismic activity has prompted concerns the volcano is about to erupt

La Palma volcano MAPPED: Latest pictures of the volcano set to erupt

Thu, October 12, 2017

Fears are growing that the deadly Cumbre Vieja volcano could erupt after a “swarm” of seismic activity hit La Palma

National Geographic institute

1 of 13

A map of The Canaries showing volcanic activity

La Palma’s latest tremor was felt nine kilometres below ground.

There were 44 earthquakes recorded up to 2.1 magnitude hit between last Friday at 1.52pm and Saturday to 4.17am.

But experts believe the total number, including ones too small to be located, within the seismic storm was 352.

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8790

Oct 30

Prophecy Is Taking Shape As Iran Is Now Conquering Northern Iraq And Forming Its Shiite Crescent

By Shoebat Foundation on October 20, 2017 in Featured, General, Highlight

We have been saying it all along, that whenever ISIS is defeated in Iraq, Iran will move in. While the media says that “Iraqi forces took over Kirkuk this week”, reality is it was Iran and not Iraq that took Kirkuk. The military operation of today and yesterday was carried out under the banner of the Iraqi military, sure, but the ground forces were Iranian-backed Shiite militias which even included the aid from Al-Quds Force which was lead by Qassem Soleimani who bribed certain elements of U.S allied Kurdish factions to cut and run abandoning their positions. This opened the runway for the Iranian backed Shiites to take over Kirkuk.

The Kurds of Kirkuk (biblical Medes) read the writing on the wall that Babylon is now in the hands of the Persians and one hundred thousand Kurds fled Kirkuk. With the return of Kirkuk to Iran’s puppet, the balance of power appears to have shifted between the ethnic communities in the Kurdish-majority city to the delight of its Turkmen residents. We have always maintained that the issue is not Sunni versus Shiite, the Turkmen (ethnic Turks) allied to Turkey are Sunni and the Iraqi forces that took over Kirkuk are Shiites.

And besides Iran’s interests, Turkey has interest in Kirkuk’s Turkmen and Iran now has control over the richest oil spot in the region (40% of Iraq’s oil). Iran, the biblical bear, is eating its share of flesh to soon devour all three ribs that make up Iraq, the biblical lion, which had its wings plucked by the U.S after it ousted Saddam out of power.

Kurdistan (biblical Media) is defeated and has no power in the unfolding event since the bear (Medo-Persia) rises only on one side; Persia without Media. The latter is defeated and its hope to form a state is shattered.

Its always the case in warfare, the smaller dog, in this case the Kurds who defeated ISIS simply cleared the runway for the bigger dog: Iran to control northern Iraq, and Turkey to control northern Syria. Both will swallow much territory in the coming future and the U.S. can do very little for the Kurds. When it comes to nations there is no such thing as permanent allies.

And it should be to no surprise that Turkey, a Sunni rival to Iran came out to confirm its support for Iran’s backed Shiites to enter into Kirkuk. Kirkuk’s Turkmen (Sunnis) welcomed Iran’s militia. Last August, a spokesman for the Turkish presidency, Ibrahim Kalan, said of the city: “Yes, the Kurds and the Arabs, but the basic identity of Kirkuk is a Turkmen city.”

Turkey has a historic interest in Kirkuk since Ottoman times. Last month, a slogan by Turkish President Erdogan was written in the Ottoman script on the walls of Kirkuk: “Recep Tayyip Erdogan ‘we may come suddenly one night’”. Erdogan promised that one day he will enter northern Iraq, suddenly and by surprise. It seems that Iran beat him to the punch or else they combined efforts to divide the region to form their two crescents: Shiite and Sunni, but this time united.

The U.S. concern and meddling in the Middle East should teach us a lesson: throw out one tyrant (Saddam) from Iraq and you will get ISIS; drive ISIS out of Iraq and you will get Iran; get rid of Iran and Turkey will move in; get rid of Turkey and the Middle East will finally be at rest. At least this is what happened when the Ottoman Empire was finally bruised. Will westerners learn from the lesson’s that Jesus gave: get rid of one demon and a host of other demons will enter. Never fight one evil. All evils must be equally fought.

