Syria: The Inevitability of Collapse

Syria: The Inevitability of Collapse

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Slowly but surely, Syrian rebels are increasingly gaining international support. It’s only a matter of time before the Assad regime collapses.

The United States has for the first time offered direct aid to Syrian rebels, instead of merely aiding them through intermediaries. This is yet another significant milestone as President Bashar Assad’s regime hurtles toward collapse.

The offer was announced on February 28 by incoming Secretary of State John Kerry at a Friends of Syria meeting in Rome. America has pledged to directly provide $60 million in “non-lethal” aid to Syria’s main political opposition group, the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

While the Syrian opposition was disappointed by not receiving weapons, this is a huge contribution that, as Kerry said, could “change Assad’s calculation” about his ability to stay in power. The aid package is intended to help with political unification efforts and improve education, sanitation, security and essential public services to areas of Syria that have already been lost by Assad’s regime.

President Assad even conceded that there was nothing “non-lethal” about the aid being supplied to the rebels. In an interview with London’s Sunday Times published March 3, he said the “intelligence, communication and financial assistance being provided is very lethal.”

Previous indirect support that the U.S. has provided to the Syrian opposition includes training rebels in a covert cia operation and supplying communications equipment. Some of this communications infrastructure may have been worrisome enough for Assad to set off November’s two-day telecommunications blackout in Syria.

The U.S. is reluctant to send armaments to Syrian rebels because it fears being embroiled in another Middle East conflict, especially in the event that those arms slip into the wrong hands. However, America is prepared to provide non-lethal assistance. Kerry said during the meeting, “We’re doing this, but other countries are doing other things.”

Saudi Arabia has been stepping up its supply of weapons to the rebels, and Britain plans to send military transport vehicles, body amour and night-vision equipment.

Once upon a time—March 2011—Syrian rebels were a bunch of violent demonstrators. In February 2012, the group Friends of Syria was formed in solidarity with the rebels. And in November 2012, Britain, France and the six nations comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council formally recognized the Syrian rebels. The United States legitimized the rebels the following month. Today—nearly 24 months, 70,000 deaths and 1 million refugees after Syria’s uprising began—the U.S. is sending direct aid, just shy of weaponry, to the rebels.

“Syria is mission creep waiting to happen,” warned University of Oklahoma Syria expert Prof. Joshua Landis. “There’s no way to avoid it, given the scale of the problem emerging on the ground in Syria as the state comes apart. In fact, the most convincing argument for more direct intervention has been that as perilous as intervention appears to be today, we will only face an even more dangerous situation if we don’t get involved.”

Writing for cnn, world affairs columnist Frida Ghitis, observed the following:

The possible outcomes in Syria include the emergence of a failed state, stirring unrest throughout the region. If Assad wins, Syria will become an even more repressive country.Assad’s survival would fortify Iran and Hezbollah and other anti-Western forces. If the extremists inside the opposition win, Syria could see factional fighting for many years, followed by anti-democratic, anti-Western policies.The only good outcome is victory for the opposition’s moderate forces.

The collapse of Bashar Assad’s regime is inevitable. It’s only a matter of time. The latest U.S. policy shift to send direct aid to Syria is yet another game changer that will ultimately help topple Assad’s government.

Based on Bible prophecy, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has declared for over a decade that Syria would switch allegiance from Iran to an alliance of “moderate” Arab states and Germany. From current headlines, it is clear that this switch will only occur through the collapse of Assad’s regime.

For more understanding, read Gerald Flurry’s article “How the Syrian Crisis Will End.”

British Euroskeptics Win Massive Support

British Euroskeptics Win Massive Support

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The United Kingdom Independence Party (ukip) rocked Britain’s political establishment by winning nearly one third of the votes in a by-election in Eastleigh held February 28.

ukip came just a few percentage points away from putting its first-ever politician in Britain’s Parliament. At the general election in 2010, it received 3.6 percent of the vote in the district. This time, in a vote to replace a cabinet minister on his way to jail, it won 27.8 percent. The Liberal Democrats held the seat with 32.06 percent. The Conservative Party was beaten into the third place.

With a little bit more organization, it could have won. The Liberal Democrats only succeeded due to their lead in postal votes. When it came to votes cast on the day, ukip were in front.

This is just the latest in a surge of support for the party. It has come second in these types of elections four times in under two years.

Why the surge in popularity? The European Union. ukip exists to get Britain out of the EU. The British public is rallying around the cause.

Polls indicate that a large proportion, or even most, in Britain have wanted to leave the EU for years. But it wasn’t one of the public’s top concerns. That is changing—the EU is becoming the big issue of the day. Even the famously liberal bbc sees it. ukip’s take on Europe, it reports, “has arguably never been more prominent or more fashionable.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed its success as a protest vote, saying that when it came to the general election, people would return to the Conservatives. He may be right. ukip’s surge split the right-wing vote and allowed the most pro-European party to win. That’s not a big deal at a by-election, but when it comes to choosing a government, people may vote more carefully.

That doesn’t change the fact that those protesting the government chose a party that is against Europe and stands for old-fashioned conservative values (or rather, tries to be both an old-fashioned conservative party and a libertarian party). ukip also targeted many voters that have not voted in any recent elections. Many aren’t happy with the current government, and they’re not happy with the European Union. Mr. Cameron promised an in-out referendum by 2017. But that still isn’t enough for a huge proportion of the country.

ukip’s leader, Nigel Farage, predicts the true strength of his party will be seen in June next year, with the European Parliamentary elections. “If Eastleigh caused a tremor, then the Euro elections give us the opportunity to set off an earthquake,” he said. “The election will be held on the same day as local elections, which creates an opportunity to win council seats in real numbers.”

As well as demonstrating the mass disappointment with the EU, ukip’s victory could push the Conservative Party into a more firmly Euroskeptic position. Even before Eastleigh, many in the party feared that a failure to win over ukip supporters would mean a loss at the next election.

The election may have been a local affair. But it demonstrates a once-in-a-generation type of change in British attitudes. Being anti-EU used to be reserved for the pub bore. Now it’s mainstream. In Eastleigh we’re seeing a fundamental change in how the British public wants to relate to Europe. Britain is well on its way toward the exit, as the Trumpet has been forecasting for years.

Why Does the Vatican Insist on Priestly Celibacy?

Why Does the Vatican Insist on Priestly Celibacy?

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The Vatican’s rejection of biblical instruction about celibacy and priestly marriage raises a fundamental question about the Roman Catholic Church.

As horrid sex scandals envelop the Roman Catholic Church, a debate has arisen about the practice of clerical celibacy and the right of Catholic priests to marry and raise a family.

Some prominent “conservative” Catholics are demanding the Vatican rethink its position on celibacy and start giving priests the choice to marry. Britain’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien, on the heels of his retirement amid allegations of sexual impropriety, recently told the bbc, “I’d be very happy if [priests] had the opportunity of considering whether they should be married. Many priests have found it very difficult to cope with celibacy … and felt the need of a companion, of a woman, to whom they could get married and raise a family.”

Telegraph columnist and resident Catholic Damian Thompson delivered his argument a little more candidly: “To put it bluntly, the new pope must confront the suffocating hypocrisy of the Vatican and Bishops’ Conferences on this subject,” speaking of celibacy and priestly marriage.

Thompson specifically noted the hypocrisy of Catholic teaching in regards to homosexuality. “I’ve never heard a bishop acknowledge what is obvious to so many of us: that in certain large cities in the Western world, a majority of Catholic priests are gay, albeit celibate,” he wrote. “If the Vatican were to enforce its current ruling that homosexuals per se are unsuitable for the priesthood, then it would have innumerable empty urban churches on its hands.”

Thompson also alluded to the practice of celibacy as a chief cause of much of the sordid behavior of Catholic priests. The “juxtaposition” of the allegations of sexual abuse against Cardinal O’Brien “with his claim that universal celibacy is an unrealistic ideal illustrates the sexual tension that is pulling apart the Catholic priesthood,” he wrote.

Let’s consider the biblical view of celibacy and the right of priests to marry. From the opening chapters of Genesis to the concluding chapters of Revelation, it is clear and consistent: God created and endorses marriage, for all humans. In Genesis 2:18 we read, “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. Could you imagine God creating Eve, undoubtedly a stunning female specimen, then asking Adam to abstain from his natural inclination, an inclination God Himself created? God created Eve, and He created marriage between Adam and Eve.

Carry on through the Old Testament, noting great figures like Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David. God worked powerfully in the lives of these great men, all of whom were married.

The New Testament also overflows with examples of God endorsing marriage and family. Most notably, the Apostle Peter—leader of the first-century Church and namesake of the Petrine doctrine, the fundamental Catholic doctrine establishing papal primacy—was married. Read it in Matthew 8:14: “And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his [Peter’s] wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.”

In 1 Corinthians 9:5, the Apostle Paul in a short sermon on the life and work of an apostle asks, “Have we not power to eat and to drink? Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?”

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul endorses marriage—specifically, sex within marriage, as a means of averting sexual wrongdoing. “To avoid fornication,” he writes, “let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.” Read the chapter, and you’ll see Paul vigorously promoting sex within marriage. If the Vatican followed the instruction of their beloved “St. Paul” and allowed priests to marry, countless innocent children and adults could have been protected from sexual abuse at the hands of “celibate” priests.

Study also 1 Timothy 3. Here God outlines the qualities to search for in a potential priest, or minister. Notice it does not say, ordain a man prepared to live a celibate life. Verse 2 says, “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife ….” In most cases, God expects a minister in His service to be married. A loyal, supportive wife is an asset to the man’s ministry.

Some Christians will invoke the example of Christ and argue that we are to follow His example of celibacy and apparent abstention from marriage. First, it might come as a surprise, but Jesus Christ was in fact married. Not to Mary Magdalene, as some have supposed. Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament, and He was in a marriage covenant with ancient Israel (Exodus 19). Jesus couldn’t marry while on earth because he was still in that marriage covenant with ancient Israel, which ended when he died. Additionally, Jesus came with a specific purpose, a towering responsibility. He came to qualify to replace Satan (who presides over this Earth today), and to die in order to pay the price for human sin, and thereby enable humans upon repentance and belief to be reconciled to God (Romans 6:23; 2 Corinthians 5:18).

No other human has ever been given a responsibility as exceptional as that given to Jesus Christ. Period.

Therefore, Jesus’s celibacy in no way necessitates celibacy today, even by the highest-ranked ministers.

Moreover, if you study the Scriptures it’s clear that Jesus actually intends to marry. Read the last half of Ephesians 5. Here Paul, in another frank endorsement of marriage, explains the roles of the husband and wife. Verse 32 reads, “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.”Jesus Christ at His Second Coming will be married!

This marriage, between Jesus and the bride His Father calls and prepares for Him, is the marriage referred to in Revelation 19:7: “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”

You see, there’s no murkiness or inconsistency with God on the question of celibacy and priestly marriage. God is clear on this subject from one end of the Bible to the other. God created marriage, He endorses marriage and family for human beings, including ministers—and He even desires that His own Son marry!

Dow Jones Smashes Record: Now What?

Dow Jones Smashes Record: Now What?

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Is this the end of the ‘Lost Decade,’ or a bubble to end all bubbles?

The Dow Jones set a new record on Tuesday. Market commentators say this new record high is a big sign the economy is on the mend.

But is it possible that it signals something much more ominous?

Giddy investors shrugged off concerns over the economy sending the Dow Jones surging 100 points above both its intraday and closing records set in October 2007. The S&P 500 jumped within 2 percent of its record high. Including the Nasdaq, all three indexes are up between 6 to 9 percent on the year.

“With the Dow getting to all-time highs, is this signaling the end of the lost decade?” asked Jim Paulsen, chief market strategist at Wells Capital Management in Minneapolis. “[Y]ou wonder in some sense if that is the significance to this.”

Is America really on the verge of an economic boom?

Consider the bastion of America consumerism: Walmart. No boom here. Bloomberg reported leaked e-mails from Walmart executive officers indicating the worst start to sales in seven years!

“In case you haven’t seen a sales report these days, February [month to date] sales are a total disaster,” wrote Jerry Murray, Walmart’s vice president of finance and logistics, in a February 12 e-mail. “The worst start to a month I have seen in my seven years with the company.”

The same month, Cameron Geiger, senior vice president of Walmart U.S. replenishment, wrote in a separate e-mail: “Have you ever had one of those weeks where your best-prepared plans weren’t good enough to accomplish everything you set out to do? … Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?”

Both executives went on to blame the 2 percent increase in social security payroll taxes for the company’s plummeting sales.

But here is the point: If Walmart shoppers are broke—then we are all in trouble.

Walmart shoppers are the “barometer of the U.S. consumer,” says analyst Brian Sozzi. If the world’s largest retailer is struggling, other businesses definitely are.

“There’s no reason to be optimistic,” said Sozzi.

Walmart is a good gauge of the economy simply because it makes up such a huge proportion of America’s economic output. More than $1 out of every $45 spent in the country is spent at Walmart—that is more than 2 percent of America’s total gross domestic product. And because of its scale and copious amounts of data, company executives actually have better data about the economy than many economic forecasters.

So if Walmart executives are worried, people should pay attention.

And Walmart isn’t an outlier either. A string of major retailers have announced that sales are so bad it isn’t a question of whether they will close stores, but when and how many.

Best Buy, Sears, Kmart, JC Penny, Office Depot, Barnes and Noble, Gamestop, OfficeMax and Radio Shack have all announced they will close more than 100 stores each. According to analyst David Strasser, Family Dollar, Target and several grocery stores are also in trouble. Reuters reports that retailers had their worst Christmas since 2008. Where is the boom?

David Gallagher, ceo of Town Sports International, which operates fitness facilities, seems worried too. “As we moved into January, membership trends were tracking to expectations in the first half of the month, but fell off track and did not meet our expectations in the second half of the month. We believe the driver of this was the rapid decline in consumer sentiment that has been reported and is connected to the reduction in net pay consumers earn given the changes in tax rates that went into effect in January.”

These slumping sales are reflected in other data as well. Freight volumes have slumped for four consecutive months. In January they contracted for the first time since the great recession of 2007 to 2009. If consumers are not buying, what is the point in shipping goods?

Then there was the recent Interest.com survey that found that new cars are increasingly out of reach for Americans. Median-income families in all but one major American city cannot afford the average price of a new car.

So why does everyone seem to be piling in to the stock market if retailers are struggling and everyday consumers are more stretched than ever?

Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago’s bmo Private Bank, which manages $66 billion, explains. Regarding the soaring stock market, he said, “It really does represent an achievement …. It’s a testament to what the Fed has done and what investors have done to move beyond the financial crisis.”

Note specifically his reference to actions by the Federal Reserve.

Since 2008, the Federal Reserve has embarked upon the greatest money-creating scheme in the history of the world. It has bailed out huge financial institutions. It is allowing big banks to borrow money at near zero percent interest rates. And it is printing money to cover government spending.

All told, the Federal Reserve has created almost $3 trillion out of thin air. Through the multiplier effect, it created much more.

At first, much of the money went to prop up the financial system—to keep it from imploding. Now the Federal Reserve is attempting to prevent the economy from tanking and unemployment from soaring.

But all is not going as planned.

Debt-bloated America is already saturated with debt. As Pimco’s Bill Gross recently highlighted, extra debt is no longer boosting the economy—it is consuming it like a supernova.

All the extra money being created by the Federal Reserve isn’t being put to productive use, but is instead fueling speculation and the markets. Just like the previous two times the Federal Reserve tried to avoid the consequences of a recession (dot-com and housing bubbles), low interest rates and easy money are inflating a massive bubble.

And it is not just the stock market. Over the past five years, the bond market and various commodities have soared in value too—despite deteriorating economic fundamentals on both the national and global scale.

The booming stock market—instead of heralding a new age of prosperity—may actually be signaling that the real economy is on life support, and that dangerous new wealth-destroying bubbles are forming.

Russia Eases Stance on Syria?

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia should listen to some of the French arguments about Syria. This may be a sign of a radical shift in Russian relations with Syria.

Putin made the comment after talks in Moscow with French President Francois Hollande, whom Putin said made some new proposals on dealing with the nearly two-year-old conflict in the Arab state.

His remarks were unusually conciliatory for a man who has spent most of the past two years criticizing the West’s stance on Syria’s civil war. Russia has backed Assad financially and by using its veto at the UN Security Council to shield Assad’s regime from sanctions for cracking down on what began as peaceful protests.

The fact that France has been among the most vociferous critics of Assad and a major booster of the Syrian opposition makes President Putin’s remarks interesting.

Bible prophecy tells us that Syria will ally itself with a German-led Europe. However, the current Assad government in Syria, backed by Russia, is at odds with the Europeans, who are supporting the rebels.

Russia could keep fighting to prop up Assad, but Putin’s remarks may indicate a change in Russian foreign policy. If Russia abandons Syria, it would be a devastating blow to Assad—and would probably herald the end of the regime.

For more information on why the battle in Syria will soon affect you, read “Russia and Europe Moving Toward a Deal on Syria?” and “A New Strategic Partnership Emerges.”

Venezuela: What’s Ahead After the Death of Hugo Chávez

Venezuela: What’s Ahead After the Death of Hugo Chávez

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The death of the president leaves the door open for Venezuela to draw much closer to the Europe-based Holy Roman Empire.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez died on Tuesday afternoon after a long and difficult battle against cancer, leaving the world to wonder who will become the next leader of the oil-rich Latin American nation.

Vice President Nicolás Maduro will succeed Chávez as interim president, but the country must hold a new election within 30 days, according to its constitution. At that time, Venezuela may undergo a period of instability followed by a political transition on a scale the nation has not seen since Chávez first came to power in 1999, according to a Stratfor report published in December when the president’s health was rapidly declining.

Chávez’s death, Stratfor said, would give a unified opposition group—likely supportive of former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski—its best chance in over a decade of rising to power. Such a leadership change would likely signal a seismic shift in Venezuela’s foreign policy.

During his long presidency, Chávez distanced the Venezuelan government from the Vatican, which caused Pope Benedict xvi to reportedly view Chávez as a dangerous man, and to express deep concern over Latin America’s slide to the left.

But that breach would be rapidly healed if Capriles, a self-described devout Catholic, comes to power. Capriles was educated at the Catholic University in Caracas, and has said if he ascends to power the first items on his agenda would be to pay homage to the Virgin Mary, repeal Venezuela’s weapons deals with Russia, and contemplate an end to the nation’s robust relationship with Iran.

Such policies in Venezuela would no doubt greatly please the former pope and his successor, who will likely be in power before the end of the month.

The Trumpet and our forerunner magazine the Plain Truth have long pointed out Bible prophecies indicating that Europe and Latin America will likely draw near each other in the time just before Christ’s return—cemented together by the Roman Catholic religion and the Spanish language. The death of Hugo Chávez could open the way for these two sides to draw much closer.

To understand the deep significance of Europe’s inroads into Latin America, read “Is Venezuela on the Verge of a Roman Catholic Spring?” and “Europe’s Latin Assault.”