Sequester to Minimize U.S. Military

Sequester to Minimize U.S. Military


Budget cuts are downsizing the Army, Air Force and Navy.

Bloodied from more than a decade of constant fighting, the U.S. military is taking fire from another enemy: the sequester. These mandatory budget cuts are slashing billions of dollars from the military’s budget, reducing America’s military readiness around the world and hampering its ability to be a global superpower. Of the $109 billion that needs to be cut each year of the sequester, $54.5 billion are defense cuts.

The latest casualty of the sequester is the Army. Last Tuesday, the Army announced it would cut the number of combat brigades from 45 to 33 by 2017 to meet budget cutting goals. Army officials said one brigade would be cut from 10 bases across the U.S, along with two brigades in Germany that were already scheduled to be completely disbanded.

These cuts are part of the Army’s long-term plan of cutting its force size by 80,000 soldiers. With the drawdown in Afghanistan, the Army is working to reduce the number of active troops to reflect peace-time conditions. However, the plan is not to completely axe the 12 brigades, but to simply reorganize them. The headquarters units of these brigades will be cut, but many of their subunits will be taken and integrated into other combat brigades. As Breaking Defense puts it, “In short, the service is proportionately getting rid of more support troops than combat troops, more staff officers than tank gunners or infantry grunts, more chiefs than Indians.”

With this round of cuts, the Army is essentially trimming the fat of its forces: The 80,000 troops to be cut are largely from support or administrative units. The combat units of the Army will be largely unaffected. But if Congress does not act to stop automatic budget cuts from taking effect next year, the Army warned that upward of another 100,000 soldiers could be cut either from active duty, the National Guard or Army Reserve. That round of budget constraints would cut deep into the muscle of the Army.

The Navy is also preparing to downsize. Currently, the Navy faces a shortfall of $9 billion in 2014, but if lawmakers do not remove the sequestration cuts, it could grow to $23 billion. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said the cuts would potentially trim the Navy’s fleet of warships from just over 280 to around 250, the lowest since before World War i. In the Navy’s recent shipbuilding plan submitted to Congress, the Navy stated that its 30-year plan “does not include enough ships to fully support all elements of the Navy’s 306-ship goal over the long run.” Without a strong, influential Navy, America, isolated from the rest of the world, would be unable to project its power globally.

And then there’s the Air Force, which is getting its wings clipped as well. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told reporters last week that the Air Force had grounded 33 squadrons so far. Another seven squadrons have been reduced to just doing basic “takeoff and landing” training. An article from the Lexington Institute estimated that “without firing a shot, sequestration has already inflicted ‘losses’ on the U.S. Air Force alone on the order of 300 aircraft. If one includes the additional squadrons placed in a similar status by the Navy and Marine Corps, the total cost of sequestration in terms of ‘downed’ U.S. aircraft rises to something like 600. This bloodbath amounts to approximately 20 percent of the air combat capability of the U.S. military.”

Aside from reducing America’s security, these cuts wouldn’t help improve America’s budget as much as officials hope either. With America’s unemployment rate at 7.6 percent (and real unemployment much higher) and only a small number of jobs being created, these unemployed veterans will be hard-pressed to find work. If they can’t find jobs, they will have to turn to government assistance for help, putting more weight on the already overburdened welfare system. So the defense cuts simply pass some of the debt that would have been caused by military spending over to the welfare system instead.

But what is the cause of this? Some blame the economic policies: If the sequester had never passed, we wouldn’t have to downsize the military. Others blame the military: If America hadn’t gone to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy would be healthier. But is there a more fundamental problem?

In his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, Herbert W. Armstrong explained that “all the world’s problems and ills are simply a matter of cause and effect. There is a cause that has produced strife and war; poverty, wretchedness, inequality; crime, disease, mental ills.” America’s economic woes and the shrinking military are the effects of something. What is the cause?

As Mr. Armstrong went on to write, “The world’s leaders are the educated of the world. But they were not educated in basic truths—the foundations of right knowledge. The most necessary knowledge is not being taught!” This lack of basic truth is what is causing what we see in America today; it is a lack of knowledge about God and His Laws.

To understand these basic truths and the significance of the troubling times in America today, be sure to read The United States and Britain in Prophecy.

What Is the Real Goal?

From the August 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

Many homosexuals don’t want to marry. “For decades, prominent gay-rights activists dismissed the right to marry as a quixotic [impractical], even dangerous, cause and gave no support to the men and women at the grassroots who launched the uphill movement,” reported Time in March 2013. Any “gay pride” parade displays the fact that homosexuals pursue an edgy, rebellious, sexually risky lifestyle. Homosexuals staying together for life is a rarity. Most consider marriage and raising children a burden.

So why the hubbub about marriage within the homosexual community? “If same-sex marriage becomes more widely recognized, same-sex relationships will likely become more widely morally accepted,” writes activist John Corvino. “That’s one reason why advocates seek it and opponents fear it: The legalization of same-sex marriage will help to ‘normalize’ homosexuality” (Debating Same-Sex Marriage). If they’re “married,” homosexuals know their abnormal lifestyle will be accepted as more normal. The cost? Redefining marriage.

The truth is, same-sex “marriage” is a fight to destroy traditional family—actually the biblical definition of family.

In May 2012, author, activist and lesbian Masha Gessen gave an explosive speech at the Sydney Writers Festival revealing what traditional marriage supporters have suspected for years. You can find a video of Gessen’s speech on YouTube. “Gay marriage is a lie,” she said. “Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there. It’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.” Her shocking statement received loud applause.

