The skies over the Birmingham area may have experienced a visit from a fireball, or meteor, in roughly the last half hour. There have been numerous reports on Twitter of a bright flash of light in the sky, as well as reports of loud booms. Matt Grantham — a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Birmingham — told AL.com he could not confirm that the occurrence was a meteor but said that he suspects that it was, based on some of the same reports on social media. ”My guess is that it would be a fireball, a meteor passing though the atmosphere,” he said. Grantham said that the NWS is seeing reports of this occurrence all the way to Columbus, Ga. Twitter users reporter seeing a streak across around 8:45 from locations including Pelham, North Jefferson County, Cullman and Irondale. The Vestavia Hills Fire Department, for example, responded to about four reports of a loud boom that was heard in the Shades Crest Road area. Some concertgoers at the Mumford & Sons concert at the Oak Mountain Amphitheater reported seeing the light streak across the sky. The American Meteor Society tracks fireball sightings. If you think you saw a fireball tonight, report the location here. According to the AMS web site, there are reports of the event from Alabama Georgia and Tennessee. ”It was something I have never seen before,” said a resident in Harpersville, Ala. AL.COM
Ice was scattered around the street. “I said, ‘Holy [expletive]. Where did this come from?’ and we’re all looking up all over the sky,” Vitale said. A plane is the most likely suspect as the ice landed on East 36th Street, near John F. Kennedy International Airport. “Usually they say the ice is blue if it comes from an airplane latrine. But this is solid ice. I think it was something high-flying and it fell off,” Blasi said. Some neighbors offered other theories. “I hope it’s not from outer space. Those things are radioactive,” a man named Dave said. Blasi’s family is worried. “My step-daughter grabbed the baby, panicked, ran, grabbed the baby, said it was extra-terrestrials,” Terry said. Experts said that if it had come from space the impact would have been much worse. Blais has preserved the ice in her freezer. The Federal Aviation Administration will look at the evidence on Monday. Until then, neighbors said they plan to take precautions. “Hard hat, Kevlar. I’m gonna look both ways and then look up, left, right, and up,” Vitale said. Blasi said she is dying to know what happened. CBS New York
KOUNTZE, Tx. – Four months after a district judge ruled that cheerleaders could legally display Bible verse banners at school football games, several religious organizations have joined a court brief challenging the decision. As previously reported, public school cheerleaders in the tiny east Texas community of Kountze are fighting for the right to display banners with inspirational Bible verses at sporting events. Following a complaint last year by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, school officials ordered the cheerleaders to stop including Scriptures on their signs. However, the Liberty Institute—a religious rights organization—legally challenged the school’s action, and in early May a Texas judge ruled that the banner displays were constitutional. Despite the ruling in the cheerleaders’ favor, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Thursday filed a 79-page “friend of the court” brief in Texas’ Ninth District Court of Appeals. Although the document was written by ACLU attorneys, several other organizations are listed as sponsors of the motion, including the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Muslim Advocates, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Hindu American Foundation, the Sikh Coalition and Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“According to the 2010 U.S. Religion Census, more Muslims live in Texas than any other state,” the ACLU asserted in a news release announcing the participation of the groups. “Texas is second only to California in the number of Hindus and ranks third in the number of Buddhists.” As explained in the legal brief, these organizations believe the cheerleaders’ banners violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The brief argues that “robust enforcement of the Establishment Clause is a vital and necessary means of ensuring that freedom of individual conscience can flourish in our society.” “Robust enforcement of Establishment Clause principles,” the brief continues, “is especially important in public schools: Students are more susceptible to the harms of school-sponsored religious messages and exercise; and public schools play a unique role in our democracy by bringing together students of diverse religious backgrounds and preparing them for their responsibilities as citizens.” In a Friday statement, Gregory Lipper of Americans United for Separation of Church and State condemned the cheerleaders’ actions as unconstitutional “religious exercises.” More
A transgender man is the first in Europe to give birth to a baby after becoming pregnant through a sperm donor. The unidentified man, who was born a woman, delivered the baby boy at home with a midwife in the poor Neukoellin district of Berlin.He insisted on a home birth because he refused to be listed as the mother on any hospital documents – a legal requirement of in Germany. The father, who maintained the reproductive organs of a woman, has been taking hormone replacement therapies for years to switch sexes. Details about the sperm donor or any relationship information has been withheld from the public as the father wanted to protect his son from any attention.
Officially the child, who was born on March 18, does not have a mother, only a father. A spokesman for the Berlin Senate Administration for Internal Affairs said: ‘The person in question did not want to appear as a mother but as a father on the birth certificate and that request has been honoured.’ The expectant father also demanded that the gender of the child was ‘not to be revealed under any circumstances’. But the authorities overruled this and announced it was a boy. According to sources, Germany’s vast and overarching welfare state intends to keep close tabs on the child in case ‘psychological problems’ linked to his conception and birth develop. Germany’s media reacted with astonishment at the news of the transgender birth. ’Baby belly instead of a beer belly!’ was just one of the many headlines in German newspapers reporting on the birth. Meanwhile Falko Liecke, the conservative councillor in the district where the baby was born, said: ‘This is something I have never heard or seen of.’ In 2011 Germany’s Supreme Court ruled that an individual no longer had to have his or her’s reproductive organs removed ‘to gain civil legal recognition in the perceived gender’. That is why the father of this latest child became a man while retaining all the female reproductive organs. Dr Tobias Pottek of the Asklepios West Hospital in Hamburg said: ‘Even if a woman wants to live as a man and takes hormones to grow a beard, as long as the uterus and ovaries are present, it is also possible to become pregnant. It is the first case of a child born in Europe of a transgender parent, but in the U.S. the case of Thomas Beatie, a transgender man who has had three children, is well known. Mr Beatie was seeking a divorce from his wife, but was refused because the judge could not prove if the he was a man when he married. The judge decided there was no jurisdiction to grant a divorce if the marriage was not recognized. DailyMail
Thousands of bikers, maybe even tens or thousands or hundreds of thousands, will be “rallying” in Washington, D.C., Wednesday even though city officials reportedly denied them a permit for a straight-through drive that would have allowed them to travel quickly on roads that would have been blocked to cross-traffic. Now, the bikers will be stopping at every stop sign or stop light, yielding to pedestrians wherever appropriate, and otherwise observing all traffic regulations. These are the plans being confirmed today on Facebook and other social media mediums for the bikers who decided to rally at the same time the American Muslim Political Action Committee proposed what originally was billed as a “Million Muslim March,” which was given a permit. The Muslim organization later changed the name to “Million American March Against Fear,” and where promoters initially said their march was to protest “anti-Islamic bigotry in the years that ensued the al-Qaida terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on American soil,” it later was changed. Now the group says its goal is to “ask all individuals and organizations working for peace to attend this collective action to tell our government leaders we want transparency and policies of peace. In the past 12 years since 9/11 the United States government as failed to protect and promote constitutional liberties and human life, here and abroad.
We feel that accountability in government has been ignored and the time has arrived to collectively speak truth to power.” That was after an early statement from promoters that said, “On 9.11.01 our country was forever changed by the horrific events in New York. The entire country was victimized by the acts done on that day. Muslim and non Muslim alike were traumatized but we as Muslims continue 12 years later to be victimized by being made the villains. To this day every media outlet and anti Islamic organization has committed slanderous and libel statements against us as Muslims and our religion of Islam.” The issue of the denial of a permit for special accommodations for the bikers seem of little consequence to those attending. At BizPacReview, writer Joe Saunders reported, “Denied a permit by the nation’s capital for a special ‘non-stop’ ride through town with a waiver for red lights, stop signs and other traffic controls, organizers of the ’2 Million Bikers to DC’ ride to remember 9/11 are undeterred. “Just riding on a public street doesn’t take any special permission after all, even if you have a million people doing it. They just sought the permit to make life easier on the city’s residents and businesses. “So the ride will go on. It’s just going to take a little longer.” On a Facebook page for the organizers of the grass-roots movement, they wrote, “We find this regretful for the residents and businesses of that great city, and humbly offer our apologies. What could have been a one or two hour ride through will now likely be an all-day event. We will be obeying all laws. We will be stopping at all stoplights, stop signs, and yielding to all pedestrians.” No route is being publicly announced ahead of time, but they said the event is to launch at 8 a.m. at the Harley Davidson of Washington location in Fort Washington, Md. Kickstands go up at 11 a.m., Saunders reported. Also on the BizPac site, organizations posted a comment, “We WILL ride as we did not really need a permit, but did apply for THEIR benefit.
