Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Performed for Herbert W. Armstrong

Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Performed for Herbert W. Armstrong

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Sellout audience honored them with standing ovation, and in response received three encores.

“What does a concert series, out to make a name for itself, offer the public after bringing the reigning Italian tenor (Luciano Pavarotti) to its stage? Reigning soprano of course, and her redoubtable musician husband,” wrote Donna Perlmutter of the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.

She concluded, “In the case of Sunday night it was Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge who honored Pasadena’s new Ambassador Auditorium in a recital of lightweight fare and heavy-weight talent.”

On the evening of Oct. 5, 1975, the Australian duo, who played together as far back as their student days in their native Australia, delivered one of their most acclaimed performances.

“The program, featuring the works of Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, Massenet, Gounod, Tosti and others, was given a standing ovation from the capacity crowd (50 people were turned away at the door). Miss Sutherland sang three encores” (Worldwide News, Oct. 13, 1975).

Richard Stiles of the Pasadena Star News noted, “Both artists expressed admiration for the beauty of Ambassador’s new hall and the piano. The acoustics flattered Miss Sutherland ….”

After the performance, the duo enjoyed a special reception, during which they met with Mr. Armstrong, unofficial ambassador for world peace, founder of Ambassador College and president of the Ambassador Foundation, which sponsored the annual concert series hosted at the Pasadena auditorium.

Sutherland’s appearance here was preceded by a blossoming musical career that began in Australia as far back as 1947, moving her to England with performances at the Royal Opera House and into a recording career during the 1950s, which saw her claim a Grammy award at the start of the 1960s for best classical performance during a foray onto the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

In 1973, two years before this performance, she sang at the historic opening of the famed Sydney Opera House, which has since been renamed in her honor. Four years after her recital at ambassador, she was appointed dame by Queen Elizabeth on her New Year’s Honors list.

Joan Sutherland had met Richard Bonynge back in the 1950s, and went on to not only marry but collaborate with him in one of the most notable classical cooperative relationships in modern history. Throughout the decades of the 1980s they continued to wow crowds across the globe. Dame Joan’s final performance brought her full circle from her first, both of which occurred in Sydney. It came in 1990 at its venerable opera house, conducted by her husband and accompanied by none other than her friend and famed tenor who had preceded her at Ambassador Auditorium, Luciano Pavarotti.

Twenty years later, amid the seclusion and splendor of her home in Switzerland, Dame Joan breathed her last on Oct. 11, 2010. The voice of the soprano, dubbed by the Italian music world as La Stupenda (the stupendous one), would sing no more. Now in his 83rd year, her husband continues his musical pursuits as a conductor and pianist.

Perhaps in his quieter moments at home or abroad, Mr. Bonynge may recall that special Sunday evening of Oct. 5, 1975, performing alongside his wife at Ambassador Auditorium, after which he was honored to meet the internationally recognized ambassador for world peace.

Today, as the successor to Ambassador, located north of Oklahoma City in Edmond, Armstrong Auditorium is the country’s newest hall for performing arts.

Should Mr. Bonynge visit, he will find performing arts program founder and president of its sponsoring foundation, Gerald Flurry, has followed in Mr. Armstrong’s footsteps, having taken the time to review the exterior, interior and acoustical blueprints of Ambassador Auditorium to use as a model for construction of its $25 million successor.

Increasingly, performers from around the globe are gracing its stage and enjoying the peaceful environs and one-of-a-kind hospitality. This polished jewel, lifting the human spirit, is adorned with Swarovski-trimmed crystal chandeliers, Baccarat crystal candelabra, American cherry wood veneers, Spanish marble and Azerbaijani onyx. The hall’s superb internal acoustics and the soaring Swans in Flight sculpture, designed by Sir David Wynn, whose sculptured Egrets fronted Ambassador Auditorium, combine to set Armstrong Auditorium apart in a class all of its own.

Whether concert-goer, cultural buff, or admirer of humanitarianism, we encourage you to visit this performing arts jewel at the heart of the United States.

