The Ogallala Aquifer: Is America Emptying Its Fuel Tank?

The Ogallala Aquifer: Is America Emptying Its Fuel Tank?

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‘In less than 100 years we are seriously depleting what took nature more than 10,000 years to fill.’

Imagine a man who unexpectedly inherits a large, shiny pickup truck with a full tank of gas. It’s an antique model, but he can see that it was purchased from a dealership, driven straight home and then just parked for many years. He drives it around at breakneck speeds, accomplishes many things with it and makes plans to accomplish many more. But within a few days the truck’s enormous fuel tank is empty. When the man tries to fill it up, he’s shocked to learn that on that particular model, the fuel tank can only be filled up with a tiny eyedropper—a task that would take years to complete. So much for his plans.

The man represents the people of the United States. The truck symbolizes the stretch of American land known as the Great Plains. And the fuel tank is the Ogallala Aquifer that lies beneath that land.

The Ogallala is the largest known body of freshwater on Earth. It sits beneath parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska and South Dakota. And unlike most other unconfined aquifers, it refills with water at an incredibly slow speed.

Geologists studying its trickling recharge rate believe that the Ogallala is filled mostly with ancient paleowater—dating back to the most recent ice age or even earlier. Based on their observations, at present rates of water flow it would have taken the aquifer at least 10,000 years to fill up, and probably much longer. At its peak, the aquifer’s size grew to a staggering 174,000 square miles.

Turning the Sahara Into a Rice Paddy

Meanwhile, above ground, the situation was exactly the opposite. In the early 1800s, a government surveyor charged with mapping the territory America had acquired in the Louisiana Purchase said this about the Great Plains on top of the Ogallala: “I do not hesitate in giving the opinion that it is almost wholly unfit for cultivation, and of course, uninhabitable by a people depending upon agriculture for their subsistence.” He went on to call the area “the Great American Desert.”

Some farmers ignored such assessments, but they suffered frequent crop failures because of relentless cycles of drought, which culminated in the devastating Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Then, around 65 years ago, a Colorado farmer invented center-pivot irrigation, and landowners across the region waged war against the climate. The cry went up defiantly: No more will our crops be subject to nature’s fickleness and its unreliable rains. We have out-engineered it!

Farmers began using the new technology to tap the Ogallala on a large scale. They pulled its water to the surface and showered great swaths of terrain several times a week. Millions of acres were rapidly transformed from “the Great American Desert” into seas of lush, hydro-intensive crops like soybeans, corn, sugar beats, cotton and wheat—crops that would never thrive in the natural climate. The Great Plains became one of the most consistently productive agricultural regions in the world. The sheer magnitude of this irrigation project would be outdone only by something like converting the Sahara into a massive grid of rice paddies.

But the practice came at great cost to the Ogallala. In 1940, the aquifer’s average depth was about 240 feet. Today, its average is 80 feet. In many areas, the water is entirely gone. “[I]n less than 100 years we are seriously depleting what took nature more than 10,000 years to fill,” said Marcia McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

David Brauer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Ogallala research program is working to implement measures to reduce dependence on the aquifer, but says they are “mostly designed to delay the inevitable since the recharge rate for the Ogallala Aquifer is small enough to be considered negligible.”

Can We Dominate Nature?

Modern irrigation techniques and other technologies have convinced many that people can control nature. Thanks in large part to water pumped up from the massive aquifer, America exports more food than any other nation. But less than 100 years after tapping it, parts of the Great Plains have become “Great American Desert” land again.

People are mostly unwilling to accept the fact that, in spite of our technological developments, we are still vulnerable. The idea of moderation is as incompatible with the 21st-century U.S. as hydro-intensive crops are to the natural Great Plains climate. The data shows that current practices cannot be sustained, yet America’s foot remains heavy on the gas pedal, draining this massive fuel tank at a rate of 800 gallons per minute.

Chance or Design?

Some 3,500 years ago, God promised that the ancient tribe of Manasseh would grow to become an astoundingly powerful nation (Genesis 48:14-22; 49:22-24). God fulfilled this promise spectacularly in the 19th and 20th centuries when the United States of America (Manasseh’s descendants) attained towering cultural might, unparalleled military power and mind-boggling economic strength. But God said that if America rejected Him and His law, then the nation’s prosperity would not last very long (Leviticus 26:14-20; Micah 5:10-15).