We were told by Sheila Gotha of the Permits DEPT. ‘This Ride Only event has been denied.’ When asked why, hereonly response was ‘It’s a weekday and DC residents are not going to (sic) happy with you folks.’ “We did our best to explain that IF we received assistance with road blocks, etc. it would be beneficial to the residents of DC as we would be able to get through in much less time. Her response, ‘Permit denied.’ NOW I will say almost every LEO Dept that was on that call did reach out to us afterwards. They were concerned as well, but MOST were “VERY SUPPORTIVE! They were not able to help with road blocks, but wished us well!” The Muslim organization announced earlier it got a permit for its event. In what was a virtual impossibility before the Internet, hundreds, even thousands, of biker groups are planning to show up for the “2 Million Bikers to DC.” At the Mr. Conservative blog, the author said: “The best way to counter bad speech is to oppose it with good speech. Sometimes ‘speech’ can be expressed simply by the number of people who are willing to show up to support a principle. That’s the view that hundreds of bikers (so far) across American have as they prepare to join a ’2 Million Biker Ride to DC’ to counter the planned Sept. 11 ‘Million Muslim March.’” On the Facebook page, the community purpose is described as: “To honor those who were killed on 911 and our armed forces who fought those who precipitated this attack!” Volunteers were coordinating travel for groups from various states. A Ronald Curaba said: “Who ever comments I would like to do this … should shut up and show up! Im a retired FDN Lt. I should be at my old firehouse where I was on that ill fated day …. but I will be in DC riding! God willing!” Added Bryan Short: “How appropriate. A million muslims surrounded by 2 million hogs!” Organizers of the page added: “Folks, just wanted to say thank you for your support. This event has been a lot of work. But for our country it is worth it. As with any event such as this we are being attacked from every angle. But we will not allow those distractions to deter us from our goal nor the goal of the originator of this event Mr. Bill Williamson.” “God Bless Ride Safe,” added Tammy Bowman. “Ride on brothers,” said Bob Halley. “Don’t forget ya’ll don’t need a bike to participate. Support vehicles will be needed. I suppose most of the U.S. will be there in spirit. Those of us who are lucky to still have employment still need to work their knickers off to survive these days. Perhaps red/white/blue boys can adorn people’s homes in support?” suggested Trish Zysk. Options for those who cannot make the trek to D.C.? “Organize a ride to your own state Capitol! Get with like-mined folks and get started planning! Someone take a lead in your state and get the event in motion.” Also, get with your ‘Impeach Obama Overpass’ organization. “Whatever you decide please do something to support America on 911!” WND
A new oil discovery in southern Israel might turn out to be the catalyst for an internal and self-destructive war in the Palestinian Authority, with Hamas in Gaza and chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah likely to claim ownership of a new Israeli offshore oil discovery near Ashdod. When the Tamar and Leviathan gas and oil fields off the Haifa and Hadera coast, in northern Israel, were discovered, Lebanon and Hezbollah quickly claimed that energy reserves were in their territorial waters. The oil and gas reserves are clearly within Israel’s territorial waters, but the fields could extend as far as the waters off the Lebanese coast. Lebanon warned the American Noble Energy company not to approach its territory, and Hezbollah it would go to war over the oil and gas fields. Since then, Israel has brought gas into production, and Lebanon and Hezbollah have kept quiet, partly because the United States has mediated by proposing a boundary between Lebanon and Israel’s maritime economic zones. Now comes the Israeli Shemen Oil and Gas Company which reported on Saturday indications of “high quality of oil” following offfshore drilling at its Yam-3 well, 10 miles from the southern port city of Ashdod, located only a few miles north of Gaza. The drilling reached a death of 19,000 feet undersea, but the possibility of commercial production awaits further tests. “This is good news for Shemen but it is still too early to pop the champagne,” Noam Pincu, an analyst at Psagot Investment House Ltd. in Tel Aviv, told Bloomberg News. “We have to see the results of the production tests to estimate the quantities and quality of oil at the site.” It still is not clear from the drilling report how thick the reservoir is and how much much oil could be commercially produced. Analysts said it could be only a few barrels a day or it could be several hundred a day, which would bring in millions of dollars. If the Yam 3 well turns to be commercially viable, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu might be able to relax at U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace talks and let Fatah and Hamas knock each other out.
Hamas and its rival Fatah movement likely would be at each other’s throats, literally, to claim that Israel is “stealing” the reserves from them. Abbas was head of all of the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria as well as Gaza until Hamas completed a bloody military coup six years ago. Abbas dissolved the Fatah-Hams coalition government and declared himself as ruler of Gaza by presidential decree, which Hamas correctly terms as “worthless.” Abbas and Hamas de facto prime minister Ismail Haniyeh have since failed to carry out several declarations of unity. All it will take is a few barrels of oil near Gaza’s waters for both leaders to draw their knives and guns for energy reserves that are so close to Gaza that Haniyeh and Abbas can claim that Israel is “stealing” them by drilling diagonally into Gaza waters. Both Ramallah and Gaza City are in serious trouble financially. Egypt’s new war on terror in the Sinai has choked off the flow of commercial goods through the border at Rafiah, and Abbas is totally dependent on the economically ailing European Union, to stave off bankruptcy. The Jewish Press
The United States has no military allies in its plan to launch missile attacks against Syria as punishment for the country’s use of chemical weapons, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Sunday.
McDonough conceded the fact on CNN’s “State of the Union” after persistent questioning from host Candy Crowley, who asked him whether President Barack Obama has secured international military support for the strike — as opposed to moral support. ”Not at this point,” he said. “But it is specific support for holding him [Syrian President Bashar Assad] to account, and it is a recognition that it happened. We feel very good about the support we have, and we’ll continue to build more.” McDonough said Obama, Congress and the rest of the world no longer doubt the fact Assad carried out such horrific crimes against his people. ”Nobody now debates the intelligence, which makes clear … that in August, the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people,” he said. “The entire world believes that. Congress has the opportunity this week to answer a simple question: Should there be consequences for him for having used that material.” Obama, who will address the country Sept. 10 on the topic, has called for a targeted, limited, consequential-action campaign to deter Assad and degrade his capabilities for another chemical-weapons attack, McDonough said. ”This is not Iraq or Afghanistan,” he said. “This is not Libya. This is not an extended air campaign.” On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” McDonough said stopping the Syrian government from moving chemical weapons out of hiding and onto the front lines is the goal of Obama’s intended missile strikes.
If chemical weapons are moved to the front lines, it means a greater risk of them being proliferated, McDonough said. ”I hope that every member of Congress, before he or she decides how they’ll cast their vote, will look at those pictures,” McDonough said, referring to the video of an Aug. 21 attack showing adults and children suffering from the effects of sarin gas. The video also shows the bodies of dead children lined up across a room. Although public sentiment and that of Congress is largely against U.S. military action, McDonough said that no one who has seen the intelligence on the attack doubts it. ”That means that everybody believes that Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people … killing nearly 1,500 on Aug. 21,” McDonough said. “So the question for Congress this week is what are the consequences for his having done so?” Congress’ answer will be listened to not only in Syria, McDonough said, but also in Iran and the terrorist group Hezbollah. Iran, which is working on a nuclear weapons program, must be told that it does not have greater freedom to act, he said. ”They do not have greater operating space to pursue a nuclear weapon which would destabilize that entire region, threaten our friends and allies and ultimately threaten us.” Newsmax
Quietly, as the looming possibility of a U.S. military attack on Syria dominated news internationally, the government of Poland announced a decision to confiscate half of the nation’s pension funds in an attempt to delay an impending government debt crisis. While details remain hazy, Reuters reported Sept. 4 that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced a government decision to transfer to ZUS, the government pension system, all bond investments in privately owned pension funds within the state-guaranteed system. For now, private pensions in Poland will be allowed to keep equity investments that in the Polish state-guaranteed pension system tend to be approximately half of all private pension investments. Polish Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski said the change will reduce Polish national debt about 8 percent of Polish Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, a move that allows the Polish government to resume another round of aggressive debt creation by borrowing in international markets, as reported by ZeroHedge.com. By confiscating, or otherwise “nationalizing” the bonds held private retirement accounts of Polish citizens, the government – with public debt currently standing at approximately 52.7 percent of GDP – circumvents two threshold restrictions that deter the government from allowing debt to rise to over 50 percent of GDP, followed by a second deterrence that kicks in when national debt hits 55 percent of GDP. Reuters reported that by shifting bonds held in private retirement accounts into ZUS, the government can book those assets on the state balance sheet to offset public debt, giving the government more scope to borrow and spend. As is the case with other nations in the European Union, Poland, faced with slowing economic growth, a grim job situation and declining tax revenues, has been forced to borrow to maintain the nation’s large social welfare system without imposing austerity measures. International private investment advisers reacted with shock and dismay. The reform is “a decimation of the [private pension fund] system to open up fiscal space for an easier life now for the government,” Peter Attard Montalto of Nomura Securities told Reuters. “The government has an odd definition of private property given its claims this is not nationalization.” Private retirement accounts in Poland hold assets worth about 20 percent of Polish economic output and are among the biggest investors on the Warsaw bourse. How the move will affect many international investment firms remains uncertain, but the Polish private pension market includes many well known firms such as ING, Aviva, Axa, Generali and Allianz. Reuters further reported Polish government officials have tried to reinsure private retirement investors, saying the overhaul avoids the more radical options of taking both bond and equity assets away from the private retirement founds outright, in a more comprehensive government confiscation.
Poland’s private pension until now has been a hybrid system in which mandatory contributions that are made into both the state pension vehicle, ZUS, and the private funds that are collectively known by the Polish acronym OFE. Although Poland is in the EU, it continues to utilize the zloty as the national currency, not the Euro. Poland’s move follows a similar move by the Mediterranean island-nation of Cyprus in March when the government confiscated 10 percent of all bank accounts. Cyprus sought to raise 6 billion euros to meet a condition set by international bankers, including the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, as a condition of finalizing a proposed Eurozone bail-out. In November 2012, WND reported the Obama administration was exploring a creative way to finance continuing trillion-dollar annual federal budget deficits by forcing private citizens holding IRA and 401(k) accounts to buy Treasury bonds. WND report two years earlier that the U.S. Department of Labor and the Treasury Department held joint hearings on whether government lifetime annuity options funded by U.S. Treasury debt should be required for private retirement accounts, including IRAs and 401(k) plans. WND
A video apparently made by some of the Islamists fighting and killing each other and the population in Syrian reveals quantities of Bibles and biblical materials, such as the Book of John, as a narrator describes them as being “more dangerous than chemical weapons.” The video appeared yesterday, just as reports were coming out of Syria about how the Islamist rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s army were “liberating” villages, and then forcing Christians there to convert to Islam or be beheaded. There were statements that Christians were being abducted and executed, although there were conflicting reports. The new video of the confiscated Bibles was posted by Eretz Zen, who describes himself as a secular Syrian who opposes “having my country turned into a Taliban-like state.” The video shows stacks of Arabic language Bibles and other books, and a sign that is posted with the warning, “O nation of Muhammad, wake up.
For there are things even more dangerous than chemical weapons. Beware the Christianization campaigns.” The video explains it’s from the region of Jarablus, in Syria. A voice on the video explains, “They exploit the needs of Syrian citizens in order to spread Christian thought.” The narrator also described a small bag of communion wafers as a “pork meat derivative,” which is supplied “to fool the gullible children with.” According to the Eretz Zen site, the footage was from Sept. 3 in the Syrian town of Jarablus on the Turkish border. Even as the voice of the video was talking about the “Christianization” of individuals, the Mail Online confirmed that Christians were terrified when they reported Syrian rebels ordered them to convert to Islam – on pain of death. The story cites how opposition forces, including those linked to the terror group al-Qaida, gained control of the Christian village of Maaloula. “One Maaloula resident said the rebels, many of whom had beards and shouted ‘allahu akbar’ (God is great), attacked Christian homes and churches shortly after moving into the area.” One Christian said in the Daily Mail report, “I saw the militants grabbing five villagers and threatening them and saying, ‘Either you convert to Islam, or you will be beheaded.’” The Daily Mail report described Maaloula as a “beautiful mountain village, 25 miles from Damascus.” The report said the historically Christian village had become a key strategic battleground because of the Syrian civil war. WND
BREAKING NEWS: Arabic-language Russian news site Rusiya Al-Yaum has reported that Syrian rebels are planning a chemical attack on Israel. In the report, it was claimed that “armed Syrian militants will use territories controlled by the Syrian regime to perpetrate their provocative plan.” The story was quick to spread through pro-Assad outlets, like the Hezbollah affiliated Lebanese stations Al Manar and Al Mayadeen. The Russian site is also known for its pro-Assad bias in covering the Syrian crises, what suggests that there is a possibility the story might propaganda. In the past, the Syrian regime and its mouth-pieces have claimed that the rebels are responsible for the chemical weapons usage – a claim that has now become part of their line of defense against the West. A few days after the chemical attack in question, the official state Syrian TV published a report in which Syrian soldiers allegedly suffered chemical related symptoms after entering a rebel position, where they found chemical materials related to the attack. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested Monday that Syria place its “chemical weapons under international control and then have them destroyed,” if such a move would help “avoid military strikes” that are being considered by the United States and its allies. Lavrov said he had already passed the proposal to al-Moallem in Moscow and hoped for a “quick and positive answer” from Syria. Syria welcomed the Russian proposal, as al-Moallem praised the Kremlin for seeking to “prevent American aggression”.
Al-Moallem who spoke to reporters through an interpreter after Russia expressed hope the proposal could avert military strikes against Syria, stopped short of saying explicitly that PresidentBashar Assad‘s government accepted it. ”I state that the Syrian Arab Republic welcomes the Russian initiative, motivated by the Syrian leadership’s concern for the lives of our citizens and the security of our country, and also motivated by our confidence in the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is attempting to prevent American aggression against our people,” he said. Israeli President Shimon Peres commented on the compromise, saying: “The Syrians have promised that they are not trustworthy and their integrity cannot be counted on,” Peres said at an event, adding that the Russian inititative requires negotiation. A senior Israeli official commented on the international bid to remove chemical weapons from Syria, saying “this is the best solution also for Israel. Everyone is now playing their own game, but everyone’s interest, including Israel’s, is to destroy Assad’s chemical stockpiles without going to war.” General Salim Idris, head of the Free Syrian Army, dismissively responded to the Russian initiative, saying; “The (Syrian) regime has a massive arsenal, the size and location of which is unknown.” According to him, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem welcomed the initiative only in a bid to postpone the American strike. YNet News
The White House insisted Monday that it was legally able to launch a strike on Syria without congressional approval even as it intensified its courting of lawmakers to support military action. White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler told the New York Times that a strike would be lawful under both domestic and international law. She told the paper that the president could strike because of the “important national interests” surrounding the use of chemical weapons, even without Congress or United Nations approval. Ruemmler contended that while the Syria situation “may not fit under a traditionally recognized legal basis under international law,” it would nevertheless be “justified and legitimate.” “The president believed that it was important to enhance the legitimacy of any action that would be taken by the executive,” Ruemmler added, “to seek Congressional approval of that action and have it be seen, again as a matter of legitimacy both domestically and internationally, that there was a unified American response to the horrendous violation of the international norm against chemical weapons use. White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken later on Friday told reporters he “didn’t speak very artfully” when he said last week it was neither the “desire” nor the “intention” of President Obama to pursue a strike absent authorization. “The president — it is clearly his desire and intent to secure the support of Congress for this action, but I don’t want to get into any hypotheticals of what will or will not happen after the vote,” he said. White House press secretary Jay Carney also stressed that a strike would be a “legitimate response” to chemical weapons use. The posturing comes as officials say that the president’s threat of using military force has begun to pay dividends. Earlier in the day, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said his country would consider a deal to put its chemical weapons under international control in a bid to avert a military strike. “It is precisely because of this very public discussion and presentation of evidence that we’re engaged in, and because of the accumulating international support for action, that the pressure that all of that has brought to bear on Assad,” Carney said. The Hill
The “Middle East” is no longer just Israel and the countries surrounding it, said retired U.S. General John Abizaid Monday. The region now extends from Asia through to Africa, if by “Middle East” one means an area where Islamists are battling to dominate societies. Abizaid was speaking Monday at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s (ICT) World Summit on Counter-Terrorism in the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. In his talk, Abizaid said that “the geographic area in which we are dealing with problems endemic to the Middle East has expanded, and those problems have become very important. The Middle East is no longer the region between Iran and Egypt, but now includes places like North Africa and Indonesia.”
Abizaid is former Commander of the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees American military operations in a 27-country region including most of the Middle East, Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and South and Central Asia. CENTCOM oversees 250,000 US troops. “There are new threats, and sometimes Americans have a hard time understanding the new lexicon of the battlefield,” Abizaid said, relating to the strong opposition among Americans for a campaign to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Islamic radicalism is getting stronger,” Abizaid said. “Foreign fighters, including citizens of Western countries who have a connection to the countries where fighting is taking place, are showing up on the battlefield. The religious radicals have an opportunity to advance themselves, but there is no one to represent secularism in these places.” The radicals keep getting stronger and more dangerous, he said, and “in the coming time we are going to have to fight for our values more than once.” Terrorism is likely to increase as well, he said. Western allies “must organize and go after our enemies together,” Abizaid said, and they must share information and ideas on how to uproot terror. “Lack of preparedness to speak about these problems in a clear manner could be the greatest challenge we face” in organizing a response to the new dangers facing the West, he added. ”Until now, we have not succeeded in accomplishing what our combat soldiers call a ‘unity effort’. We live in a world where the enemy is becoming more dangerous and has access to weapons of mass destruction, “We need to internationally organize in order to deal with our enemy,” Abizaid continued, stressing that “these challenges require international commitment for Counter-Terrorism, which will cast off intense pain on our enemies.” He also urged governments to work together not only to prevent the funding of terrorism, but to use the sources of their own funding to enable citizens a better future in the parts of the world affected by terrorism. ”Today many of them turn to terrorism because who they perceive they have no better option and have no hope for the future,” he claimed. Arutz Sheva
A Florida ministry that feeds the poor said the USDA told them they would not be allowed to receive government food unless they removed portraits of Christ, the Ten Commandments, a banner that read “Jesus is Lord” and stopping giving Bibles to the needy. “They told us they could no longer allow us to have any religious information where the USDA food is going to be,” said Kay Daly, executive director of the Christian Service Center. So why did the USDA have an issue with the religious group’s religious decorations? Daly said they were told it was a matter of separation of church and state. I have been trying to reach the USDA since last week but they have yet to return my calls seeking information. A USDA spokesperson confirmed today they had received my request – but so far – radio silence. For the past 31 years, the Christian ministry has been providing food to the hungry in Lake City, Fla. without any problems. But all that changed when the USDA showed up to negotiate a new contract. “The USDA rep told us there was a slight change in the contract,” Daly told me. “They said we could no longer have religious information where the USDA food is being distributed. They told us we had to take that stuff down.” Daly said it’s no secret that the Christian Service Center is a Christian ministry. “We’ve got pictures of Christ on more than one wall,” she said. “It’s very clear we are not social services.