The fact that Gessen has three children with five parents provides a clue as to why she may be promoting the redefinition of traditional family.

As reported, “The push for gay marriage has less to do with the right to marry—it is about diminishing and eventually destroying the institution of marriage and redefining the ‘traditional family.’”


From the August 2013 Trumpet Print Edition


How will America pay its pensioners?

American pension plans are facing a crisis that could have massive repercussions nationwide. For years, many states have struggled with pension accounts being underfunded, but a new credit evaluation standard proposed by Moody’s Investors Service could turn a medium-term problem into an immediate one. With baby boomers beginning to retire en masse, the timing could hardly be worse.

This newly proposed credit evaluation standard, set to take effect next year, would change how government pension liability is determined. Pension liability is calculated by taking the estimated future value of the government’s pension investments and subtracting what it needs to pay out to cover all its employees as they retire. The problem, according to Moody’s, is that governments are making wildly optimistic assumptions about what their investments will be worth in the future. For example, many states assume a consistent 7.5 to 8 percent annual return or higher—in perpetuity. But Moody’s says a 5.5 percent return is more likely.

However, even Moody’s expectations may be too high. Ed Ring, research director of the California Public Policy Center, says a 4.5 percent average return is a more realistic assumption. Mike Shedlock, of Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis, says that in today’s world of manipulated interest rates and money printing, a zero to 2 percent average return is a distinct possibility. “And not a single pension plan in the U.S. is remotely prepared for such an event,” he wrote June 13.

This has huge implications for pension plans across the country. A lower return means less money in the fund when it comes time to pay retirees. This should make future government retirees nervous. It should also make government planners nervous, because state pension liabilities may be set to grow astronomically. This could affect the ability of states to access bond markets and borrow money. It could also mean fantastically higher tax rates to pay salaries and health benefits of retired workers.

California’s unfunded pension liability would “officially” double to $328.6 billion, according to a report by the California Public Policy Center. States like Illinois—which, according to a September 2012 report from Republicans on the Senate Joint Economic Committee, has only a 30 percent-funded pension fund—face running out of money completely. The report noted that, “By standard accounting methods, some state pension funds will run out of assets within as little as five years.” When combined, state and local pensions are more than $4 trillion underfunded—this is money needed today and earning interest—to pay for retirement promises.

The federal government is in an even worse position. Over the next three years, an astounding 30 percent of federal workers are eligible for retirement. As more baby boomers retire, more strain is put on a system that cannot pay out what has been promised. In 2011, the federal government’s unfunded pension liability was $761.5 billion. But this is just the beginning. A recent Republican deficit projections report showed that in 30 years, government debt could reach a mind-boggling $125 trillion. Most of that is Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid promises made to future retirees—for which the government has not put aside money to pay.

America’s “spend today, worry tomorrow” economic practices are beginning to come full circle.

As more and more people hit retirement age, governments will resort to borrowing to pay retirement promises. But who will be willing to lend money to a broke government so it can give it away to retirees? Thus, when the borrowing fails, expect taxes to rise—a lot. Yet, it will be impossible for indebted Americans stuck in an economy on the edge of recession to afford more taxes. So expect massive cuts in retirement promises too. Millions of people who are set to retire are going to find out that the money they have been promised simply isn’t there.

There are no easy solutions to America’s debt problems. Moody’s new pension rating guidelines highlight America’s debt problems. At the same time, they could inadvertently hasten the inevitable crisis that debt will create.



Angry young men

Young people in Stockholm’s suburbs rioted every night for a week in late May. The unrest started days after police shot and killed a 69-year-old man wielding a knife. Buildings including two schools, a cultural center and a police station were set on fire or vandalized, and 340 cars were torched. The riots occurred in areas occupied mostly by immigrants. Europe’s economic troubles are exacerbating its volatile immigration situation. As unemployment rises, native resentment of immigrants grows, while immigrants bear the brunt of the unemployment. Europe’s economic problems are leading to a social crisis.

Germany, Italy 

In charge

America, Italy and Germany will be the three “lead nations” in Afghanistan after 2014 when the nato mission enters a noncombat phase, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said June 5. Germany will continue to be in charge in northern Afghanistan, and Italy will take charge in the west. The Los Angeles Times noted, “Absent from the announcement was reference to the closest U.S. ally, Britain, which has been the second-largest source of troops in the 11-year Afghanistan war” (June 5).


Not getting along

The German Islam Conference, widely believed to be one of the best hopes for Muslim integration in Germany, held its annual meeting in Berlin on May 7. The conference revolved around three main issues that involve the Muslim community: institutional cooperation between Muslims and the German state; gender equality as a common value; and prevention of extremism, radicalization and social polarization. German Muslims rebutted all three issues. They countered the first issue by calling on the government to make more concessions, accusing it of “interfering” with Islamic teaching. They denied that the second issue, gender equality, was even a problem. The final issue enraged them. They denied the dangers posed by extremists within the nation and throughout Europe. The German Islam Conference is doomed to fail. Germans are unwilling to accept Muslims if they won’t conform to the German way of life, and Muslims won’t give up their religion in exchange for living in Germany. Germany and Islam will continue to clash.

Court threatens euro, again

Germany’s Constitutional Court is hearing a case alleging that the European Central Bank (ecb) has exceeded its mandate as it tries to prevent the eurozone from collapsing. It’s expected to rule after the German election in September. Last August, when the euro crisis looked like it could turn worse, the ecb announced a new program to help prop up indebted countries. If a country’s government first submitted to the EU’s (Germany’s) conditions, the ecb would, in essence, lend it an unlimited amount of money in order to keep its borrowing costs down. Predictably, many Germans are concerned by the ecb’s promise to essentially print money for governments that can’t pay their bills. Germany’s central bank opposes the ecb in the case now before the court. Once again, the existence of the euro is threatened. As we have said since the start of the crisis, the euro was designed to fail in order to force EU nations to unite. This is an important reminder that the drama in Europe is far from over.

Floods give army a chance to shine

In early June, floods hit Central Europe, including Germany. Berlin deployed 19,000 soldiers to help the victims—the biggest domestic humanitarian operation in the army’s history. “The army, recently covered in the news largely for its failed drone program, is now generating positive headlines again,” wrote Spiegel Online. “At the same time, it is also regaining the trust of a German people who have traditionally been skeptical of the nation’s armed forces” (June 12). Residents held banners with slogans like “Thank you, Bundeswehr!” “I’ve never experienced such a positive relationship with the civilian population,” said army spokesman André Sabzog. The public’s gratitude for the army’s actions is helping lift the taboo on the German army’s deployment.

Middle East


The ayatollah’s ‘moderate’ president

According to much of the Western media, Iranian president-elect Hasan Rowhani is a “moderate” and a “reformist” who will alter the Islamic Republic’s defiant, belligerent course under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The international community widely views Rowhani as a pragmatist who will engage in meaningful dialogue. He was, after all, Iran’s chief negotiator with the West for its nuclear program from 2003 to 2005. His “reformist” image may help ease Iran’s economic sanctions.

But looks can be deceiving. His election was engineered by the ayatollah, whom few would mistake for a “reformist.” After he left his nuclear negotiator post, Rowhani gave a speech in 2006 in which he openly admitted to duping the international community. “By creating a calm environment,” he said, “we were able to complete the work on Isfahan [nuclear reactor].” Installing a new, ayatollah-approved president does not mean that Iran is about to end its support for terrorism, reconcile with Israel or close its nuclear program. In fact, it may even be more deadly because its intentions are cloaked under a “moderate” guise.

As Langley Intelligence Group Network opines, Khamenei probably plans to use Rowhani’s softer image to begin a campaign to break the U.S.-led economic sanctions. “With Rowhani serving as Iran’s chief diplomat, he may be welcomed more openly in many capitals around the world, making it more difficult for the United States and its allies to maintain the increasingly tight noose of economic sanctions that have been imposed on Iran in recent years. Rowhani’s more acceptable image may also complicate efforts to pursue coercive measures, including the use of force, should sanctions fail to prevent Iran’s nuclear advances.”

Whatever the nature of Rowhani’s leadership, it will submit to that of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who alone controls nuclear and foreign policy.

Iran, Afghanistan

Underestimating Europe

Meetings from May 31 to June 2 between the Iranian government and Taliban leaders highlight the fight for control in the Hindu Kush, and how all eyes are distracted from the most dangerous player in the region. While Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan fight to sway the Taliban in order to shore up their borders and counter U.S. influence, they underestimate the European presence. Germany understands what will happen as U.S. power wanes. It is determined not to allow its own designs on the Middle East to be undermined. Iran is so focused on its own ambitions, it fails to see that it is already caught in the German whirlwind. See Gerald Flurry’s article in last month’s Trumpet edition.


A harder ‘push’

Iran was named the worst offender for state-sponsored terrorism in a report released May 30 by the U.S. State Department. “The year 2012 was notable in demonstrating a marked resurgence of Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism,” the report stated. Europe has noticed as well, and it has responded to Iran’s broadening influence in the Middle East and North Africa with troop deployments in Mali as well as strong support for Iran’s enemies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia. Germany has soldiers on the ground in Turkey, Sudan, Somalia and Afghanistan, along with European peacekeepers in southern Lebanon. It also has ships blockading Lebanon from the Mediterranean and European warships off the coast of Somalia and Yemen. As editor in chief Gerald Flurry said, “That is startling and ought to make our hair stand on end if we understood the history of Germany, and what it has done in the past. [The Germans] are thinking about a circular attack on Iran and its allies” (Key of David, May 12).


Russia, China 

Special forces train together

Chinese and Russian special forces held a 10-day joint military exercise in Beijing beginning June 11. “Cooperation 2013” marked the first-ever joint training operation held in China. Forty-six personnel from China’s elite anti-terrorism Snow Leopard Commandos joined 29 Russians from a special task force unit in domestic security. The two forces aimed to learn from each other to improve their counterterrorism skills and tactics. The military exercises consisted of training courses on shooting, forced entry, hostage rescue and terrorist camp raids. Russia and China previously conducted a joint anti-terrorism drill in Russia in September 2007. Watch for these two countries to continue to strengthen their military ties. Bible prophecy indicates that these powers will be part of a huge 200 million-man army.


Putin crackdown pays off

Russian opposition campaigners paraded through Moscow on June 12 denouncing President Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian rule and demanding the release of citizens they say are political prisoners. But their low numbers showed that Putin’s crackdown on the opposition is weakening the movement. The protesters were rallying to support 27 people arrested after an anti-Putin demonstration became rowdy on the eve of the president’s inauguration in May last year. Sixteen of them have remained jailed, awaiting trial on accusations that could send them to prison for up to 10 years. The arrests were part of Moscow’s efforts to discourage Russians from staging future rallies, and the efforts seem to be working. The latest protest drew only 10,000 to 15,000 people—just a fraction of the 100,000-plus that marched against the president last year, and far fewer than expected. Expect the vigor of Russia’s opposition movements to decline further as Putin tightens his grip.


Huge heist of American secrets

In what is probably the largest-ever breach of American military secrets, the designs for more than two dozen major weapons systems—including the Hornet fighter jet and the Black Hawk helicopter—have been compromised, according to a confidential report obtained by the Washington Post on May 27. China is once again the prime suspect for the attacks. The extent of Beijing’s involvement, specifically that of its military, in attacking and stealing from American corporations came to light in February. Though the Chinese cyber unit responsible for the attacks went dormant after it was first exposed, it’s now back at work, and Washington is not taking a hard stand against Beijing.


‘Another step closer and we shoot’

Any expansion of nato to include Finland and Sweden would offset the balance of power and force Moscow to respond, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on June 4. “New participants emerging close to our border will change the parity, and we’ll have to take this into account and respond to that,” he said. Moscow has been nettled by nato’s expansion ever since former Soviet satellites started to join the Western alliance in the 1990s, and has been especially opposed to the anti-missile shield the U.S. and nato are deploying in Europe. Neither Sweden nor Finland is actively seeking membership, but both cooperate extensively with nato and have openly discussed the possibility of joining. Expect Moscow to intensify its anti-nato rhetoric as it seeks to prove that it is once again a formidable global power, and as it labors to draw its former Soviet satellites back in.


Preparing preemptive strikes?

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (ldp) is assembling a new set of defense guidelines that would allow the country’s military to develop offensive capability and to strike first if an attack appears imminent, according to reports on June 3. Japan’s missile defense system is among the world’s most advanced, but its capabilities are restricted under the government’s current interpretation of the constitution. The chief of the ldp’s national defense division said the ongoing incursions into Japanese-administered waters by Chinese vessels and North Korea’s provocations have shown the need to change the current guidelines. The intensifying tension between China and Japan is prompting both sides to ramp up their defense capabilities, but Bible prophecy says their disputes will soon be laid aside so that they can join forces against a common enemy.

Latin America/Africa


Does civil war reveal America’s future?

Mexico’s three-way civil war between organized crime syndicates, civilian vigilante militias and government troops could easily replicate in the United States.

The same drug cartels causing so much carnage south of the border are operating in the U.S. and are deeply embedded in at least 1,286 American cities, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Most of these operations are conducted via alliances with America’s major street gangs. There are approximately 1.4 million active gang members in America, a demographic force as large as the U.S. military. Some cartels and gangs are cooperating not only with each other, but also Hezbollah and Iran’s Quds Force.

Using a similar reasoning process to vigilante militias in Mexico, American citizens are buying weapons and personal firearms at a historically high rate—an estimated 67 million firearms from 2008 to 2012. As overloaded and cash-strapped law enforcement agencies struggle to keep on top of crime, vigilante justice has been rising.

The American government is apparently seriously considering the threat of such civil unrest and has already made moves toward establishing a military-backed, federalized police force. The Department of Homeland Security is in the process of stockpiling more than 1.6 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition, along with 7,000 fully automatic nato personal defense weapons, 2,717 Mine-Resistant Armored Protection vehicles, and a huge stash of 30-round, high-capacity magazines. Why would a federal domestic law enforcement agency need military hardware, unless the government anticipates massive civil unrest? The situation is ultimately leading to the fulfillment of the prophecy in Ezekiel 5.


Al Qaeda reaches into West Africa

An armory belonging to Lebanon’s Hezbollah was discovered on May 30 in northern Nigeria by the West African nation’s army and spy agency. The cache, including rifles, anti-tank weapons and a rocket-propelled grenade, was found in a warehouse in the city of Kano. Nigeria’s State Security Service said the weapons were intended for use against “Israeli and Western interests.” Kano and northeastern Nigeria have suffered multiple attacks in the last three years since the homegrown Islamist militant group Boko Haram launched an insurgency. Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is forbidden,” says its quest is to overthrow the Nigerian government and create an Islamic state. Boko Haram is believed to be receiving backing from Hezbollah and al Qaeda-linked militants in various countries.


Will the Nile run dry?

On May 28, Ethiopia began diverting the course of the Blue Nile, a major tributary of the Nile River, to allow construction to continue on the 6,000-megawatt hydroelectric Grand Ethiopia Dam, sending new waves of concern throughout the nations that rely on the Nile for water, especially Egypt. Cairo fears Ethiopia could use the dam as a political or military tool. At a June 3 meeting, top Egyptian officials advised President Mohamed Morsi that Egypt could back rebels within Ethiopia to pressure the government or to use intelligence and/or military forces to attack and destroy the dam. Apparently unbeknown to the officials, the meeting was being aired live on national television. In a statement released shortly after the meeting on June 3, Morsi’s office said, “Egypt will never surrender its right to Nile water, and all options [to safeguard it] are being considered.” Egypt is now advancing on several fronts to control the Nile by isolating Ethiopia: through Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea, and by sponsoring Ethiopian Islamist and other opposition movements. Despite the animosity raging now, Bible prophecy says Ethiopia will eventually ally with Egypt and Iran (Daniel 11:43). This suggests a radical reorientation in Ethiopian governance. Egypt will play a critical role in that reorientation, as Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry stated last year.


From the August 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

60 years on David’s throne

Britain’s royal family gathered at Westminster Abbey on June 4 to mark the 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth ii. The Queen was crowned in Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953, in a ceremony filled with symbolism and tradition. British monarchs have been crowned in the ancient London church since William the Conqueror in 1066. The anniversary ceremony was designed to evoke memories of 60 years ago. The Queen wore the golden, jewel-encrusted St. Edward’s Crown, which she wore for her coronation. It is the first time the crown has left the Tower of London since 1953. The 1953 coronation was Britain’s first mass television event, watched by more than 20 million people. Pomp and ceremony returned to Westminster Abbey on June 4, but few stop to ask where this throne began. Britain’s royals have an unbroken chain of monarchs who can trace their lineage all the way back to King David. Your Bible prophesies that when Christ returns, He too will sit on this throne. This is explained in our free booklet The Key of David.

Radical role change for women

Women are the primary or sole source of income in 40 percent of U.S. households with children under age 18, a study released by the Pew Research Center on May 29 revealed. These women make more than their husbands, or are the only breadwinner for the household either because they are single moms or their husbands don’t work. The report also showed that most Americans have no desire to go back to the traditional family: 79 percent of Americans rejected the idea that women need to return to their traditional roles. However, the majority of people also agree that this new family pattern isn’t making life easier: 74 percent agreed that when the wife works outside the home it is harder to raise children, and half said it is harder to make a marriage successful. In Isaiah 3, God foretold that in these present latter days, family breakdown and women leading the family would be the norm.

Sex abuse degrades U.S. military pride

Recently, the U.S. military has been rocked by a string of sexual assault scandals. In May alone, seven separate incidents of sexual misconduct in the military made headlines. The charges came against soldiers of all ranks, including an Army general who was suspended from his post for adultery. A U.S. Defense Department report says the number of sexual assault cases have been on the rise in the past few years. It estimated that in 2012 there were 26,000 cases of sexual assault, though only 3,374 were reported. The degradation of the U.S. military, which is supposed to reflect the highest standard of respect and discipline, is a telling sign of the decline of American society.

The Boy Scouts’ big announcement

The Boy Scouts of America voted on May 23 to lift a ban against homosexual boys joining its organization. The vote was made by 60 percent of the 1,400 members of the national council of the bsa at its annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, and the new policy will officially be effective Jan. 1, 2014. The decision to allow homosexual scouts has been received with mixed feelings. While some churches have endorsed the bsa’s vote, many other churches and organizations are firmly opposed to the decision. Many will pull their funding of the Boy Scouts. For the 103 years since its founding, the Boy Scouts has enforced some basic biblical values among its members. Its mission is to build upstanding character in young people, and has largely used the Bible to define morality. That is why the organization has in the past expelled homosexual members whose orientation contradicted those biblical values.

Good news and bad news

The Department of Labor’s May jobs report showed that 175,000 new jobs were created that month—10,000 more than some analysts expected. The trouble is, these jobs are not the types that are going to put more money into the economy. The first thing to notice in the report is the kind of jobs that aren’t being created: the goods-producing jobs. In May, the U.S. lost 1,000 of these jobs. Also noteworthy is the kinds of jobs that are being created: The vast majority were low-paying, service-providing jobs. Over half the jobs created in May were limited to the restaurant sector, retail trade and temporary employment. The report also showed that the unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percent to 7.6 percent.

China to Dig a Canal Through Nicaragua?

China to Dig a Canal Through Nicaragua?

Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images

It’s either the biggest megaproject Latin America has seen in over a century, or the largest political ploy in the continent’s history.

Nicaragua signed a $40 billion deal earlier this month allowing a Chinese company to dig a canal through the Central American country that would connect the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The news has excited many in China, but has provoked deep skepticism among engineering experts, shipping specialists, analysts, environmentalists and more.

The $40 billion question is: Will it turn out to be a giant dig or a giant ploy?

Nicaraguans have dreamed of becoming home to a transoceanic waterway for centuries. But in 1914, when the U.S. completed a 50-mile canal through Nicaragua’s skinnier neighbor to the south, that dream seemed to die. After all, how many transoceanic shipping shortcuts does one hemisphere need?

In the late 1990s, China entered the equation after America relinquished its rights to the Panama Canal. A Chinese firm called Hutchison Whampoa Limited (hwl) stepped in and signed a long-term lease with Panama allowing it to operate the canal’s entry and exit points. Within the terms of this Panama-hwl agreement lies the likely reason why China is suddenly talking about a Nicaraguan canal.

The lease stipulates that hwl has exclusive control over the entry and exit points of the Panama Canal for 25 years, and then will have an option to renew for an additional 25 years. The first term ends in about a decade.

And what is the anticipated time of completion for the Nicaraguan canal? Initial estimates said carving the 135 miles through jungles and protected lands would take 20 years. But the most recent reports revise that figure down to 11 years or even less.

Could it be that Panama is putting up some resistance to Beijing, and somehow preventing the renewal from going the way the Chinese want it to go? Some in Beijing have said Panama is still too heavily influenced by the United States. If this is China’s view, then what better way for Beijing to pressure the Panamanians than threatening to build a bigger and better canal just a few hundred miles north, potentially making Panama obsolete?

Some say the U.S.’s shale revolution and the growth of global shipping means that two canals through Central America would benefit the industry, and be a boon to both Nicaragua and China. But the questions about the deal far outweigh and outnumber any economic justifications.

A Hollow Company?

The company Nicaragua signed the deal with is Hong Kong Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co., or hknd. It was registered in the Cayman Islands just last year, has never undertaken a single infrastructure project and is led by Wang Jing, a young lawyer about whom little is known.

Shortly after the canal news was announced, Reuters sent journalists to visit hknd’s facilities in Hong Kong. “The office is large and brand new with a view of Victoria Harbor outside its floor-to-ceiling windows,” it reported, but “the office was very quiet and few people were working there” (June 20).

Contrast this obscure company with Hutchison Whampoa Limited—a Fortune 500 company operating in 54 nations with 230,000 employees. With ports in Mexico, Indonesia, Argentina, the Bahamas, Hong Kong, Ecuador, the UK, Egypt, Germany, Korea, Australia, Italy and, of course, Panama, hwl is the world’s largest port operator. It is privately owned, but over the years, evidence has amassed revealing hwl to be an ideological clone of China’s ruling Communist Party—nestled deeply in Beijing’s pocket.

If China was interested in bisecting Nicaragua from sea to shining sea, wouldn’t it work through the company that has mountains of experience in that field? Wouldn’t it be likely to work through the company that is a tried and true agent of the government?

hknd is doubtless under the sway of the Chinese government as well, and it may grow into something substantial. But at present the enigmatic company is not capable of this titanic Nicaraguan challenge.

Clause 15.1

The framework agreement for the Nicaraguan canal project contains another important clue. It divides the canal plan into nine subprojects including an airport, a railroad, a pipeline, and of course, the actual canal. One clause in the agreement allows hknd to walk away from any of the subprojects at its own discretion without penalty. The Chinese could build, for example, only the railroad and airport, or just the pipeline without any legal or economic consequences.

Writing for The Power and the Money, economist Noel Maurer says Clause 15.1 means there is “some evidence that hknd does not intend to build the canal across Nicaragua. At the very least, they are prepared to walk away from that commitment at the drop of a hat. … I do not think that hknd really intends to build a canal. … [T]hey might try if the financing showed up … but I don’t think that they will try very hard” (June 14).

A Geological Challenge

Infrastructure experts are also skeptical about the proposal. History records attempts by French, Dutch and American financiers to dig a waterway through Nicaragua’s volcano-studded terrain. All failed.

Technology has made seismic advances since these early efforts, but experts say the 20-foot tide difference between Nicaragua’s two coasts remains a formidable obstacle. “It means a lot of water is going to come from west to east,” said J. David Rogers, professor of geological engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology. “I’m not saying you can’t do it, but it has some major engineering challenges that have to be overcome, and if it’s your first project, I wouldn’t invest in it.”

The scant plans also neglect to map out a firm route for the proposed waterway, but it would likely be nearly three times longer than the Panama Canal, and have to slice through that same volcano-studded terrain that defeated so many entrepreneurs.

Environmentalists also caution that the waterway could devastate the nation’s water supply, including the enormous Lake Nicaragua, a vital source of drinking water for many countries in the region.

Show Me the Pesos

The project is the biggest in Nicaragua’s history. Yet, the country’s congress approved it in less than 48 hours. The lack of robust congressional deliberation, the sheer absence of public debate and the lightening speed of it all has raised many eyebrows in the political sphere. Nicaragua’s Confidencial magazine called it “the biggest scandal in recent memory.” Critics call the agreement a monumental surrender of Nicaragua’s sovereignty, saying that, under its terms, hknd (i.e. the People’s Republic of China) will basically own the nation.

Also bothersome is the question of who will fund this $40 billion project. hknd says it will finance the feasibility studies and then raise funds in international capital markets. Analysts like Evan Ellis, a national security studies professor at the U.S.’s National Defense University, think those funds will be in short supply. “Are international shipping companies going to trust a one-guy shop with minor telecommunications experience to be the system integrator on a $40 billion project in a country whose transparency is already subject to question?,” he said.

Europe’s Response

Whether the canal deal is legitimate or not, the news will have one consequence that Beijing may not expect.

Like China, geographic constraints prompt Europe to reach beyond its borders to obtain resources it needs to fuel its rise. The religion and languages shared by Europe and Latin America bind the two together as sister continents. These commonalities have long given European powers preferential economic treatment among most South and Central American nations.

But China has become the fastest-growing investor in Latin America. It has state-run companies undertaking billion-dollar projects all across the continent, and the trend is rapidly accelerating.

The blood Latin America shares with Europe remains thicker than its economic ties with China, yet Europe continues to lose influence there to Beijing’s swelling ambitions. Chinese Marxist revolutionary Mao Tse Tung vowed to his people decades ago, “All that the West has, China will have.” China’s rapacious drive into Latin America and other regions is evidence that Mao’s words still resonate clearly in the Chinese mindset.

But Europe will not sit passively by as Beijing gobbles up Latin America’s wealth. As the size of China’s Latin American footprint grows, Europe will strive to bolster its own presence there. At present, the lack of cohesion among European nations hampers this, but China’s deepening inroads into places like Nicaragua will actually act as a catalyst for EU unity.

Bible prophecy shows that, in the end, Europe-Latin America ties will trump China’s economic relationships in the region, but before that, indications are Europe and China will actually form a brief but robust economic alliance called a “mart of nations” in the Bible (Isaiah 23:1-3).

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has explained the motivation behind such an alliance: “[C]onsidering that China has come to possess most of the world’s strategic sea gates (which, ironically, at one time were held by Britain and America), we believe there may be a brief alliance between the German-led Holy Roman Empire and certain Asian powers (Russia, China, Japan—the kings of the east).”

China may actually dig a new canal through Nicaragua, but it is most likely only threatening to do so in order to tighten its grip on the strategic Panama Canal. In either case, Beijing’s grip on the world’s vital sea gates will become even tighter, and Europe’s interest in briefly allying with China could become stronger. This portends staggeringly dark times, economically and otherwise, for the U.S. and other nations. But that darkness will not last!

Dozens of Bible prophecies explain how suffering will be vanquished, and replaced with the globe-girdling peace, happiness and prosperity that has always eluded mankind. To understand the Europe-Asia trading partnership and the awesome future just beyond it, read Isaiah’s End-Time Vision.

Making Sense of Syria

Making Sense of Syria

Pablo Tosco/AFP/Getty Images

Syria perplexes news pundits around the globe. Here is the key to understanding what is happening and how it will end.
From the August 2013 Trumpet Print Edition

Do you realize how much is at stake in Syria? Tens of thousands of Syrians have already been killed; hundreds of thousands have fled the country. The nation faces collapse. Tragic though this is, Syria’s woes have far broader and far more dreadful repercussions—for Syrians, for the Middle East, for the international community, and even for you.

Syria’s civil war has ensnared a volatile mix of major world powers: America, Germany and Europe, Russia, Iran. The outcome will redefine the Middle East. It will also directly impact the international interests of these major world powers, pointing them further down a collision course to World War iii.

Right now the big question is: Who will win? Will Bashar Assad survive and keep Syria aligned with Iran? Will Islamist rebels take control of the nation, much like they did in Libya and Egypt? Will a new, Western-friendly regime come to power?

Even the most discerning minds cannot answer these questions through observation and deduction. But there is a way to answer them correctly: by reading Bible prophecy. The Bible reveals the astonishing truth of Syria’s role in events that are about to occur—events that will affect each and every one of us.

Lighting the Fuse

In March 2011, protests erupted in Damascus, Aleppo and Deraa. The military brutally stepped in to try to disperse the protesters, but the fires of insurrection spread quickly. In June, activists met in Istanbul, Turkey, to form an official opposition. In the space of four months, Syria went from civil unrest to full-scale civil war.

More than two years down this bloody path, more than 96,400 people have been killed. Hundreds of thousands more have fled the nation. Those who stay face oppression, fear and hardship under either the dictatorship of Assad or the Islam-fueled radicalism of the rebels.

The rebel forces consist of over 100 smaller factions, many of which harbor radical Islamic ideals. Groups such as al Nusra—which is openly tied to al Qaeda—have been working to restore basic needs in rebel-controlled communities. In doing so, the radicals have won over the loyalties of much of the Syrian population in some cities. As a result, fighters who were once moderate are now embracing the ideals of the radicals.

Until recently, much of the international community opposed arming the rebels. Up to this past May, the European Union banned selling weapons to the rebels. That isn’t to say the EU has not assisted them; it simply restricted itself to monetary aid. As of January 30, the EU had contributed €417 million (over us$546 million) to Assad’s enemies.

But Assad’s violent military forces are strong, generously backed by his various allies and sponsors (infographic, page 18). They are better equipped than the rebels and have the advantage of an air force. Hezbollah fights openly alongside Syria’s government troops. It has won Assad some key victories against the rebels, such as the retaking of the city of Qusair in early June. Backing and supporting Assad and Hezbollah is Iran. Looming large to the east, Iran supplies training, troops and weapons, which come by way of Iraq.

Syria may be small, but it is deeply significant to Iran. If Syria falls, Lebanon—and thereby Hezbollah—will be cut off geographically from its Iranian sponsors. Iran is working to prop up the Assad government, including opening a $1 billion credit line, with possibly $3 billion more to come. Should Assad fall, the Iranians have a lot more to lose than just an ally. They will also lose a sizeable region of influence along the Mediterranean coast. Their international connections by way of Hezbollah would also be jeopardized, extending from South America and the drug cartels to Europe and the agents in place there.

The truth is, the fighting between the Syrian rebels and the Syrian government is a proxy war for a much larger conflict. That war is quickly engulfing the international community. On one side are Russia and Iran, fueling the government in Syria with money, weapons, training for troops and even some soldiers, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. On the other side are Europe, Turkey and many Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. For long-time Trumpet readers, this particular collection of names may sound familiar.

Two Crucial Prophecies

The prophecy of Daniel 11:40 speaks of the “king of the north” fighting against the “king of the south” after a “push” by that latter king. Already we see friction between these “kings” as they back and arm their respective groups in the Middle East. Some of that conflict is playing out within the civil war in Syria.

Over the years, Germany has been laying the groundwork for stronger ties to the Middle East. It has signed multi-billion-dollar arms deals with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Israel. Last year, its arms exports to the Gulf doubled from the year before, to €1.42 billion (us $1.88 billion). It has sold $2.6 billion in weapons to Qatar, including dozens of Leopard ii tanks. It has sold $9.3 billion in weapons to the United Arab Emirates and built a munitions factory there. It is working on some massive deals with Saudi Arabia which include building a machine-gun factory, and delivering 72 Eurofighters and up to 800 Leopard ii tanks. In Turkey, Germany has a huge arms market, selling 715 tanks, 687 armored personnel carriers, 300 air defense missile systems, 197 ground survey radar units, eight frigates, two support ships and 15 submarines in the last two decades. Germany is using these arms sales to buy friends in the Middle East that fear Iran and radical Islam but can’t necessarily rely on the United States.

Few recognize the dominant role Germany is assuming in the region. Today, the Iranians are pushing and pushing, but they fail to realize that Germany literally has them surrounded, with footholds of troops and weaponry spread across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. (You can read about this in Gerald Flurry’s opening article in last month’s issue, “The Whirlwind Prophecy.”) Daniel’s prophecy reveals that it is only a matter of time before Germany stops Iran’s pushing for good. Suddenly the world at large, along with Iran, will be caught off guard when Germany steps in and attacks.

Daniel 11:40 also ties in with another prophecy that links Syria to major events about to explode in the Middle East. Found in Psalm 83, this prophecy describes an alliance between Germany and certain Middle Eastern nations. By understanding this prophecy, you can look beyond the current chaos and see how the scenario in Syria will end.

“For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee: The tabernacles of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarenes; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assur also is joined with them: they have holpen the children of Lot. Selah” (Psalm 83:5-8).

This exact alliance has never occurred in history: It is an alliance prophesied to form in our day. As Mr. Flurry describes in his booklet The King of the South, the modern-day descendants of these peoples and nations lie scattered throughout the Middle East. We can’t be extremely precise, but generally speaking, Edom is Turkey; Moab and Ammon refer to Jordan; the Ishmaelites are the Arabs of Saudi Arabia; Gebal is Lebanon today. And Assur was the father of the Assyrians, ancestors of today’s Germans.

The Hagarenes anciently lived in the land of Syria. And in this prophecy, they are allied with Germany.

Looking at the situation in Syria today, many would scoff at the notion that the Syrians will ally with Germany. But this is the outcome Psalm 83 tells us to watch for.

There are many indications that this alliance is already coming together.

It Is Already Happening

Look at who is supporting whom in the region. North of Syria is Turkey, one of Europe’s allies in Psalm 83. Currently in the midst of social turmoil itself, Turkey is an outspoken enemy of the Syrian regime. Thousands of refugees have crossed the border into Turkey seeking shelter from the fighting. While the majority of the Turkish population is opposed to aiding the rebels, they believe Assad’s administration should be removed. Relations between the two countries are poor, with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan blaming the Syrian administration for deadly attacks overflowing into Turkey.

To the southeast is Jordan, located in the land of ancient Moab. The Jordanians have allowed the U.S. to deploy patriot missiles and F-16 jets to the border with Syria, a clear signal that Jordan is siding with other Arab states against the Iranian-assisted Syrians. This decision may hinge in large part on Jordan’s reliance on aid from the U.S. and the Gulf states.

Further south is Iran’s biggest opponent in the Middle East, descended from the ancient Ishmaelites: Saudi Arabia. Among their many efforts to prevent the spread of Iranian influence, the Saudis have promised $345 million in aid to the rebels and have supplied small arms. They see Syria as an opportunity to weaken Iran’s reach within the region.

Lebanon, to Syria’s southwest, is currently a major supporter of Bashar Assad. While it is currently assisting the regime, Lebanon will be cut off and weakened drastically when—not if—Syria breaks away from Iran. With Hezbollah now deeply involved in Syria, there are signs of instability in Lebanon as the Syrian rebels retaliate against the surge in military assistance from Hezbollah.

Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey are uniting in the war against Assad. Syria faces tremendous pressure and will be drawn away from Iran, which will also dislodge Lebanon from that axis.

Who predicted such a realignment of Middle Eastern geopolitics even before the Syrian crisis began? The Trumpet has been foretelling this for years—because of our understanding of Bible prophecy.

Now, we watch for these nations to align with German-led Europe. Germany’s inroads into the region are already sturdy, and its ties with these nations are growing stronger. It is supplying arms to the Gulf states and is investing in industrial projects across the Middle East. (For more on this, read “Under Construction,” page 9.) Expect more signs of these Middle Eastern states coming together under a German banner.

Until recently, Germany’s involvement in Syria has been negligible—but that is rapidly changing. It has become one of the largest donors of aid, and is now actively working to help opposition forces. It is reconstructing and stabilizing rebel-controlled areas by promoting the activities of aid organizations in an effort to win public loyalty. “Because this is in clear violation of Syria’s sovereignty, an influential German daily has characterized this mission as ‘humanitarian intervention without a UN mandate’—‘not with tanks and infantry but with trucks and development aid workers,’” reported on May 23. “Though Berlin has, so far, refused to officially supply combat material to rebel militias, the government has been in regular contact with those countries that are delivering combat material.” Its restraint, however, appears likely to be lost. In May, the EU voted to suspend its arms embargo against the Syrian rebels—a large stride toward its becoming more involved.

The Ultimate Outcome

The state of Syria today is horrific. As it stands, 8.3 million Syrians need aid—38 percent of the population. There are over 1.3 million registered refugees, with thousands in line and thousands more crossing the borders illegally.

Yet, as bad as these numbers are, they are only the beginning for the region. This situation is about to explode. The same prophecy that foretold the development of this Middle Eastern-German alliance, and that forecast Syria being peeled away from Iran, reveals the ultimate outcome. It shows that the king of the north, that German-led European empire, is about to wreak unprecedented destruction—beginning with Iran and then spreading from there.

Some people will rejoice at the sight of Iran and its allies being defeated. But they will be shocked as the king of the north, led by Germany, turns on the nations of the West, including Britain, the United States and Israel. Just as it swiftly wiped out the “king of the south,” it will attack the Anglo-American and Jewish nations.

Yet in spite of these terrible prophecies, the good news is that the suffering will be brief. The Daniel 11-12 prophecy shows that when the king of the north defeats the king of the south, the Messiah is about to return!

Jesus Christ will establish His perfect and much-needed rule over the nations. He will extinguish civil war and establish and nurture peace. This is as sure as the prophecies of Daniel 11 and Psalm 83. For more on the major powers in these prophecies, read Germany and the Holy Roman Empire and The King of the South, and take heart that, despite the confusion of today, there is an incredible final outcome for all mankind. Christ is returning soon to put an end to these warring governments of men. God’s government is about to bring peace and joy to all mankind!