The Ogallala Aquifer has been an instrumental component of the prosperity the U.S. was showered with. But America has rejected God. The blessings are evaporating and the era of prosperity is approaching its end. The Ogallala now takes its place alongside the U.S.’s manufacturing sector, its will to use its power, the health of its families, its overseas influence, its weather stability and its respect for the Constitution and for law. All are drying up fast.

America’s decline is sobering beyond words, but the Bible makes clear that it will lead directly to the most radiant future imaginable. If you want to understand the reason why the U.S.’s blessings are draining away and where it is ultimately leading, read The United States and Britain in Prophecy.

Finding the Ark of the Covenant

A fascinating verse in Bible prophecy implies that the ark of the covenant is going to be found in this end time.

‘Mowing the Grass’ in Yemen

‘Mowing the Grass’ in Yemen


Al Qaeda in Yemen is exposing American weakness.

Despite the incessant pounding by U.S. drones, al Qaeda forces in Yemen are continuing to grow in numbers, defying the military superiority of America. At the same time, the Yemeni people are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the United States and its inability to conquer al Qaeda. The reason behind this failure has much to do with U.S. military and foreign policy. But there is another reason.

Ever since the U.S. issued a worldwide travel warning and closed 22 of its embassies and consulates across much of the Middle East and Africa on August 4, al Qaeda has begun to receive more attention in media headlines. This might seem somewhat surprising considering that President Obama said November 1 last year that the U.S. had decimated al Qaeda. The fact is, the group is still spreading its terror, particularly in Yemen.

Yemen is the stomping ground of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (aqap). Working primarily out of Yemen, with some operations in Saudi Arabia, aqap is considered to be one of the most active and deadly branches of al Qaeda, and has been responsible for a number of large-scale attacks in Yemen and abroad.

These attacks have included: the bombing of the uss Cole in October 2000, numerous assassinations and kidnappings in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the 2009 shooting in Little Rock, Arkansas, by Carlos Bledsoe (who spent time in Yemen), and, of course, the underwear bomber of Christmas 2009. Add to that attacks on hundreds of government organizations as well as numerous attempts at international terrorism.

While attempts have been made to dislodge or route the terrorists, aqap continues to have a strong presence in Yemen. Now the U.S. is coming under more criticism for not putting an end to the militarily inferior militants. So far, the U.S. has been reluctant to commit wholeheartedly in Yemen. Rather, the U.S. has chosen to wage a “shadow war” whereby a limited number of U.S. troops have been working to train the Yemeni soldiers, who have been outfitted with the latest in night vision goggles, weaponry, drones and jets.

While some headway has been made, it is not without cost. Since late 2011, the U.S. committed $600 million to the Yemeni government, of which $250 million was used to counter terrorism. The U.S. also granted $2.2 million to fund a number of Yemeni contractors last year, such as Giffin Security, which handles protection, surveillance and maritime security. Money also went to other surveillance groups or firms that deal with cyber network attacks. While millions of dollars has been funneled into these groups, it hasn’t stemmed the growing number of Yemeni youths picking up their AKs and bomb-making kits to join the ranks of aqap. Twenty-three al Qaeda members escaped from prison in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in February 2006 and became the founding fathers of aqap. Since the group’s emergence in 2009, its numbers have swollen to over 1,000.

Much of the money sent to Yemen by the U.S. has not been used optimally. When aid was sent to Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. was right there to help allocate the resources and dictate how the hardware was used in combat. In Yemen, where there is a minimal U.S. presence on the ground, much of the funding and equipment has been misused or not put to use until recently.

America’s shadow war has backfired. Instead of giving the Yemeni government the upper hand, the U.S. strategy has merely given aqap time to gain a foothold in the country, which it has used with deadly consequences. Yemen is one of the poorest Arabic nations, and the subsequently weak military has not been effective in removing the terrorists. The U.S. has tried to rectify the situation, while still keeping itself distant from the conflict, by engaging in drone warfare.