Web Exclusive: Our Awesome Universe Potential—Part 3

Germany Plans to Develop Drone Warfare

Germany Plans to Develop Drone Warfare

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Germany may begin using armed drones and encourage European defense companies to manufacture their own unmanned aerial vehicles (uavs), according to recent media reports.

The government has concluded that it must use armed drones “in order to provide protection against sudden and serious changes in the situation,” reported Spiegel Online January 25, citing an official government response to questions from Germany’s Left Party.

The German military has been pushing for their use. Lieut.-Gen. Karl Müllner said: “I can’t explain to the soldiers on the ground why, for political reasons, they have to wait for a manned plane to provide air support, when a drone could have done the same thing.”

Germany is reportedly interested in developing a European drone. Currently, it has to buy them from Israel or America.

“There is a desire to explore development of a European drone,” said State Secretary for the Minister of Defense Christian Schmidt. “A European drone solution has to have more capability than current U.S. systems to make sense,” he added. Developing its own drone would also make Europe much more independent of American power. And it could do more to guard against some of the weaknesses and vulnerability to hacking in U.S. drones.

Bloomberg reported that German officials planned to bring up the subject at a Franco-German meeting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty on January 22. It said the two nations could try to help European Aeronautic, Defense & Space Co. (eads) develop a uav. eads cancelled its drone development last year when it received no government funding.

Drones look increasingly like the future of aerial warfare. Cheaper and more expendable than a manned aircraft, they could make today’s fighter jets obsolete. Armed drones are vital to any aspiring military power.

Watch for Germany to continue to develop its own military capabilities, independent of American power.

Australian House Prices: The Slow Bleed

Australian House Prices: The Slow Bleed

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House prices are falling, but will the slow bleed become a hemorrhage?

It should not surprise people that Australian house prices dropped last year. What is surprising is how little they fell.

The latest numbers from RP Data show that house prices across Australia’s capital cities fell 0.4 percent in 2012. Melbourne houses lost the most value, with prices down 2.9 percent. Brisbane and Adelaide both lost 0.8 percent. Hobart lost 0.1 percent. Sydney and Perth defied the trend, growing 1.5 and 0.8 percent respectively.

In general, it’s a slow bleed. Nationwide house prices peaked in Australia in 2010 and have slowly shed value since.

The good old days of buying a home and simply watching its price increase year after year are over, says RP Data senior research analyst Cameron Kusher: “We’ve never seen these situations before, and you’d really have to go back to the early 1990s to see similar housing market conditions to what we’ve seen over the last few years, when we had our last recession.”

The big question now is whether or not the slow drip will turn into a gusher.

This is a hugely important question for Australians. Houses are no longer just places to live. For many Australians, it is the single most important investment they have. House prices are the biggest factor influencing household wealth. And for the past two years, home ownership has generally caused families to lose money.

If house prices don’t start rising again, it could destroy the wealth of a whole generation.

And if prices don’t start rising—it will also turn the housing market into something more like a car sales lot. Everyone knows that as soon as you drive off in a new car, it depreciates. After four years, the typical car has lost more than half its value. What happens if houses started acting the same way? Houses age—just like vehicles. Houses break down and need repairs—just like vehicles. Houses get outdated and need updating—just like vehicles.

But will houses continue to deteriorate in value—just like vehicles?

The median-priced house in Australia is $408,000. At approximately 6.5 times household disposable incomes, this is a shockingly high value. Let’s say a typical buyer puts 10 percent down and has a mortgage of $367,000. Now what happens if his house depreciates by 0.4 percent, the same rate house prices fell last year? His investment loses $1,600. That might not sound like a lot, but over the years, it adds up quickly. What happens if house prices fall by a whopping 3 percent, like they did in 2011? All of a sudden, that home owner has lost $11,010.

It won’t take too many years before there are a lot of people trying to get out from underneath what could quickly become debt prisons.

The latest housing market data showed another weak month in December. The Australian Industry Group and the Housing Industry Association reported that housing market activity fell for the 31st month in a row.

