America’s Finances in Simpler, More Personal Terms

America’s Finances in Simpler, More Personal Terms

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In our age of blitzkrieg media we are bombarded daily with evidence—reports, columns and studies, facts and statistics, pie graphs, line graphs, bar graphs, charts and tables, and figures with seemingly infinite zeroes—detailing America’s horrifying financial state. If you’re anything like me, some of this makes sense and some of it doesn’t.

A friend and stalwart news-watcher recently e-mailed me the following explanation of America’s financial situation. It was originally published over at Townhall, and it exposes this historic crisis in simpler, more personal terms.

The following is the financial statement of the United States:

* U.S. tax revenue: $2,170,000,000,000* Federal budget: $3,820,000,000,000* New debt: $1,650,000,000,000* National debt: $16,571,000,000,000* Recent budget cuts: $38,500,000,000

Now, what if we remove some zeroes and pretend it’s an annual household budget?

* Annual family income: $21,700* Money the family spent: $38,200* New debt on credit card: $16,500* Outstanding credit card balance: $165,710* Total budget cuts so far: $385

Not sure about you, but if my budget looked like this I’d be deeply alarmed and already in the throes of a thorough reevaluation and overhaul. And even then, it’d probably be too late to save my family from ruin.

Herbert W. Armstrong Delivered Jesus Christ’s Gospel to Hong Kong

Herbert W. Armstrong Delivered Jesus Christ’s Gospel to Hong Kong

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Public lectures precede World Tomorrow broadcast in Hong Kong, while thousands request subscriptions to the Plain Truth.

On the morning of Friday, Jan. 8, 1982, Herbert W. Armstrong was in the showroom of the Steuben crystal factory eagerly seeking the same Pillar of Griffin piece he had previously presented government officials and heads of state. To his disappointment, the piece had been discontinued and he was forced to make alternate selections. However, he was able to reference the factory list of items given to heads of state by other dignitaries. This enabled him to individually select unique pieces for officials he planned to meet in Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong during his next Southeast Asian trip.

After visits to surrounding countries, he wrote for the Feb. 1, 1982, Pastor General’s Report, “Sunday, the 24th, we flew on to Hong Kong, crossing the international dateline. Suddenly it was Monday. It was Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. All businesses and shops were closed. Wednesday evening I spoke about an hour and 20 minutes to about 200 readers of the Plain Truth.”

This message was videotaped by the television crew for The World Tomorrow. As he spoke to the audience about the gospel message which Christ Himself declared would be delivered in the end time, he referenced the Savior’s words from Matthew 24:14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”

“And God has sent me to preach this gospel,” he told the Hong Kong assembly. “The other ministers, the other churches are not preaching that gospel of Jesus Christ! They preach about Christ, but they don’t preach His message. They preach about the messenger, but they don’t preach the messenger’s message” (Behind the Work, 1985).

He referenced Matthew 24:3, which reads, “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world?”

“They asked Christ what would be the end of the world. The end of the world is when this gospel of the Kingdom is preached, and you are seeing it. You’re seeing me here. I’m preaching it,” he concluded.

Mr. Armstrong directed his media-purchasing staff to seek out air time on radio and television in an effort to not only preach the gospel message through those mediums, but also to grow the fledgling Church membership.

An option swiftly opened up in the form of a 10,000-watt independent broadcasting station for him to consider. By the end of that same year, The World Tomorrow broadcast over radio twice a week at 6:30 a.m. and 12 p.m.

In February 1983, Mr. Armstrong returned for another Plain Truth lecture for Hong Kong’s 850 subscribers. Television prospects opened up midway through 1983. “We are currently holding offers from Hong Kong television,” recorded the June 10 edition of the Pastor General’s Report, for “a 30-minute slot following the news on Sunday evening.”

He then approved an advertising campaign in Reader’s Digest, which by the middle of 1984 had brought in 1,707 responses. China had long desired to see Hong Kong return to the dragon’s fold, and Mr. Armstrong’s trips to the region had not gone unnoticed.

In China’s Great Hall at 10 a.m., Nov. 7, 1984, the world’s most populous nation’s leader, Deng Xiaoping, greeted the unofficial ambassador for world peace. After group photographs, the two sat together at the rear of the room and, as was Mr. Armstrong’s custom, Mr. Deng was presented with a piece of handcrafted crystal titled Winter Trees by the famed American artisans at Steuben.

By early 1985 results of the continued media campaign had returned staggering increase in Asian readership of the Plain Truth. “Throughout the year, 30,356 new subscribers were added to the file, bringing our Asian subscription list to 55,651—a 59.9 percent increase over the previous year,” recorded the February 1 Pastor General’s Report. “New subscribers came onto the Asian Plain Truth mailing list mainly from advertisements in Reader’s Digest in Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. In addition, about one fifth of the new subscribers were added as a result of ‘word of mouth.’”

A decade after the death of Mr. Armstrong, the geopolitical landscape had dramatically changed in the region, with the acquiescing of arguably one of the most notable sea gates on Earth.

“Without a struggle, the British gifted this South China Sea prize to Communist rule in 1997,” the Trumpet reported in our special publication He Was Right. “In Hong Kong, China not only inherited one of the world’s richest trade centers, it also took over the $380 million naval base built by the British. ‘Never before has so much, used by so many, gone for so little,’ declared a member of Britain’s Ministry of Defense. ‘With the end of British rule in Hong Kong,’ the Trumpet wrote, ‘we see the final act performed in the closure of an empire—a God-given empire—and the hastening of the fulfillment of the prophesied curses upon a spoiled and ungrateful nation, the British people’ (June 1997).”

The World Port Source reported that in 2010 alone, more than 211,800 vessels arrived at the port, including 30,300 cargo and 2,300 passenger crafts, and 91,000 river cargo and 88,100 passenger ships. The handover of Hong Kong as a sea gate and strategic military location firmly placed China as the dominant power of Southeast Asia and sank Britain into the deep waters of a geopolitical abyss.

Trumpet founder Gerald Flurry has followed Mr. Armstrong’s legacy of humanitarianism and the pursuit of peace according to God’s Word and prophecy. Realizing that God has a plan for the peoples of the Far East that will play out in high profile in the very near future, he has directed the publishing and distribution of the booklet holding the prophetic keys to the future of these divided peoples, along with similar media initiatives throughout the region prophesying again the good news of the coming Kingdom of God (Revelation 10:11; Matthew 24:14).

Request your free copies of Russia and China in Prophecy and The United States and Britain in Prophecy to understand what lies ahead for Hong Kong and the greater Asia region.

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.