Launching drones from Saudi Arabia and also from sites to the south, the U.S. has been able to target aqap operatives without having to put troops on the ground. The main targets are high-ranking officials and key personnel in the organization. So far, these strikes have been ineffective, even detrimental.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, oftentimes al Qaeda consists of imported terrorists, particularly the upper levels of the organization. In Yemen, however, al Qaeda is run by Yemenis. Taking out a leader and hoping it will leave the organization crippled doesn’t work. When a commander is removed, there is no delay in replacing him with another man.

The fact that the terrorists are locally grown also has other ramifications. Every terrorist who is killed is a father or brother or son or friend in the local community. Each death breeds more and more resentment for the Americans and fosters sympathy for the terrorists. This effect is intensified by the fact that drone strikes have a history of large-scale collateral damage. For instance, in May 2010, a drone strike killed a former governor of the Marib Governorate, Jabr al Shabwani, sparking reprisal attacks against the Yemeni government from Mr. Shabwani’s family. Many such Yemenis have called on the government to end its support of the U.S. drone program in Yemen.

What America is doing in Yemen is effectively “mowing the grass”: It strikes, removing the target, and oftentimes civilians as well. This breeds resentment among the people, causing the terrorist ranks to grow thicker than ever. With a weak local military and few U.S. troops in the region, Washington’s strategy may be causing more problems than it is fixing.

Since the Korean War, America has failed to win a single major offensive. Look at the smoldering ruins of Iraq, the Taliban-infested hills of Afghanistan, and the resurgent al Qaeda. There are no American victories to be found there. Herbert Armstrong wrote about the true cause of these losses back in a 1961 Plain Truth. But he didn’t pin it on the military, or the politicians.

He declared: “Unless or until the United States as a whole repents and returns to what has become a hollow slogan on its dollars: ‘In God we trust,’ the United States of America has won its last war!”

This statement wasn’t just a man’s prediction. It came right out of the Bible. Leviticus 26:19 refers primarily to the U.S. when it speaks of breaking “the pride of your power.” As Trumpet columnist Stephen Flurry wrote:

The irony is that the same God who promised to break our pride is the one who gave us this tremendous “power” in the first place. God blessed America with unprecedented material wealth because He promised it, unconditionally, to Abraham. He did so because of Abraham’s obedience to God’s laws. That is why, up until World War ii, our peoples were richly blessed.

Mr. Armstrong warned the world long ago of what the removal of these blessing would entail. In the October 1954 Plain Truth, he stated emphatically:

Today God warns us through many prophecies … that unless we of this generation repent of our sins, and turn to Him with fastings, and with weeping, and earnest prayer, He will destroy our cities, all our fortresses, by the hand of 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 our nations to heed that warning!

Yes, that is a harrowing warning. But look at the might of the United States. Are we winning our fights? The U.S. military and society is on the decline. Yemen is just one example. Watch events in that country. As you see the U.S. failing to curb the rise of radical Islam, it should set the alarm bells ringing in your mind. The pride of America’s power is broken!

Despite this, and despite the terrible effects of removed blessings, we don’t need to fear. Remember what Mr. Armstrong also said all those years ago: We can repent and turn to God, and be spared these terrible times. The U.S. as a nation is not destined to turn to God at this time, but you certainly can. If you want to know more about what the future holds for you and for the United States, start reading The United States and Britain in Prophecy today.

Washington—Paying the Wages of Appeasement

Washington—Paying the Wages of Appeasement


Washington is paying a high price for its policy of appeasement. The cost to the nation will be extreme.

“The Obama administration’s decision Sunday to shutter nearly two dozen U.S. diplomatic posts has given jihadists something to celebrate …. ‘God is great! America is in a condition of terror and fear from al Qaeda,’ wrote one jihadist in an online forum, according to the Times. ‘The mobilization and security precautions are costing them billions of dollars. We hope to hear more of such psychological warfare, even if there are no actual jihadi operations on the ground’” (Newsmax, August 8).

The cost of the president’s policy of appeasing all who hate America has escalated dramatically since we turned tail and ran from our Middle Eastern, North African and Pakistani embassies just over a week ago based on the mere shadow of an unidentified threat of attack.

In the wake of this latest diplomatic debacle, the current U.S. presidency risks overseeing the greatest elevation of international hatred for America since the United States became a sovereign nation.

The paradox is that this presidency started out declaring it would “fix” what it maintained was the damaging foreign policy of the previous administration.

Well, the plain truth is that America is now in a far worse “fix” than it ever was under the Bush administration!

Take Egypt—and the whole Muslim world for that matter—for example.

In June 2009, President Obama traveled to the Middle East where he delivered his keynote foreign-policy speech at Cairo University in Egypt to define America’s relationship with the Muslim world.

At the time, our editor in chief commented:

I have no reason to doubt Mr. Obama’s sincerity, but his words will cause deadly problems.The president said, “No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons.” In other words, he believes America by itself should not prevent another nation from getting nuclear bombs—a signal to the world that America the superpower is dead! That means America has no right to forcefully stop Iran’s nuclear program, even though Iran is the number one terrorist-sponsoring nation in the world by far!

This was an obvious reference to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Having noted that Iran, the most significant sponsor of terror in the world, “istheking of terrorand makes the Middle East tremble,” Mr. Flurry then continued: “President Obama thinks that through his words, he will have peace with Iran. But after the terrorists heard that speech, they had to be rejoicing! When America’s president gives a speech like that, the terrorists have contempt for such weakness and are stirred to fight even harder. They can smell the victory. So we can expect violent terrorism to intensify and shake the nations!” (emphasis added throughout).

How prescient were those words. We did not have to wait long to see their effect. In December 2010, the so-called Arab Spring began rippling right across northern Africa and throughout the Middle East, toppling leaders and more deeply entrenching Islamist terrorism. The governments in Tunisia, Libya and Yemen were overthrown, as was that of the very nation where President Obama delivered his keynote Middle Eastern speech—Egypt—twice!

The turmoil unleashed continued to spread across Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Djibouti, Mauritania, Western Sahara and Mali in Northern Africa. In the Middle East, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Oman all felt the wave of protest that morphed from the initial reactions in Tunisia on December 2010. The Arab Spring protests even reached as far east as Khuzestan, a province in southwest Iran.

It is hard not to connect this unprecedented wave of protests and insurgencies with the impact of President Obama’s appeasing keynote speech to the Muslim world delivered in Cairo, June 4, 2009.

In classic liberal/socialist speak, Ross Colvin, reporting for Reuters at the time, wrote that President Obama’s speech was designed to send a message to the Muslim world that the U.S. was ready to mend America’s relationship with it, claiming that this relationship had been “severely damaged” under the presidency of George W. Bush.

It takes very little research to prove that the index of hatred of the United States—by the Muslim world in particular—has escalated markedly since President Obama’s Cairo speech to a point far in excess of that which obtained during President George W. Bush’s term in office.

Foreign Policy magazine, observing the recent wave of hatred for America rippling across the world of Islam, compared the results of polls on Islamist nations’ opinions of the U.S: “In May 2008 … only 6 percent approved of the leadership in Washington, according to polling by Gallup. This changed very briefly after Obama’s election and his June 2009 speech at Cairo University, as approval of the United States in Gallup polling peaked in mid-2009 at 37 percent. But that number crashed below even George W. Bush levels within a year” (July 19).

FP further reported that today, “Even longtime observers of Egyptian rhetoric have been taken aback by the vitriol and sheer lunacy of the current wave of anti-American rhetoric. The streets have been filled with fliers, banners, posters, and graffiti denouncing President Barack Obama for supporting terrorism and featuring Photoshopped images of Obama with a Muslim-y beard or bearing Muslim Brotherhood colors.”

This is the high price of Washington’s appeasing foreign policy toward Islamist extremism and its murderous counterpart, Muslim-funded terrorism.

And it does not stop with Egypt.

“Eliot Cohen, former adviser to George W. Bush’s administration, pungently observed of the White House’s fecklessness, ‘Nobody’s saying there are any real consequences that would come from crossing [Obama]—and that’s an awful position for the president of the United States to be in’” (ibid, August 8).

FP pointed out the remarkable diplomatic deficit that the current U.S. administration has racked up since America’s current president gained office:

Obama’s past hollow threats and “red lines” on Syria have eroded American credibility and now regrettably make a diplomatic solution to that war all but impossible. The administration’s confused and contradictory policies on Iran have likewise emboldened Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to resist a diplomatic settlement. On Egypt, the White House has somehow pulled off the trifecta of diplomatic debacles by alienating the liberals, the Islamists, and the military (in other words, almost everyone). In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki more and more sides against U.S. interests, even while terrorism and instability begin to afflict his country again. The administration’s poisoned relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai mirrors the overall deterioration in Afghanistan.