It is all about regional interests. In fact, the U.S. knew about Iran’s intents. Haider al-Abadi stated “At a minimum, the U.S. knew that the attack was coming.”

Iran’s entering Kirkuk is for a reason. Years ago we stated:

The U.S. is gazing away from the encroaching Iranian forces taking up forward positions in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, where they are busy fashioning a Shiite Crescent that encircles Sunni Arab states as well as Israel … They key to advancing these agendas is ISIS. While we rejoice when we see ISIS lose battles, what many fail to see, is that ISIS is the chip used to make all the moves to bolster two tyrannies, Iran and Turkey.

We were correct because we try to study scriptures to correct our errors. Today ISIS is pretty much gone, Turkey (the biblical Leopard) is flexing its muscles and Iran (the bear) is already consuming.

Back in 2015 we predicted:

“the US will allow Iran to reach the status of a pre-nuclear power and regional hegemon, while Tehran, in return, will send “boots on the ground” to fight in Iraq, Syria and even Afghanistan, allowing “the bear to eat much flesh” (Daniel 7:5). Iran through Iraq, we have always maintained, will prove the linchpin in an area of Iranian influence among predominantly Shiite governments and organizations that stretched across Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip. This zone has been variously described as an Iranian or Shiite “Arc of Influence” or the Shiite Crescent.”

These days prophecy is being fulfilled faster than ever. Kirkuk is strategic. Not only does it have vast oil resources, Iran’s takeover eliminates any possibility for an independent Kurdish state to emerge from the Kurdish Regional Government area in northern Iraq. We have been saying this for a while now since the “bear” (Medo-Persia) will arise on one side. This is Iran’s rise (Persia) without the Medes (the Kurds).

Iran had an edge over Turkey in Iraq for several reasons. Iran’s skilful use of Shia militias gives it an edge over Turkey’s direct military intervention, which is unwelcomed by the Iraqi government in Baghdad. Also, the Iraqi government officials (Shiites) have been very critical of the ‘illegal’ Turkish military presence in Northern Iraq so Turkey’s incursions will not gain Iraqi government support. For Iran, Iraq is strategically more important than any other Arab country since it shares more than 1400 km of its borders with Iraq. After Saddam’s fall, Iran played a significant role in shaping Iraq’s new political system and is why it is often described as an ‘Iranian puppet government’.

The next to be taken over is Sinjar city, close to the border with Syria and with that Iran can begin its long awaited program we spoke about: to form the Iranian Crescent.

These two crescents, the Iranian ‘Shiite-Crescent’ and the ‘Sunni Crescent’ led by Turkey will eventually form the pincer around Jerusalem.

Shiite Crescent

Indeed, it is Iran (not Iraq or Turkey) that is taking over the richest land (Kirkuk). Besides Iran’s Al-Quds Force, in Iraq the main military militia force is Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) that is backed by Iran. Besides Asaib Ahl alHaq, there are the Badr Brigades, formed in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War, and the younger and more secretive Kataib Hezbollah, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by the State Department. The three militias have been instrumental in battling ISIS, the rival Wahhabist Sunni sect. These militias are the three small Iraqi Shi’ite armies, all backed by Iran, which together have become the most powerful military force in Iraq since the collapse of the national army and are key to Iran’s power and influence inside neighboring Iraq.

While experts foresee a historical Ottoman-Persian rivalry in Mesopotamia we see it differently. What we see is a unity between the two since Turkey is Sufi and has kinship to Shiites sine the religious apparatus of Iran are Azeri Turks. Secondly, the neo-Ottoman Turks are warming its relations and increasing economic and energy ties with Iran and its other Muslim neighbors. Turkey’s economy is growing, and Iran is the only land corridor for Turkey to reach Asia and Iran’s needs are similar. With the Eurasian and E.U dealings Turkey will soon play a significant part to form an economic superpower with Germany and Northern Europe to lead the global economy. Germany and Turkey have been allies since 1871 when Germany was founded as a nation.