Meanwhile, Australia’s builders are doing everything they can to hide falling new house prices and keep people buying.

Property Observer reports that builders and developers are now offering a range of financial incentives and discounts to get people in houses—but in a way so as to not affect comps and thus existing house prices. New home buyers can get backdoor discounts in the tens of thousands of dollars—discounts that are not disclosed in the final sale price.

It is not enough that the builders are giving away new cars, offering large cash-backs, free landscaping, or paying a buyer’s energy bills for three years.

Now developers are offering perks like: $10,000 visa gift cards, land rebates of up to $30,000, and a full year’s worth of paid mortgage payments.

These incentives are a sign that Australians have reached max house price carrying capacity—and that builders are getting desperate.

Like in the United States, surging home prices were fueled by debt. Since 1995, total mortgage loans have risen from A$154 billion to A$1.2 trillion—almost an eightfold increase. Total household debt rose from 68 percent of disposable income to a peak of 153 percent today. At the same time, to afford ever escalating house prices, most families have adopted the two-income strategy. There is no third income available to push family borrowing capacity—and thus house prices—higher. To the contrary, if the economy slows down and unemployment rises, Australians will see just how leveraged house prices are to the economy. All it will take is for one of the debt-inundated income earners to lose his or her job, and the for-sale sign will pop up.

The housing market in Australia is cut. All that remains to be seen is how bad the cut is and whether the slow bleed will turn into a hemorrhage.

Morsi Declares State of Emergency in Egypt

Deadly clashes between protesters and riot police continue to plague Egypt this week. At least 56 people have died. After several days of violence, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency on Sunday. Three cities along the Suez Canal are now under a 30-day curfew: Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez. The state of emergency allows police to investigate, arrest and detain people without a trial.

Protesters began rioting in Port Said on Friday after the government sentenced 21 people to death. The defendants were convicted in connection with a soccer riot last February. Seventy-four soccer fans were killed in that incident. However, protesters say that the government is responsible for the deaths, not the 21 people who have been sentenced to die.

Morsi deployed the military in Suez and Port Said on Saturday. He vowed in a televised address on Sunday night that he would not hesitate to take even more action to stem the latest eruption of violence. At the same time, Morsi sought to reassure Egyptians that he would not plunge the country back into authoritarianism.

Turmoil continues to afflict Egypt nearly seven months after Morsi took office. His actions as president reveal that he is not afraid to wield his new power. Watch for President Morsi to continue to strengthen his grip on Egypt. For more information on Egypt’s future, read our article “Egypt: Morsi Sheds His Moderate Cloak.”

Cash-Strapped Zimbabwe Down to $217

Cash-Strapped Zimbabwe Down to $217

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Zimbabwe is down to its last $217. After paying civil servant salaries last week, the cash-strapped government has barely enough to buy a used iPad.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti told reporters on Tuesday that the government’s finances were in a “paralysis state” and that the state was failing to meet its targets. “Last week when we paid civil servants, there was $217 [left] in government coffers,” he said.

The Zimbabwean economy took a nose-dive in 2000 when President Robert Mugabe embarked on his controversial “land grab” in which thousands of white-owned farms were seized by the government and its black supporters. The predominantly agriculture-based economy of the nation then collapsed, exacerbated by eroded investor confidence, and international sanctions. Almost a decade of relentless money-printing and almost unfathomable hyperinflation ensued until the currency collapsed and rival political parties were compelled to coalesce into a power-sharing government in 2009.

With Zimbabwe in such a financial mess again, the government has no choice but to approach “the international community,” said Tendai Biti.

For Zimbabwe, “international community” means China.

In spite of its financial woes, Zimbabwe is rich in mineral resources such as diamonds, platinum and other rare metals—just the commodities that resource-hungry China is happy to snap up. Watch for China’s continued exploitation of Africa’s resources in exchange for financial and political support.

Bible prophecy indicates a global resource war is coming among the world’s major powers. For more detail, read our article “The Battleground” and our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy.