Pope Benedict Approves German to Head Troubled Vatican Bank

The Vatican was drawn into a new controversy over its bank on Friday. It has appointed a new president over the secretive institution, a man who is also chairman of a company that makes German warships.

Ernst von Freyberg was appointed by a commission of cardinals. He was given “full consent” by Pope Benedict xvi.

At a briefing at the Vatican, reporters pressed spokesman Federico Lombardi to address Von Freyberg’s chairmanship at Blohm+Voss, a Hamburg-based shipbuilder.

Lombardi defended the selection and said that he did not know if Blohm+Voss made only warships “or if they make regular ships, and whatever anyone puts on those ships does not depend on who builds them.”

The Vatican later issued a statement saying that Von Freyberg chairs a civilian branch of Blohm+Voss that builds yachts and repairs and retrofits cruise ships. The statement also acknowledged that the company is currently part of a consortium that is building four frigates for the German Navy.

The controversy is just the latest revolving around the Vatican bank, which it calls the “Institute of Religious Works.” The bank is the focus of a two-year investigation by Italian authorities who suspect it of money laundering. It has also been criticized for a lack of transparency.

This will likely be one of Pope Benedict’s last major decisions before his resignation at the end of the month, so it is worth examining. It hints at Benedict’s bold conservative influence, which will continue beyond his papacy. Expect Benedict’s successor to make similar decisions that will further integrate the Catholic Church with the German-dominated European Union. For more on this subject, read “Pope Benedict XVI Has Resigned, Now What?

Germany to Send Up to 330 Soldiers to Mali

Germany to Send Up to 330 Soldiers to Mali

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Germany has ramped up its involvement in the Middle East, sending up to 330 troops to assist in the EU Mali mission to prevent the spread of Islam.

Germany will send up to 330 soldiers to Mali, the German cabinet agreed on February 19. Up to 180 of these will go as part of the EU’s mission to train Mali’s army. The other 150 will go to provide logistical support for African and French troops fighting in the area.

In the short term, Germany is planning to send 80 military specialists, according to Deutsche Welle, which will include doctors, engineers and paramedics.

Parliament will vote on the deployment February 22, but all parties except for the Left Party said they will support it, meaning it will pass with a large majority.

Germany is already supporting the French effort in Mali by flying French troops to the country. Germany’s cabinet gave its permission for the German Air Force to conduct air-to-air refueling for French fighter jets, if France requests it.

The EU mission will begin in April when 200 EU military advisers will train four battalions of 640 men each. The mission will last 15 months and use up to 500 soldiers.

“We Europeans have a strong interest in ensuring that no safe havens for terrorist activity emerge in our neighborhood,” said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. “We therefore want to support the Africans so that they are able to assume their responsibility for security in Mali. Supporting the Africans is a security policy imperative and also the best way of sharing the burden with our French partners.”

Europe does indeed have strong interests in the area. Three hundred and thirty soldiers is a significant contribution for Germany, which traditionally shies away from large-scale military involvement. It comes just weeks after Germany began deploying up to 400 soldiers and two patriot missile batteries in Turkey.

America is no longer leading the confrontation with radical Islam. As it draws back, Europe is stepping forward. This is an important trend. The next issue of the Trumpet magazine will have more on this important subject.

Iranian Commander Assassinated: Martyr or Meddler?

Iranian Commander Assassinated: Martyr or Meddler?

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Was the assassinated Iranian commander promoting peace or war?

The assassination of a commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard on February 12 in Syria has sparked new questions on Iran’s involvement in that country. Iranian officials and news sources have named the man as Gen. Hassan Shateri. As a high-ranking member of the Revolutionary Guard, what was he doing in Syria?

General Shateri was murdered in an ambush as he drove along the road from Damascus to Beirut, Lebanon. Exact details surrounding the assassination are hazy at best, and no rebel group has come forward to claim responsibility. Iran has labeled Shateri as a martyr who died at the hands of Israeli-backed terrorists.

The Syrian Observatory of Human rights says the commander was shot by rebels.

Iran claimed General Shateri was heading up construction work in the region. The general was in charge of the Iranian Commission for Reconstruction in Lebanon. The Lebanese paper As-Safir stated that Shateri was in Aleppo to study reconstruction projects.

Last month, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said Iran was sending military assistance to the Syrian president. “They are sending arms, they are sending other kinds of experts, and in fact we know that they are sending Iran Revolutionary Guard members,” said Ford.

Rebels in Syria have accused Iran of meddling in their civil war by sending militia members to assist the weakening Syrian President Bashar Assad. Last year, rebels captured 48 Iranians whom they claimed were Revolutionary Guards. They were released in a prisoner exchange.

Iran has strongly backed President Assad during the civil war. The leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard said it was providing non-military support and would get involved militarily if there was foreign intervention. The presence of high-ranking Iranian generals within Syria shows that the Iranians are stepping up their attempts to bolster the crippled regime of President Assad.

Despite their best efforts, the Iranians are destined to lose their grip on Syria, as they are struggling against Bible prophecy. Psalm 83 indicates that Syria is set to unite with other Arab nations, not with Iran. For more on why Iran will not retain influence in Syria, read “A Mysterious Prophecy” by Gerald Flurry.

Does America Need a King?

Does America Need a King?

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Without the rule of law, all that is left is rule of the dictators.

When a person takes the office of the presidency, does that endow him with special God-like abilities that help him distinguish between good and evil, or right from wrong? Do presidents automatically become infallible upon taking the oath of office?

Obviously not.

Then why is the Department of Justice (doj) trying to give the current president autocratic, kingly powers—powers that require divine, God-given wisdom to execute in a righteous and just manner?

On February 4, nbc revealed a leaked Justice Department white paper justifying what President Obama has already been doing—suspending constitutional protections and executing Americans without formal charges or trial.

Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee says this doj paper “should shake the American people to the core.”

Harvard law professor Noah Feldman calls the policy a repudiation of the Magna Carta, that fundamental law that took power away from the monarch and gave it to the people and their representatives.

doj lawyers (appointed by President Obama)—whose job it is to ensure that the administration obeys the law—assert in their paper that it is lawful to kill American citizens without due process as long as three conditions are met. One: “an informed, high-level official” has determined that the citizen poses an imminent threat of violence against the United States. Two: Capture is infeasible. Three: The killing is conducted in a manner consistent with applicable principles of the laws of war.

According to the white paper, as long as a high-level official thinks you’re a threat, it’s hard to capture you, and he does it relatively “cleanly,” he can kill you. Doesn’t matter if you are in an active war zone or not. Doesn’t matter if you are a member of al Qaeda or not.

It might seem like good policy to strike bad guys before they can act. Many conservatives thought “enhanced interrogation” and Guantanamo were okay during the Bush administration. Now many liberals are okay with killing people like an autocrat—as long as it’s President Obama doing it.

But politics aside, disregarding the Constitution has set a dangerous precedent.

Former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano says the white paper should shock every American. The Justice Department’s “logic is flawed, its premises are bereft of any appreciation for the values of the Declaration of Independence and the supremacy of the Constitution, and its rationale could be used to justify any breaking of any law by any ‘informed, high-level official of the U.S. government,’” he warns (emphasis added).

Napolitano says the “lawful” power to suspend universal constitutional protections guaranteed to all persons—and kill them without any due process whatsoever—should be repugnant to Americans. “This is the power claimed by kings and tyrants,” he writes. “It is the power we have arguably fought countless wars to prevent …. Now … it is here.”

The president and various unnamed “high-level officials” have taken it upon themselves to act as accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, with no legislative or judicial oversight.

For more than a year, the Obama Justice Department fought to hide the secret legal research it used to justify the president’s killing of U.S. citizens overseas using drones. It claimed the complicated research was so sensitive it could not be revealed to the public.

Judge Colleen McMahon didn’t like that explanation at all. But there was nothing she could do to force the administration to explain how its actions weren’t violating the Constitution that gave it its power in the first place.

“I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the executive branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusions secret,” she wrote.

The government not only is hiding its legal “justification” for depriving a U.S. citizen of his constitutional protections—and his life—it is also fighting to stop the legislative and judicial branches from supervising or regulating the strikes.

“The paper’s sweeping claims of executive power are audacious,” University of Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell said. “The paper denies Congress and the federal courts a role in authorizing the killings—or even reviewing them afterwards.”

What does the legislative branch say about the executive branch’s massive power grab? For her part, House Minority Leader Nanci Pelosi says she’s fine with it. She said President Obama doesn’t necessarily need to reveal when American citizens are targeted and killed.

As scary as it is that the president and “informed, high-level officials” are playing God with Predator drones and Hellfire missiles, if you examine the Justice Department white paper in detail, the implications are even more terrifying.

The document’s language is so vague, convoluted and contradictory that it could mean whatever the president’s high-level men want it to mean.

For example, the white paper says an “informed” official must think the target poses an “imminent” threat to American lives or interests before being executed. Not only does the document contain no definition of what qualifies an official as being “informed,” it completely redefines the concept of “imminence.” The government does not have to have information about an imminent attack—or even a specific plot or attack—officials just have to suspect that a person is engaging in an effort to harm Americans. The targets don’t even have to be part of al Qaeda or any other “terrorist” organization that America is officially at war with. They can be people who are associating with known al Qaeda operatives.

When the memo says execution is permitted when capture is infeasible, the document later redefines “infeasible” to mean any situation where there is “undue risk” to U.S. personnel. The document doesn’t define what constitutes “undue risk.” It does say that in such infeasible situations targeted killings (supposedly by drones or air strikes) are acceptable if a foreign country refuses to turn over suspects or grant permission for an on-land operation.

But if we let the doj white paper supersede the Constitution of the United States of America, does it matter if the high-level officials are targeting someone in a foreign country, or could they also kill Americans here at home? Lawmakers asked this question to John Brennan, the president’s nominee for cia director, during his confirmation hearings: Has the government given itself the authority to kill American citizens on American soil without any due process of law? Brennan refused to answer. He equivocated and demurred. Then he admitted that he thinks there are no geographic limits to where Americans can be targeted and killed as part of America’s war on terror.

In a February 14 interview, the president was asked the same question: Can the government override the Constitution and kill Americans on U.S. soil without due process?

Again, no dogmatic yes or no answer. The best the president could manage was that he doesn’t intend to do this because the situation in America is different. It all rides on what the president intends.

Why isn’t the media all over this? Why isn’t every congressman and senator all over this? This is exactly the kind of government overreach that President Obama campaigned on ending. He made shutting down extrajudicial imprisonment of foreign combatants in Guantanamo a major plank of his election campaign. Now he is talking about—no, committing—extrajudicial killing of American citizens. And he might even bring it home to America.

Jennifer Granholm, the former Democrat governor of Michigan, explains, “If this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms ….” But this is President Obama we are talking about—and “we trust the president,” she said.

msnbc’s Chris Matthews admitted he was uncomfortable with the program, but he decided it is justifiable because current cia Director Leon Panetta clearly agonizes over his decisions and thus can be trusted to make good decisions about who to kill. “I think Leon is a conscientious guy,” he said. “He goes to church every day. I think sometimes you have to do things that are not nice.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham thinks the kill program is a good idea too. He said he is planning on introducing a resolution to praise Obama for the assassination program. “Every member of Congress needs to get on board,” Graham said.

Even Fox News backed President Obama’s constitutional overreach. Erick Erickson wrote, “We must trust that the president and his advisers, when they see a gathering of al Qaeda from the watchful eye of a drone, are going to make the right call and use appropriate restraint and appropriate force to keep us safe.”

America is putting a lot of trust in a few “informed, high-level officials.”

America has turned down a dangerous road. It is letting presidents and “high-level officials” administer powers of life and death. It is admitting that there is basically one thing that will keep the government from abusing this lethal power: its trust in the intentions of the president and his men. Worst of all, America is not only allowing its administration to commit these actions, it is showing that it does not care if it trashes the Constitution to do so.

Six thousand years of human history show that men cannot be trusted. President Obama is not the first leader to ask for trust in exchange for assurances. Once men gain that kind of power, it never ends well.

As John Adams warned in 1792, “There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public.”

The Constitution is designed to prevent any president from ever becoming a tyrant. It is designed to protect Americans’ freedom from the intentions of a high-level man. The framers of the Constitution had a deep understanding of human nature. They knew it had to be restrained by a supreme law of the land. They had seen what happened when an authoritarian abused his subjects.

Without that supreme law, eventually all that is left is every man doing what is right in his own eyes.

Following World War ii, the Allies tracked down fleeing Nazis and brought them to justice. Nazis were taken to court, charged with their crimes, and only then were some of them executed. These Nazis had already committed criminal acts against the Allies, and they were not even citizens of the Allied nations.

The whole reason the Allies went through this extended process was to protect the rule of law. Unfortunately, America’s supreme law—the Constitution—is being pushed aside. Ostensibly, this is to make us safer. Ironically, without law, the only two options are anarchy and tyranny.

Abraham Lincoln’s Lesson for David Cameron and Barack Obama

Abraham Lincoln’s Lesson for David Cameron and Barack Obama

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Spiritual words of wisdom for today’s faithless leaders

The recent State of the Union address by the U.S. president was rapidly followed on a major network by the promotion of the new Stephen Spielberg movie, Lincoln. Despite efforts to parallel himself with this great leader of the past, the content of Barack Obama’s address could not be further from any association with this famed and revered president.

Having had the opportunity to live in both the United Kingdom and the United States, I cannot help but recognize the unprecedented volume of national blessings showered upon these two nations, and their consequent geopolitical impact of the recent past.

As such, the squandering of that wealth by both nations begs questions.

In recent speeches from Prime Minister David Cameron regarding Britain’s future in Europe and the recent State of the Union address by President Obama, there is a glaring abyss between the spirit in reference to the past and the policy of the present.

How did these two nations come to receive all the great richness of the earth? Was it through our British and American genius, wisdom, vision, talents or superior authority?

Abraham Lincoln gives us the answer: “We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the Earth, as regards fertility of soil, extent of territory, and salubrity of climate. … We … find ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or the establishment of them.”

In his proclamation of April 30, 1863, calling for a day of national fasting and prayer, President Lincoln said:

It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God … and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. … We have been the recipients of the choicest blessings of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God! We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

“The fate of the nation hung in the balance when he issued that proclamation,” wrote Herbert W. Armstrong in his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy. “But today the threat to our fate is a thousand times more seriously hanging in the balance.” He continued:

And today we do not have a president or a prime minister with the vision, understanding and courage to bring our nations to their knees! Abraham Lincoln knew these great material blessings had not been earned, but had been given to our people by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel.And we should face the facts today and know that we were given all this vast unprecedented material wealth because God promised it, unconditionally, to Abraham. And He promised it to Abraham because Abraham obeyed God, kept God’s laws and commandments.The birthright blessing was denied our forefathers after Moses’s day because they refused to live by God’s laws. And today God warns us, through many prophecies in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Micah, and many others, that unless we of this generation repent of our sins, and turn to Him with fasting, and with weeping, and earnest prayer, He will destroy our cities, all our fortresses, with the foreign sword; that He will punish us at the hand of a cruel one; that we shall be invaded, defeated, reduced to slaves. God help us to heed that warning!

Speeches by prime ministers and presidents are but hot air when their content is spiritually bankrupt and outside of the sacred and canonized Word of God, who established and blessed these once great powers.

Abraham Lincoln stated during the Civil War, “Unless the great God who assisted [President Washington] shall be with me and aid me, I must fail. But if the same omniscient mind and almighty arm that directed and protected him shall guide and support me, I shall not fail. … Let us pray that the God of our fathers may not forsake us now.”

“The Civil War almost destroyed America. Only the faith of Lincoln and the American people got us through that tragedy,” wrote editor in chief Gerald Flurry in his booklet Character in Crisis. “Today, Americans have departed from the ideals of our forefathers. We reason that religion and morality are nice, but certainly not necessary for the overall well-being of the nation. We have been led to falsely assume that private morality and public duty are separate issues. George Washington would have been appalled by such reasoning. And he was the father of our nation. Abraham Lincoln would have been appalled.”

Abraham Lincoln’s lesson for Great Britain and the United States is clear if only they had ears to hear. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:7-10).

These are the spiritual words of wisdom for today’s faithless leaders. In priority over opinion polls, advisers, cabinet and ministers, God must be the adviser, the counselor who rules in the kingdom of men (Daniel 5:21; Isaiah 9:6-7).

If Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama would take the time to watch the award-winning Key of David program “Thanksgiving Lesson From Abraham Lincoln,” they would be reminded of the true greatness of a leader who relied upon God for prosperity and preservation of his nation.

Bahrain’s Arab Spring

Bahrain’s Arab Spring

MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images

For Bahrain, the Arab Spring continues to simmer.

Another day of protests began in Bahrain on February 14, as the second anniversary of unrest within the small Middle Eastern nation began. The day of protesting, demonstrations and street fighting led to the death of a 16-year-old protester and numerous arrests as police attempted to quell the uprising. Rioting has been a thorn in the side of Bahrain’s Sunni government since the early days of the Arab Spring.

The demonstrators are backed by numerous opposition factions, the largest of which is Al-Wefaq. They have been protesting in an attempt to pressure the ruling monarchy into giving up some of its political power. Bahrain is a Sunni-ruled kingdom. The king holds the power to elect the upper chamber of parliament. Despite Al-Wefaq holding the majority of seats, it is hamstrung by the overruling power of the monarchy. Al-Wefaq could hold every seat, but the king always has final say.

The king has made some concessions in an attempt to cool down the increasingly volatile opposition. Talks between the monarchy and opposition factions began on February 10, but so far, there has been little headway. The government is also accusing the opposition of trying to stall the talks in an attempt to prolong the violent street protests.

There are two mindsets among opposition parties. Some want to sit down and negotiate at the table with the monarchy and gain more power through compromise. Then there are the more radical opposition factions that are calling for more protests against the government. They do not believe the current administration will give up much power. The radical opposition is hoping for a revolution akin to those in Egypt and Libya.

There are a number of reasons why the opposition could yet be successful. Bahrain is ruled by the Sunnis. It receives military aid from Saudi Arabia, which is directly to its west. However, across the waters of the Persian Gulf lies Iran. The Iranians would like nothing more than to see the Sunni government overthrown, and a more pro-Iranian Shiite government take control.

The attempts of the Shiite opposition forces to gain more power have been helped by the fact that the majority of the population in Bahrain is Shiite. This is one of the reasons that the protests have lasted in the face of the strong arm of the government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis don’t want to see Bahrain fall to Iranian influence. The Persian Gulf is a natural barrier between the two Middle Eastern powers. The miniscule nation of Bahrain, however, is right on Saudi Arabia’s doorstep. Should the Shiites gain power in Bahrain, it could stir up the Shiites in Saudi Arabia, primarily the regions close to Bahrain that have a strong Shiite presence. Plus, these Saudi Shiite areas are located on top of Saudi Arabia’s largest oil fields. Oil is Saudi Arabia’s most powerful economic and geopolitical tool. Right now, the major “moderate” Arab nation in the Middle East is Saudi Arabia. It is a key player in keeping a balance of power among Arab nations in the region.

If its Shiites grow restless, Saudi Arabia won’t have as much ability to counteract Iran. The Saudis will be too busy putting out fires within their own nation.

The Saudis are not the only ones who stand to be affected by changes in Bahrain. The United States has its 5th Fleet stationed in Bahrain. From there, the U.S. has a port to launch operations in the Persian Gulf. If the Shiites gain control of the nation, they won’t stand the presence of the Americans for long. Despite this possible outcome, America has been quiet on the protests in Bahrain. It doesn’t appear to realize the threat that is being posed to its influence in the region.

If America is not careful, it will allow the stranglehold on the Persian Gulf to be tightened by Iran and its proxies. Bahrain may be small, but it is perfectly placed to make large-scale changes to the balance of power in the Middle East. If it allies with Iran, watch for Iranian dominance to be bolstered in the Gulf region. Read The King of the South to see what a powerful Iran means for the Middle East and the world.