Turkey is treading very carefully not to be seen as, effectively, a Sunni power grouped with the Arab states’ agenda in Iraq or the Wahhabists agenda of Saudi Arabia. Prophetically speaking this will be the case since Persia and Turkey will unite against Jerusalem while Arabia (Sheba and Dedan) condemn this coalition and stand on the sidelines.

In conclusion, the Middle East is not that complex to understand. The problem is the oversimplification by westerners who want simplified answers. The problem with most people is that they always think that there is only one demon.  When the U.S. overthrew Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist government it resulted in the emergence of a Shia dominated government in Baghdad replacing it with an Iraqi Shiite government friendly to Tehran. Today no one can argue that this decision eliminated Iraqi Sunnis from the equation. These have been an existential threat to the Islamic Republic of Iran and had tipped the local balance of power significantly in Tehran’s favor. As a result of NATO’s supposed exorcizing one demon they simply brought in other demons like ISIS and now Iran and Turkey. So everyone said that we need to eliminate ISIS. We said this does not make a single bit of difference and in fact ridding the world from ISIS will be worse. We stated years ago that:

“once Iran cleans the ISIS mess in Iraq, we will all rejoice. Iran will be happy, the U.S. will be happy, while all we’ve done is chase out ISIS while Iran’s Shiite militias are already running amok in Iraq. All that, while Israel awaits the outcome, that when Sunni and Shiite want to put aside their differences in efforts to stabilize the region will begin by uniting both the Shiite and Sunni crescents, the two horns, the pincer if you will, by focusing and switching their energy towards Jerusalem … The West will be happy to get rid of ISIS out of Iraq, while Iran will be happy to camp in Iraq permanently.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8788

Oct 30

US Air Force Preparing To Put Nuclear-Equipped Bombers Back On 24-Hour Ready Alert Status As Global Tensions Rise

“I’ve challenged…Air Force Global Strike Command to help lead the dialog, help with this discussion about ‘What does conventional conflict look like with a nuclear element?’ and ‘Do we respond as a global force if that were to occur?’ and ‘What are the options?’” he said. “How do we think about it — how do we think about deterrence in that environment?” Asked if placing B-52s back on alert — as they were for decades — would help with deterrence, Goldfein said it’s hard to say. “Really it depends on who, what kind of behavior are we talking about, and whether they’re paying attention to our readiness status,” he said.

by Geoffrey Grider October 22, 2017

The U.S. Air Force is preparing to put nuclear-armed bombers back on 24-hour ready alert, a status not seen since the Cold War ended in 1991.

That means the long-dormant concrete pads at the ends of this base’s 11,000-foot runway — dubbed the “Christmas tree” for their angular markings — could once again find several B-52s parked on them, laden with nuclear weapons and set to take off at a moment’s notice.

“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff, said in an interview during his six-day tour of Barksdale and other U.S. Air Force bases that support the nuclear mission. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”

Goldfein and other senior defense officials stressed that the alert order had not been given, but that preparations were under way in anticipation that it might come. That decision would be made by Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, or Gen. Lori Robinson, the head of U.S. Northern Command. STRATCOM is in charge of the military’s nuclear forces and NORTHCOM is in charge of defending North America.

This B-52 Air Force Bomber Can Hold 70,000 Lbs. in Weapons:

Putting the B-52s back on alert is just one of many decisions facing the Air Force as the U.S. military responds to a changing geopolitical environment that includes North Korea’s rapidly advancing nuclear arsenal, President Trump’s confrontational approach to Pyongyang, and Russia’s increasingly potent and active armed forces.

Goldfein, who is the Air Force’s top officer and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is asking his force to think about new ways that nuclear weapons could be used for deterrence, or even combat.

“The world is a dangerous place and we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” he said. “It’s no longer a bipolar world where it’s just us and the Soviet Union. We’ve got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right.”

During his trip across the country last week, Goldfein encouraged airmen to think beyond Cold War uses for ICBMs, bombers and nuclear cruise missiles.

“I’ve challenged…Air Force Global Strike Command to help lead the dialog, help with this discussion about ‘What does conventional conflict look like with a nuclear element?’ and ‘Do we respond as a global force if that were to occur?’ and ‘What are the options?’” he said. “How do we think about it — how do we think about deterrence in that environment?”

Asked if placing B-52s back on alert — as they were for decades — would help with deterrence, Goldfein said it’s hard to say.

“Really it depends on who, what kind of behavior are we talking about, and whether they’re paying attention to our readiness status,” he said.

Already, various improvements have been made to prepare Barksdale — home to the 2d Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which oversees the service’s nuclear forces — to return B-52s to an alert posture. Near the alert pads, an old concrete building — where B-52 crews during the Cold War would sleep, ready to run to their aircraft and take off at a moment’s notice — is being renovated.

Inside, beds are being installed for more than 100 crew members, more than enough room for the crews that would man bombers positioned on the nine alert pads outside. There’s a recreation room, with a pool table, TVs and a shuffleboard table. Large paintings of the patches for each squadron at Barksdale adorn the walls of a large stairway.

A Rare Peek Inside The E-4B ‘Doomsday’ Plane:

One painting — a symbol of the Cold War — depicts a silhouette of a B-52 with the words “Peace The Old Fashioned Way,” written underneath. At the bottom of the stairwell, there is a Strategic Air Command logo, yet another reminder of the Cold War days when American B-52s sat at the ready on the runway outside.

Those long-empty B-52 parking spaces will soon get visits by two nuclear command planes, the E-4B Nightwatch and E-6B Mercury, both which will occasionally sit alert there. During a nuclear war, the planes would become the flying command posts of the defense secretary and STRATCOM commander, respectively. If a strike order is given by the president, the planes would be used to transmit launch codes to bombers, ICBMs and submarines. At least one of the four nuclear-hardened E-4Bs — formally called the National Airborne Operations Center, but commonly known as the Doomsday Plane — is always on 24-hour alert.

Barksdale and other bases with nuclear bombers are preparing to build storage facilities for a new nuclear cruise missile that is under development. During his trip, Goldfein received updates on the preliminary work for a proposed replacement for the 400-plus Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the new long-range cruise missile.

“Our job is options,” Goldfein said. “We provide best military advice and options for the commander in chief and the secretary of defense. Should the STRATCOM commander require or the NORTHCOM commander require us to [be on] a higher state of readiness to defend the homeland, then we have to have a place to put those forces.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8786

Oct 23

Xi Jinping Seeks Permanence to His Presidency

October 19, 2017

As China’s Communist Party convenes its 19th quinquennial congress, there is little doubt President Xi Jinping will be re-elected to a second five-year term.

Last week, however, ahead of the National People’s Congress convening in Beijing, the state-run media began referring to Xi by the title “Supreme Leader,” rather than his official title of “Secretary-General of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.” And while the move could have been purely for the sake of bolstering his image ahead of the important party gathering, many believe it was in fact a culminating move to consolidate his power and authority.

The latest news from China, however, all but confirms the latter.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, the main propaganda arm of the Chinese government, on Thursday, Xi’s political philosophy is being added to country’s constitution. The report states Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era is a “historic contribution to the Party’s development” and “represents the latest achievement in adapting Marxism to the Chinese context, and is an important component of the system of theories of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

The report continues:

The Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era builds on and further enriches Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development, according to a report delivered by Xi Jinping at the opening of the congress. The report listed 14-point fundamental principles of the Thought, ranging from ensuring Party leadership over all work to promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.

Xi’s plan is to be carried out in two stages over the course of 30 years. Xinhua also quotes a party official who said the president’s “core status and authority” must be “firmly safeguarded.”

Permanent link to this article: http://discerningthetimes.me/?p=8783