We are a Christian ministry.” Daly and her staff sat in stunned disbelief as the government agents also informed them that the Christian Service Center could no longer pray or provide Bibles to those in need. The government contract also forbade any references to the ministry’s chapel. “We asked if we had to change the name of the organization but that said we could leave that,” Daly said. “But we had to take our religious stuff down.” The USDA extended an olive branch to the Christians. They said they could continue distributing USDA food so long as it was somewhere else on the property – away from anything that could be considered religious. In other words – the USDA was giving the Christian Service Center a choice: choose God or the government cheese. So in a spirit of Christian love and fellowship, Daly politely told Uncle Sam what they could do with their cheese. “We decided to eliminate the USDA food and we’re going to trust God to provide,” she told me. “If God can multiply fish and loaves for 10,000 people, he can certainly bring in food for our food pantry so we can continue to feed the hungry.” In a nutshell, Daly said the Christian Service Center would not be compromising. “We are a Christian ministry,” she said. “Our purpose is to help people in need and to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are going to pray with them. We are going to offer them a Bible. We are going to counsel them in Christian help. We are going to use our chapel.” Churches across Lake City have stepped up to the challenge – filling the void left when the government took away their cheese. “I’m called to do what the Lord tells me to do,” Daly said. “I’m not called to worry about it. I pray about it. The Lord answers our prayers and we move forward one day at a time, one person at a time.” Fox News
As America’s kids head back to class, there are new concerns that schools throughout the country don’t meet the basic standards necessary to protect our children. According to Save the Children, over 60 million children are separated from their parents every workday, but 28 states and D.C. fail to require emergency safety plans for schools and child care centers.
This lack of preparation could endanger children’s lives and make it harder for them to be reunited with their parents in the event of any sort of disaster. Kathy Spangler, of Save the Children, explained that the minimum standards would require that child care centers have evacuation, relocation, and reunification plans. In addition, they should have plans in place in order to meet the special needs of children with disabilities. Families can better prepare themselves for disasters by:
Creating an emergency kit with child-friendly items
Make a family emergency plan
Teach that plan to kids and practice with them
Make sure your school/child care center has a plan. Fox News Insider
Revelation 20:4 – And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
The village of Maaloula has been taken over by Syrian rebels associated with al Qaeda, who have stormed the Christian center and offered local Christians a choice: conversion or death. A resident of the town said the rebels shouted “Allahu Akhbar” as they moved through the village, and proceeded to assault Christian homes and churches. “They shot and killed people,” he said. “I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarters of the village. Where is President Obama to see what has befallen us?” Another witness stated, “I saw the militants grabbing five villagers and threatening them and saying, ‘Either you convert to Islam, or you will be beheaded.’” The village is located just 25 miles from Damascus, and sites within the village are dedicated as United Nations world heritage sites. Residents still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The rebels who took over the city are associated with the al Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-associated Islamist group. Villagers reported foreign dialects ranging from Tunisian to Libyan, from Moroccan to Chechen. Breitbart
In an interview with CBS this morning, Syrian strongman Bashar Assad warned that the U.S. should “expect every action” and hinted at another 9/11-type attack on America:
CBS’s Charlie Rose asked, “Will there be attacks against American bases in the Middle East if there’s an air strike?” ”You should expect everything,” said Assad. “You should expect everything. Not necessarily through the government. … the government’s not the only player in this region. … You have everything in this decision now. so you have to expect that.” Rose: “Tell me what you mean by ‘expect everything.’” ”Expect every action,” Assad claimed. ”Including chemical warfare?” ”That depends. if the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it, it could happen. I don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller to tell you what’s going to happen,” said Assad. Rose pressed, “But we’d like to know more and I think the president — the American people would like to know, you know, if there’s an attack, you know, what might be the repercussions and who might be engaged those repercussions? Assad countered by bringing up 9/11: “But nobody expected the 11th of September. You cannot expect–it’s difficult to tell you everything that’s going to happen. It’s an area where everything is on the brink of explosion. You have to expect everything.” The Weekly Standard
Have you heard about the “wonderful” employment numbers that were just released? Last month, the unemployment rate declined to 7.3 percent. Somehow this happened even though the percentage of working age Americans with a job actually declined and the number of private sector workers fell by 278,000. So how did the federal government magically produce a drop in the unemployment rate even though less people have jobs? Well, they did it by pretending that more than half a million Americans “dropped out of the labor force” last month. If the government is to be believed, the number of Americans that want to work dropped by an astounding 516,000 in a single month even though the population of our country is constantly increasing. The federal government continues to feed us absolutely absurd numbers month after month, and at this point “the official unemployment rate” is essentially meaningless. More
BREAKING NEWS: Turkey has deployed anti-aircraft missile batteries along its border with Syria, Israel Radio quoted the Turkish media as saying Monday. According to the radio, Turkish television said that American-made “Stinger” surface-to-air missiles were also deployed in recent days on raised ground in the Hatay Province, in southern Turkey. Jerusalem Post
BREAKING NEWS: Russia’s foreign minister said Monday that Moscow will push Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. The push comes after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in London that if Bashar Assad wanted to defuse the crisis, “he could turn every single bit of his chemical weapons over to the international community” within a week. But Kerry claimed that Assad “isn’t about to do it.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki later clarified that Kerry “was making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility and unlikelihood of Asad turning over chemical weapons he has denied he used.” She added: “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons otherwise he would have done so long ago.” Fox News
If the US and France start military action in Syria it will create “pockets” of Al- Qaeda-linked Islamic extremism across the country, and could trigger global conflict, Jeff Steinberg, senior editor of the Executive Intelligence Review, told RT.
RT: So, there are concerns that insurgent violence in Iraq could be linked to the civil war in Syria. Do you think there is a connection?
Jeff Steinberg: Well, I think there is a connection both to the events on the ground in Syria, in Lebanon, in Egypt, and, quite frankly, for a month now the Saudi government has been pouring money into Sunni insurgence, who’ve been a major part of the violence and terrorism going on in Iraq. And it’s a part of a larger regional strategy, basically promoting a Sunni vs. Shia conflict, which has a big geo-political factor of Saudi Arabia competing with Iran for who’s going to be a dominant power in the Gulf region.
RT: Do you think there’s a danger that more countries of the region may be affected by what’s going on in south of Iraq and Syria?
JS: Very definitely. Already the situation in Iraq and Syria has spilt over very violently, inside Lebanon. There are not only Hezbollah fighters inside Syria fighting in conjunction with the Assad’s government, but you now have Sunni radicals who have moved from Lebanon into Syria. And so you’ve got in effect a many civil war in Lebanon, playing out on Syrian territory, but very soon it’s likely to spill back over into Lebanon, which of course went through 15 years of a terrible civil war, sectarian violence from the mid 70-s into the early 90-s.
RT: Iraq has seen some of the effect of the foreign intervention. How much, do you think, this affects Baghdad’s policy toward the calls for a strike on Syria?
JS: Well, I think that Iraq is in a kind of very delicate position. They, of course, border on Saudi Arabia; they know they’ve got a problem on Saudi funded insurgency inside their country. They have certain alliances, but not a kind of hard alliance with Iran, and they really struggle to get beyond the whole experience of several decades of war that guided much of the royal production and infrastructure. I think, they’re in a difficult position overall and I don’t think that they are driving faster in this battle. The al Qaeda, Sunni insurgence operating inside the Iraq has now crossed over into Syria, so in a certain way, the violence that has picked up tremendously inside Iraq, is a kind of reverberation back there of the crisis centered in Syria. So I don’t think they’re major driving forces, but they certainly rid them of the spreading of the conflict across the entire region.
RT: As we know, the Syrian opposition is pretty fragmented, there are several groups involved, including ones from Iraq, which may have a different agenda from kind of the mainstream opposition members. What do you think, we can expect from an end to the conflict, if there is an ultimate collapse of the Assad regime?
JS: If you have a collapse of the Assad regime, and this is something that General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has been warning about for months. Then it’s likely that Syrian territory will be fragmented and there will be areas in the country, particularly along the Turkish and Lebanese borders and maybe in the South near the Jordanian border. And that will be “will pockets” of Al Qaeda linked Islamic extremism, and that poses a great danger to all of the bordering countries, of course. Israel has already carried out major bombing attacks against Syria and I think that we could very easily conceive a brake in stability in Syria, collapse of the regime into a kind of a wall-estate, that Israel would not sit back, but would intervene very forcefully and then you’ve got the seeds of a much-much bigger regional conflict that could draw the United States and, perhaps, even Russia in. This could go global and many people are very frightened of that danger. RT
At least Oregon is applying its anti-discrimination laws evenhandedly. Interesting story out of Gresham:The Oregonian is reporting that Bruce Bottoms–a homosexual baker and owner of “Cakes By Cupcakes”–has been charged with anti-Christian discrimination by the Oregon Ministry of Human Rights (OMHR). Mr. Bottoms and his partner, Lance Limpkowski, recently declined to bake a cake for the notoriously anti-”gay” Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). As a result, they’ve been forced to shut down their business. It seems that, in another tired attempt to be provocative, representatives from the attention-starved WBC demanded that Bottoms and Limpkowski bake a cake for a Westboro fundraiser with the group’s trademark slogan, “God Hates Fags,” emblazed in rainbow frosting across the top. Mr. Bottoms, who reportedly moonlights as a part-time blogger for the homosexual activist “Human Rights Campaign,” was understandably appalled. He refused. “Look, I’ll serve anybody, Christian or otherwise,” said Bottoms. “I just refuse to bake a cake that endorses an ideology that I find obscene. If Westboro came in and asked me to bake a birthday cake with the words ‘Happy 120th, Papa Freddy,’ it’d be my pleasure,” he said. “I didn’t decline to bake the cake because the customers defined themselves as ‘Christian’; I refused because nobody should be forced to lend their talents to endorse – whether directly or indirectly – a message or event that they find repugnant.” Tolerance Enforcement Commissioner Brad Avakian disagreed: “We are committed to a fair and thorough investigation to determine whether there’s substantial evidence of unlawful discrimination,” hetold The Oregonian. “The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon. Everybody is entitled to their own beliefs, but that doesn’t mean that folks have the right to discriminate.” Meanwhile, churches and Christian groups across America organized a boycott of Cakes By Cupcakes, picketing the business and threatening to target other businesses that associated with Bottoms and Limpkowski. The two men have additionally reported multiple death threats, with one Presbyterian preacher leaving a voicemail: “Die bigots! You anti-Christian haters need to keep your Christophobia to yourselves!” he said. Just kidding. Sort of. More
Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday warned America and its allies to expect multiple forms of retaliation, including a chemical attack, if the US goes ahead with a military strike on Syria, in remarks published Monday by CBS News. Assad, speaking to Charlie Rose in a Damascus interview, said Syria was “not the only player in the region” and, if an attack occurs, the US and allies in return “should expect everything. Not necessarily from the government.” “You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology. You have everything in this region now,” Assad said, in what CBS News said was likely a reference to his close allies Iran and Hezbollah, which have threatened to hit Israel. When asked if the response to a US attack could include chemical weapons, the Syrian leader replied that “it could happen” but only “if the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it.” “I don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller,” Assad added. Damascus currently maintains that rebel groups hold chemical weapons. Assad was “remarkably calm” during the interview, even when discussing claims that he had used chemical weapons on his own people, Rose told “CBS Evening News” on Sunday. In an excerpt posted online at CBS, Assad continued to deny that his government has used chemical arms and said that “we are not sure that anything happened.” “Our soldiers, in another area, were attacked chemically,” Assad said.
“But in the area where they say the government used chemical weapons, we only have video, pictures and allegations. We were not there, our forces, our police, our institutions, don’t exist,” he added. “How can you talk about what happened if you don’t have evidence?” Assad asked, adding that the the US has so far not produced “a single shred” of evidence linking his government to the attack. Rose’s full interview with Assad is scheduled to be broadcast on PBS’s “Charlie Rose Show” on Monday evening in the US, and excerpts are to be shown on “CBS This Morning,” airing at 7 a.m. Eastern Time Monday. Israeli officials have ramped up preparations in the past weeks ahead of expected US military action against Syria, though they have also tried to calm the country, saying there is little chance Syria, Iran or terror group Hezbollah will retaliate, as they have threatened.
Turkey and Jordan have also begun to boost readiness in preparation for possible US action. Over the past couple of days, the Turkish army was reported to have stationed anti-aircraft missile batteries along the country’s border with Syria, according to Israel Radio. In Jordan, security officials said authorities had begun taking precautions ahead of a US strike, according to an Israel Radio report Sunday, citing Jordanian media. The possible US strike would come in response to a reported chemical attack by the Syrian regime in late August that left some 1,400 people dead according to an American assessment. Obama is hoping to get approval from Congress later this week for a “limited” punitive response. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials have assessed a “low” probability of the Assad regime or its allies hitting Israel in response to a US-led attack on Syria, though Syrian and Iranian leaders have repeatedly threatened to strike Israel if Obama goes ahead with military intervention. The Times Of Israel
In summer excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount, Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar made a stunning discovery: two bundles of treasure containing thirty-six gold coins, gold and silver jewelry, and a goldmedallion with the menorah (Temple candelabrum) symbol etched into it. Also etched into the 10-cm medallion are a shofar (ram’s horn) and the image of a Torah scroll. The medallion may be the oldest Torah ornament ever found in archaeological digs. A third-generation archaeologist working at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, Dr. Mazar directs excavations on the City of David’s summit and at the Temple Mount’s southern wall. Calling the find “a breathtaking, once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Dr. Mazar said: “We have been making significant finds from the First Temple Period in this area, a much earlier time in Jerusalem’s history, so discovering a golden seven-branched Menorah from the seventh century CE at the foot of the Temple Mount was a complete surprise.” The discovery was unearthed just five days into Mazar’s latest phase of the Ophel excavations, and can be dated to the late Byzantine period (early seventh century CE).
The gold treasure was discovered in a ruined Byzantine public structure a mere 50 meters from the Temple Mount’s southern wall. The menorah, a candelabrum with seven branches that was used in the Temple, is now the national symbol of the state of Israel and reflects the historical presence of Jews in the area. The position of the items as they were discovered indicates that one bundle was carefully hidden underground while the second bundle was apparently abandoned in haste and scattered across the floor. Given the date of the items and the manner in which they were found, Mazar estimates they were abandoned in the context of the Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 CE. After the Persians conquered Jerusalem, many Jews returned to the city and formed the majority of its population, hoping for political and religious freedom. But as Persian power waned, instead of forming an alliance with the Jews, the Persians sought the support of Christians and ultimately allowed them to expel the Jews from Jerusalem. Hanging from a gold chain, the menorah medallion is most likely an ornament for a Torah scroll. In that case it is the earliest Torah scroll ornament found in archaeological excavations to date.
It was buried in a small depression in the floor, along with a smaller gold medallion, two pendants, a gold coil and a silver clasp, all of which are believed to be Torah scroll ornamentations. “It would appear that the most likely explanation is that the Ophel cache was earmarked as a contribution toward the building of a new synagogue, at a location that is near the Temple Mount,” said Dr. Mazar. “What is certain is that their mission, whatever it was, was unsuccessful. The treasure was abandoned, and its owners could never return to collect it.” The Ophel cache is only the third collection of gold coins to be found in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem, said Lior Sandberg, numismatics specialist at the Institute of Archaeology. “The thirty-six gold coins can be dated to the reigns of different Byzantine emperors, ranging from the middle of the fourth century CE to the early seventh century CE,” said Sandberg. Found with the coins were a pair of large gold earrings, a gold-plated silver hexagonal prism and a silver ingot. Remnants of fabric indicated that these items were once packaged in a cloth purse similar to the bundle that contained the menorah medallion. Mazar’s Ophel excavation made headlines earlier this year when she announced the 2012 discovery of an ancient Canaanite inscription (recently identified as Hebrew), the earliest alphabetical written text ever uncovered in Jerusalem. The 2013 excavation season at the Ophel ran from the middle of April to the end of July, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the HebrewUniversity. The Israel Antiquities Authority is carrying out the preservation works, and is preparing the site for the public. Arutz Sheva
It’s not at all certain that Comet ISON will turn out to be the “comet of the century,” as hoped, but a couple of things are certain: It’s not an alien spaceship, and it hasn’t split up into three pieces. Those were apparently questions on the minds of some folks last month, thanks to a flurry of videos and blog postings based on imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope’s archives. The hoohah got hot enough to merit an official response, posted to the Space Telescope Science Institute’sarchive website and its ISON Blog. It all started with a series of images captured by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 UVIS instrument on April 30. Various exposures were combined to produce a widely distributed color picture of Comet ISON against a background field of stars. When Internet sleuths took a close look at the archived image, it looked as if there were three separate objects hiding in the glare of ISON’s coma. Was ISON breaking up?
Was the comet being escorted by two alien spacecraft? No. Just no. Richard White, principal investigator for the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes, explained that the image was a composite, created by averaging the data from three separate camera exposures. The three objects are just different views of Comet ISON’s nucleus. ”The comet itself does not have three pieces,” White wrote. “They are an artifact from adding up the separate exposures. The comet does not look the same in each exposure because both the comet and the Hubble telescope are moving during the exposure. The comet is blurred, just as a picture taken out the window of a moving car will be blurred.” Check out the full explanation, and to get the latest prognostications on how bright Comet ISON will get in November, check in with the ISON Facebook page as well as the Comets Mailing List and the Twitter hashtag #ISON.
Assumption Parish’ hungry sinkhole celebrated its first burpday on August 3, and the one-year-old’s appetite continues to grow. The last slough took place on the northern side of the sinker, and it swallowed about 75 percent of the work pad, with some trees for a side. The total area of the meal was approximately 50 ft. by 75 ft. The sinkhole was caused when an underground salt dome, owned by Texas Brine, LLC, collapsed. The company has been involved with recovery work at the site. The slurry area in Bayou Corne has grown from five to over 24 acres. You can see the video of the most recent damages here, and a map of the north side below. Nola Defender
VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro has claimed the White House is plotting the “collapse” of his government next month by sabotaging food, electricity and fuel supplies. ”I have data about a meeting at the White House, the full names of those who attended. I know what plans they made for the total collapse” of the country, Maduro said on Saturday during a ceremony in northern Aragua state. ”They think that Venezuela will collapse in October, so long as they plan for it by sabotaging the people’s food, electricity, fuel and refineries.” In recent months, the Venezuelan government has made several allegations about conspiracies against it and plots to kill Maduro, who even stated that the United States wanted to kill him at the same time that it carried out a possible attack on Syria. Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, also made claims about several plots to kill him. On Tuesday, Maduro claimed the Venezuelan opposition had sabotaged the electrical power grid after a massive blackout left 70 per cent of the country without power for at least four hours. ”The empire will fall before Venezuela, which won’t collapse, by sabotage or anything,” Maduro told supporters, using a euphemism for the United States. Herald Sun
Seoul and Washington are about to complete a plan aimed at deterring the nuclear threat from North Korea, a government source here said Sunday. They will sign off on the plan at the Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul on Oct. 2. The source said South Korea and the U.S. have conducted joint research on a “tailored deterrence strategy” over the last 10 months and already practiced it during last month’s joint military simulation exercise. It envisions political, diplomatic and military responses in three stages from before any such attack to after. In addition to the “nuclear umbrella” the U.S. provides, the strategy encompasses a missile defense and even precision strikes on North Korean nuclear facilities if the North is about to launch a nuclear-tipped missile. The precision strikes would use South Korean ballistic missiles with a range of 300-800 km and cruise missiles with a range of more than 500-1500 km, and U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles and B-2 Stealth bombers. A military source said, “The nuclear umbrella was abstract so far and we didn’t know anything about a concrete action plan. But now Seoul and Washington have for the first time jointly worked out a nuclear deterrence strategy which functions as an operational plan.” The two countries originally decided to complete the tailored strategy by 2014 but brought it forward after the North’s third nuclear test in February this year. The Chosunilbo
In the lead-up to the Iraq War, I researched, wrote and circulated a document to members of Congress which explored unanswered questions and refuted President Bush’s claim for a cause for war. The document detailed how there was no proof Iraq was connected to 9/11 or tied to al Qaeda’s role in 9/11, that Iraq neither had WMDs nor was it a threat to the U.S., lacking intention and capability to attack. Unfortunately, not enough members of Congress performed due diligence before they approved the war. Here are some key questions which President Obama has yet to answer in the call for congressional approval for war against Syria. This article is a call for independent thinking and congressional oversight, which rises above partisan considerations. The questions the Obama administration needs to answer before Congress can even consider voting on Syria:
Claim #1. The administration claims a chemical weapon was used.
The UN inspectors are still completing their independent evaluation. Who provided the physiological samples of sarin gas on which your evaluation is based? Were any other non-weaponized chemical agents discovered or sampled? Who from the United States was responsible for the chain of custody? Where was the laboratory analysis conducted? Were U.S. officials present during the analysis of the samples? Does your sample show military grade or lower grade sarin gas? Can you verify that your sample matches the exact composition of the alleged Syrian government composition?
Claim #2: The administration claims the opposition has not used chemical weapons.
Which opposition? Are you speaking of a specific group, or all groups working in Syria to overthrow President Assad and his government? Has your administration independently and categorically dismissed the reports of rebel use of chemical weapons which have come from such disparate sources as Russia, the United Nations, and the Turkish state newspaper? Have you investigated the rumors that the Saudis may have supplied the rebels with chemicals that could be weaponized? Has the administration considered the ramifications of inadvertently supporting al Qaeda-affiliated Syrian rebels? Was any intelligence received in the last year by the U.S. government indicating that sarin gas was brought into Syria by rebel factions, with or without the help of a foreign government or intelligence agents?
Claim #3: The administration claims chemical weapons were used because the regime’s conventional weapons were insufficient
Who is responsible for the conjecture that the reason chemical weapons were used against the Damascus suburbs is that Assad’s conventional weapons were insufficient to secure “large portions of Damascus”?
Claim #4: The administration claims to have intelligence relating to the mixing of chemical weapons by regime elements
Who saw the chemical weapons being mixed from August 18th on? Was any warning afforded to the Syria opposition and if not, why not? If, on August 21st a “regime element” was preparing for a chemical weapons attack, has an assessment been made which could definitively determine whether such preparation (using gas masks) was for purpose of defense, and not offense?
Claim #5: The administration claims intelligence that Assad’s brother ordered the attack
What is the type of and source of intelligence which alleges that Assad’s brother personally ordered the attack? Who made the determination that Assad’s brother ordered the attack, based on which intelligence, from what source?
Claim #6: The administration claims poison gas was released in a rocket attack
Who was tracking the rocket and the artillery attack which preceded the poison gas release? Did these events occur simultaneously or consecutively? Could these events, the rocket launches and the release of poison gas, have been conflated? Based upon the evidence, is it possible that a rocket attack by the Syrian government was aimed at rebels stationed among civilians and a chemical weapons attack was launched by rebels against the civilian population an hour and a half later? Is it possible that chemical weapons were released by the rebels — unintentionally? Explain the 90-minute time interval between the rocket launch and chemical weapon attacks. Has forensic evidence been gathered at the scene of the attack which would confirm the use of rockets to deliver the gas? If there was a rocket launch would you supply evidence of wounds from the rockets impact and explosion? What is the source of the government’s analysis? If the rockets were being tracked via “geospatial intelligence,” what were the geospatial coordinates of the launching sites and termination locations?
Claim #7: The administration claims 1,429 people died in the attack
Secretary Kerry claimed 1,429 deaths, including 426 children. From whom did that number first originate?
Claim #8: The administration has made repeated references to videos and photos of the attack as a basis for military action against Syria
When and where were the videos taken of the aftermath of the poison gas attack?
Claim #9: The administration claims a key intercept proves the Assad regime’s complicity in the chemical weapons attack
Will you release the original transcripts in the language in which it was recorded as well as the translations relied upon to determine the nature of the conversation allegedly intercepted? What is the source of this transcript? What was the exact time of the intercept? Was it a U.S. intercept or supplied from a non-U.S. source? Have you determined the transcripts’ authenticity? Have you considered that the transcripts could have been doctored or fake? Was the “senior official,” whose communications were intercepted, a member of Assad’s government? How was he “familiar” with the offensive? Through a surprised acknowledgement that such an attack had taken place? Or through actual coordination of said attack? Release the transcripts! Was he an intelligence asset of the U.S., or our allies? In what manner had he “confirmed” chemical weapons were used by the regime? Who made the assessment that his intercepted communications were a confirmation of the use of chemical weapons by the regime on August 21st? What is the source of information that the Syrian chemical weapons personnel were “directed to cease operations”? Is this the same source who witnessed regime officials mixing the chemicals? Does the transcript indicate whether the operations they were “directed to cease” were related to ceasing conventional or chemical attacks? Will you release the transcripts and identify sources of this claim? Do you have transcripts, eyewitness accounts or electronic intercepts of communications between Syrian commanders or other regime officials which link the CW attack directly to President Assad? Who are the intelligence officials who made the assessment — are they U.S. intelligence officials or did the initial analysis come from a non-U.S. source?
Claim #10: The administration claims that sustained shelling occurred after the chemical weapons attack in order to cover up the traces of the attack
Please release all intelligence and military assessments as to the reason for the sustained shelling, which is reported to have occurred after the chemical weapons attack. Who made the determination that was this intended to cover up a chemical weapon attack? Or was it to counterattack those who released chemicals? How does shelling make the residue of sarin gas disappear? The American people have a right to a full release and vetting of all facts before their elected representatives are asked to make a decision of great consequence for America, Syria and the world. Congress must be provided answers prior to the vote, in open hearings, not in closed sessions where information can be manipulated in the service of war. We’ve been there before. It’s called Iraq. Huff Post
People around the world shared smooches on Sunday to protest against Russia’s recent crackdown on its LGBT community. The global kiss-In, dubbed “To Russia With Love,” drew same-sex couples to the front steps of Montreal’s Russian consulate over the weekend. Rallies were staged at 3 p.m. in major cities across the globe including Vancouver, New York City, Washington D.C., Paris, Athens, Barcelona and Helsinki. Protesters were also expected to gather in Toronto at 6 p.m., at Yonge and Dundas Square. The international rallies come in light of recent laws enacted in Russia, which are meant to restrict members of the LGBT community from living openly. The laws also threaten to arrest openly-gay tourists on holiday during the Olympics. As athletes around the world prepare for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, kiss-in organizers say they hope the rallies will pressure the International Olympic Committee and local governments to call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “stop the human rights violations of LGBTQ people.” CBS News
The United States’ National Security Agency intelligence-gathering operation is capable of accessing user data from smart phones from all leading manufacturers. Top secret NSA documents that SPIEGEL has seen explicitly note that the NSA can tap into such information on Apple iPhones, BlackBerry devices and Google’s Android mobile operating system. The documents state that it is possible for the NSA to tap most sensitive data held on these smart phones, including contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information about where a user has been. The documents also indicate that the NSA has set up specific working groups to deal with each operating system, with the goal of gaining secret access to the data held on the phones. In the internal documents, experts boast about successful access to iPhone data in instances where the NSA is able to infiltrate the computer a person uses to sync their iPhone. Mini-programs, so-called “scripts,” then enable additional access to at least 38 iPhone features. The documents suggest the intelligence specialists have also had similar success in hacking into BlackBerrys.
A 2009 NSA document states that it can “see and read SMS traffic.” It also notes there was a period in 2009 when the NSA was temporarily unable to access BlackBerry devices. After the Canadian company acquired another firm the same year, it changed the way in compresses its data. But in March 2010, the department responsible at Britain’s GCHQ intelligence agency declared in a top secret document it had regained access to BlackBerry data and celebrated with the word, “champagne!” The documents also state that the NSA has succeeded in accessing the BlackBerry mail system, which is known to be very secure. This could mark a huge setback for the company, which has always claimed that its mail system is uncrackable. In response to questions from SPIEGEL, BlackBerry officials stated, “It is not for us to comment on media reports regarding alleged government surveillance of telecommunications traffic.” The company said it had not programmed a “‘back door’ pipeline to our platform.” The material viewed by SPIEGEL suggests that the spying on smart phones has not been a mass phenomenon. It has been targeted, in some cases in an individually tailored manner and without the knowledge of the smart phone companies. Spiegel Online International
California is the home of everything that’s new, exciting, and, well, accidentally nefarious. It’s a delight, therefore, to hear that we here in the Golden State might be the first to get electronic license plates. Yes, the young and the restless of tech will be able to have their new “TE$LA1″ plate beamed directly to their car. What could be more moving? I am beaming at Ars Technica for discovering that a bill has passed the California State Senate, allowing for a pilot program to launch the scheme. If the Governor signs the bill, 0.5 percent of Californians might enjoy this perk quite soon. They can look forward to rolling down their beautiful hills and having the word “EXPIRED” suddenly appear on their backside. (The car’s, that is.) What fun it will be to see Ferraris with the word “STOLEN” — or Priuses with the word “TASTELESS.” Actually, I’m not sure that last one will be an option. Even so, the sheer instancy and convenience will fascinate many. The suspicious (which ought, these days, to include most people) might wonder whether these license plates — which very probably will be accessed through a mobile data network — will let the powers that be know where people are, yes, all the time. The bill doesn’t seem clear about this. What is clear is that the company that operates the system will have access to everyone’s location. That company is Smart Plate Mobile, which doesn’t appear to have so much as a Web site currently. Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Lee Tien told Ars Technica that the DMV would hopefully not have access to location information. However, we all know how porous digital walls can be. As with so many digital creations, the weak spot for people is the convenience. Someinterviewed by KCRA-TV said they’d pay extra in order to not stand in the DMV line. And so, yet more personal information might be traded to save a few minutes of boredom. CNet
In striking alignment with two top best-sellers, “The Harbinger” and “The Isaiah 9/10 Judgment” documentary, a new book by WND Books provides startling evidence that the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were a deliberate prophetic judgment on America, and that the surprise attacks literally set in motion two of the Bible’s most critical endtime prophecies. Written by James F. Fitzgerald, creator of the historic “The Watchword Bible,” a 26-hour project contained on 10 DVDs – a 10-year project to put God’s word on video, the “9/11 Prophecy” recounts his remarkable testimony that New York City received warning of an imminent judgment 14 months earlier – that “a surprise attack in a single hour” would be a sign pointing to prophetic events described in chapter 18 of the book of Revelation. In July 2000, Fitzgerald and his team released “The Book of Revelation” at a secular film festival at Madison Square Garden. Their 110-minute feature was the first word-for-word production of the Bible’s most famous prophetic book ever produced. It took 10 months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. More than 500 scenes were created in computers to convey the fantastic biblical imagery. “Then the week before we went to the festival,” says Fitzgerald, “as I reviewed our master for any problems, the Lord suddenly spoke to me through a verse of scripture in chapter 18. It said, ‘This was the greatest city ever.’ “That verse caught my attention because here we were preparing to go to the media capital of the world in a matter of days. That also caused me to remember a book from the 1980s that had predicted the Lord’s imminent fiery destruction of New York. I hadn’t read the book and didn’t think it made sense in the way that God worked, without giving preliminary warnings and judgments, but I decided to go restudy the chapter. “What I soon discovered stunned me. In chapter 18, three different groups described the Lord’s judgment on the great city of Babylon. In each case, every one of these groups fit the description of New York City more than any other city on the planet. “I came away thinking if the Lord is ever going to judge Babylon as scripture foretold, surely He must also have to judge New York at some point in the future. It was such an amazing ‘type’ of Babylon. I knew in spite of its doing many good things, the city had been complicit in so many things that were wrong in our country and the world.” Fitzgerald then wondered when such a judgment might happen. “No sooner did I ask myself that question,” he says, “than I realized we were releasing ‘The Book of Revelation’ not just at any random time, but right at the New Millennium. Because of Y2K, the Millennium had been a time when many people were naturally concerned about what the future might hold, and here we were releasing this famous prophetic book about the end of the world and the second coming. How providential was that! “Not only that, my next thought was ‘The Book of Revelation’ was being released in New York of all places, that particular city in the whole world that most reflected Babylon.
Surely these two providences weren’t just coincidence. They were too significant.” At that moment Fitzgerald says he was reminded of Jonah’s story in the Old Testament and how the prophet was sent to warn Nineveh of judgment and went a day’s journey into the center of the city. As the author recounts, the Lord made it clear to him that He had opened a door for them at Madison Square Garden in the center of the city – just like Jonah in Nineveh – because He would speak to New York in a still small voice through His Word, warning of an impending judgment. “If that were true,” says Fitzgerald, “my next thought was that such a judgment would need to reflect chapter 18 in some way or people would never recognize it when it came for what it was. In that chapter three times it repeats that Babylon’s judgment came ‘in a single hour.’ The only thing I could see to fit that that would be a surprise attack with tall buildings falling, fire and smoke visible from sea, and many people killed in a short time. It was dreadful to contemplate.” He then shared all this with his team.
“There is so much more I tell in the book,” the author says. “I hardly scratch the surface here. When 9/11 struck just 430 days after our premier, it proved to be an astonishing reflection of the events in chapter 18. The first building to fall collapsed in only 56 minutes – an amazing reflection of ‘in a single hour her judgment will come.’ And who would have believed it? “I carefully document a dozen other specific examples from chapter 18 in ‘The 9/11 Prophecy.’ After the attack, a number of commentators did see the connection, as well, but in our case, we didn’t recognize it after the fact. God had sent us to the city with this warning before it ever happened.” Fitzgerald also describes how the Lord confirmed their mission in three striking ways after the attack: “The first of these confirmations was absolutely staggering to me. My wife’s ancestors had owned the World Trade Center property – Ground Zero of the attack in New York – for almost one hundred years at the city’s founding. I was astonished! This was the same land on which the towers stood and also St. Paul’s Chapel that played such a key role in ‘The Harbinger,’ by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn. The towers were built over a street named after my wife’s original Dutch ancestor. Half of Dey Street still remains.” Incredibly, Fitzgerald tells how these three confirmations form a pattern of exactly where, how and when the attack would strike. But as he later realized, he understood the purpose of these extraordinary confirmations for encouragement to strengthen his resolve to write “The 9/11 Prophecy” – despite the opposition he would face from various quarters for what he says in the book about 9/11 and the future of America and Islam. He believed the Lord was continuing to guide him. “When 9/11 struck in the first year of the New Millennium, with its sheer magnitude, high visibility, and shock to our nation – the world’s super power, I was convinced it must have even more significance than I’d imagined. Knowing with certainty as I did that the attack was a judgment, I quickly saw why it was also purposely connected to Revelation and the endtimes.” In the book’s prologue, Fitzgerald writes: “Not only had God’s judgment been a surprise attack and a prophetic sign as I had believed, but it had proved to be a powerful catalyst. The spectacular strike on America by just nineteen jihadists in the first year of the New Millennium had turned the course of history in a single hour. God’s judgment on 9/11 had begun the endtimes.” Describing the last third of the book, Fitzgerald says, “I devote the final nine entire chapters to showing from scripture, history and current events exactly how this audacious surprise attack initiated two famous prophecies.
I give mountains of evidence that 9/11 was God’s terrible catalyst to begin ‘the endtime generation’ that Jesus foretold on Olivet. I also know many Christians have long wondered why we don’t see the United States in the endtimes in Revelation – a nation as great and powerful as we currently are – and these chapters give the answer. Chapter 20 alone, detailing America’s hidden role in prophetic scripture, will amaze people and open many eyes. It’s worth the price of the book by itself. I also cover Islam’s role in the endtimes and the coming of a Muslim Antichrist who must be alive even now to be of age at the proper time in this generation. “By God’s grace, I’ve written these things as a witness and a ‘watchman on the wall’ that He sent to New York with His warning before 9/11. God used our production of His holy Word to warn of an event that would begin the endtime generation in history. I believe He’s given me this testimony as a platform so people can know for a fact that 9/11 was a judgment on our nation. ‘The Harbinger’ with its amazing application of Isaiah 9:10 to the events that have followed 9/11 is another witness. “And if God was moved to bring a judgment on the United States of America as severe as the attacks of 9/11 and we have not repented of what led Him to do that in the first place, what does it mean for our future? Clearly, it means we are still a nation under wrath – as hard as that is for people to really grasp or accept. All that is happening to our nation now that is so troublesome can be traced to this single fact – and it will not go away. “However, America is also the world’s sole super power. If God is preparing to bring down the ‘world’s indispensable nation’ to quote Madeline Albright, what does that mean for the rest of the globe? There will be no where else to turn. As I show in ‘The 9/11 Prophecy,’ our inevitable fall will fulfill biblical prophecy and lead to an Islamic Antichrist on the world stage in this generation. The attack by Muslim jihadists on 9/11 was the opening salvo in their battle to re-establish the Caliphate – but in our God’s great providence, it was really the beginning of the birth pangs before Jesus returns. This is a book every believer needs to read.” WND
U.S. military leaders are staunchly opposed to President Obama’s call for military action in Syria, and retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis is urging the brass to save American lives by being very vocal in letting Obama know where they stand and why. Maginnis was a career military officer, advised the Army after his retirement and is also author of the new book, “Deadly Consequences: How Cowards Are Pushing Women Into Combat.” He told WND officers with the highest command need to be more forceful in explaining their reservations to the president, even to the point of resignation. “The idea that these men who understand war are not making quite a case, I hope behind the scenes (they are). Evidently, it’s not to the point that they’re willing to put their stars on the table,” Maginnis said. “I think at some point, and I’ve talked with some of these types of folks and they are my peers, very few will ever see the utility of putting stars on the table, even if it means the loss of a lot of American lives.” Maginnis said history offers a tough lesson on this front. He noted that the service chiefs went to the White House in the lead-up to Vietnam and discouraged President Lyndon Johnson from doing what he ultimately did. Maginnis said several of those officers later regretted not putting their careers on the line in an effort to make their case more forcefully.
“That cost us 58,000 lives, and it kept us in war for over a decade,” he said. “Now we’re still in a war and have been for 11 years. Are we going to now extend that to a civil war which questionably doesn’t have any national interests at stake just because we hate to see, and rightly so, people being murdered? “Syria is not our fight,” he said. “Syria is a Turkish fight, a Jordanian fight, a Saudi Arabian fight and others, but not ours.” Maginnis said the military’s reticence could be seen in the testimony of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey this week on Capitol Hill, as he stated the military could carry out any orders from the president but made it clear there was little enthusiasm for the mission. In published statements, Dempsey has criticized Obama for saying a delay in the mission would make no difference. Dempsey also said the Syrian rebels weren’t people he wanted to do business with.
According to Maginnis, the military is also severely strapped for cash, thanks to sequestration. He agrees with Dempsey that any U.S. action will likely mean a much bigger commitment than anyone is admitting right now. “The idea that a pinprick is going to do anything other than irritate the monster called Assad is ludicrous. What we need to do if we’re serious about this is go in there and destroy his military. Otherwise, let’s not make the monster angry. The Syrians are not the Libyans, and the Syrians are not what we fought in the Balkans, and they aren’t the Taliban. They’re an organized, very capable, large military that, oh by the way, happens to have the Russians as their ally and the Iranians with all their proxy forces,” Maginnis said. As a result, Magginis asserts Obama can either wage an air campaign that accomplishes few objectives and will end up killing civilians because Assad is placing high-value targets among the people or be forced to put “boots on the ground” to achieve real results.
He believes the lack of support for this mission goes through all the ranks of the armed forces and could be a hindrance to U.S. performance if attacks are ordered. “They’ll vigorously execute whatever the mission is, whatever the plan is. That’s our tradition, and we do obey the civilian leaders. But when you have civilian leaders that ignore sage advice, it becomes pretty evident. The morale will sink, and so the effectiveness of the force will be diminished to a certain degree,” said Maginnis, who believes Congress is the last real hope of preventing this military action. “Congress had better show some courage here and step up and say we’re not going to be co-conspirators here in what is a badly planned operation that could lead us into another ground war in the Middle East and kill more Americans. And for what?” As WND reported, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tweeted Wednesday, “I’ve been hearing a lot from members of our armed forces. The message I consistently hear: Please vote no on military action against Syria.” More
On the eve of a critical Capitol Hill discussion on Syria and two days before his address to the nation, President Obama has offered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a way out of any U.S. bombing campaign. Informed Middle Eastern intelligence officials tell WND the U.S. passed a message to Assad through Russia offering a deal that would ensure against U.S. military action if the Syrian leader agrees to the following terms:
Serious political reforms that will result in free and fair presidential elections.
Assad will not be allowed to run in future presidential elections and agrees to step down from power.
An international committee will supervise control of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.
The international community, with U.S. participation, will help rebuild the Syrian army and security services to guarantee participation from all factions of the population. The model for this reorganization is the so-called Dayton plan that has been overseeing the restructuring of the Palestinian Authority security organizations and militias.
The Middle Eastern security officials told WND that Russia has already objected to the term that bars Assad from running in future presidential elections. The security officials further stated the U.S. believes Assad will likely reject the deal. The officials said Russian, North Korean and Iranian experts continue to prepare Syria’s military and missile arsenal for the possibility of war, including the contingency of firing missiles at Israel, Jordan and Turkey. As WND first reported, Iranian and North Korean experts are directing an operations room for the Syrian army ahead of a possible showdown with Western powers, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials. The Iranians and North Koreans, based inside Syria, are focusing their efforts on ensuring the viability of Syria’s air defense systems while maintaining the embattled country’s vast missile arsenal, the officials said. The officials said Iran has gone so far as to pledge soldiers to Syria if such mercenaries are needed in a confrontation. Russian military experts are also participating in the preparation efforts by advising the Syrian army, but Moscow has not met the expectations of Assad’s regime regarding the extent of their involvement, the officials said. The Middle Eastern security officials further told WND they have information Iran failed to convince the Hamas command in the Gaza Strip to fire rockets into the Jewish state in the event of a Western attack on Syria. The officials believe that if a Western attack against Damascus is surgical and is carried out without the goal of regime change, the Syrians may not retaliate against Israel. WND
US secretary of state John Kerry has given an ultimatum to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad to avoid a military strike by turning over his entire chemical weapons arsenal to the international community within the next week. At a joint press conference with UK foreign secretary William Hague, Kerry said that America was not going to war but would launch an “unbelievably small and limited effort” to punish the Assad regime for the 21 August chemical weapons attack in Ghouta and to deter it from doing it again. ”If you want to send Assad a congratulatory message, you would support non-intervention,” he said although he was sympathetic to fears of the American public who do not want to see troops coming home in body bags. ”But that’s not what we are talking about,” he stressed. “Military effort will be targeted and short-term.” Kerry added that the only thing Assad’s government could do to stop an attack was to turn over all his chemical weapons to the international community within the next week. ”But he is not about to do it and it cannot be done,” Kerry added. He said that the evidence gathered about the chemical attack blaming the Assad regime was “real evidence I could take into a courtroom”. ”I’ve personally tried people who have gone away for long prison sentences or for life for less evidence than we have for this,” he said. ”[Assad offers only] words that are contradicted by facts.” Kerry also quoted the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in stressing that the UK and America were “real and true friends”. The special relationship between the two countries was as relevant today as it has been in the past, he said. International Business Times