Facing the facts, even if the U.S. had strong decisive Roosevelt/Regan-style leadership waiting in the wings for the next election—which it doesn’t—it would be an impossible task for such a leader to revive respect for the power that was once America’s.

America’s current administration will have the dubious reputation of being documented in history as the presidency that ultimately oversaw the prophesied breaking of the pride of American power (Leviticus 26:19).

The problem is, a grave suspicion remains in the minds of close, very objective, observers of this scenario that it is all the consequence of a deliberate radical agenda which set out to achieve that very result.

One of the most blunt and direct assessments of the current administration in Washington came recently from Lawrence Sellin, a retired colonel who served for 29 years in the U.S. Army Reserve. Sellin is a veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq. His terse summation of the current presidency is summed up in the following item published on Family Security Matters on August 5: “The anti-American political philosophies underlying the policies of Barack Hussein Obama can be defined as the juncture of three ideologies: socialism, Islam and opportunistic racism to foster resentment among minority groups and promote race and class conflict as a lubricant for his radical transformation of the United States.”

Voicing the concerns that a substantial number of Americans increasingly feel, yet have no real and effective forum from which to have them addressed—least of all the mass media nor even a seemingly supine Congress—Colonel Sellin states: “Many Obama policies seem inexplicable to patriotic Americans because they often run counter to the interests of the country. They include unsustainable federal spending, lax border security, a weakened military and the undermining of individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Yet the greatest concern that the colonel airs is in respect of doubts as to the degree of loyalty the present U.S. administration has toward its own home nation. Of this Sellin declares: “There are also persistent questions by a growing number of Americans regarding the extent of Obama’s allegiance to the United States.”

It is this atmosphere surrounding America’s current foreign policy which is being taken substantial advantage of by Islamist extremism, and, most especially, terrorism’s chief sponsor, Iran. To repeat that prescient—in fact prophetic—statement made by our editor in chief following President Obama’s Cairo speech, “[T]he terrorists have contempt for such weakness and are stirred to fight even harder. They can smell the victory.”

Notice that Gerald Flurry then directly connects the effect of that speech to a profound, earthshaking prophecy for our times: “So we can expect violent terrorism to intensify and shake the nations!”

Never in modern times have we seen such a shaking of the nations as that which has occurred from the Arab Spring to this date!

You need to understand this powerful prophecy for our day.

Read our booklets The King of the South and America Under Attack. They will open your eyes to the real effect of Washington’s policy of appeasement, and the most dangerous events that, as a direct consequence, will follow.

These booklets will show you that the terrible effects on the nation—and indeed the whole world—that such an appeasing policy is bound to bring about, are, in reality, a great sign of your Savior’s imminent return. His coming will enable the enactment of the perfect foreign policy, a universal policy based upon God’s immutable law, guaranteed to bring about ultimate world peace—forever!

Putin Vs. the Global Homosexual Juggernaut

Putin Vs. the Global Homosexual Juggernaut


After 14 years of tyrannical behavior, Russia’s strongman appears to have finally incited a vast and genuine moral backlash.

Five years ago this month, Vladimir Putin dispatched Russian troops to Georgia in an invasion that killed 300 people, destabilized the region and set off an international crisis. Throughout his career, Putin has participated in and initiated other unpleasant escapades, including the killing and displacement of more than 150,000 Chechens, supporting deadly regimes in Iran and Syria, and violently oppressing opponents in pursuit of personal ambition and power.

In each exploit, Putin has violated human rights and inflicted terrible suffering, even death. How has the West responded? Generally the response has come only from Western governments (and some media voices), and has been one of restrained reproach and halfhearted condemnation. Despite all the misery and instability Putin has caused, there’s never been a significant, wholehearted moral backlash. Never has there been a fiery, genuinely furious reaction from the spectrum of Western leaders and institutions, from governments, the media, intellectuals and businessmen, Hollywood and higher education, and the public.

That is, until now.

Vladimir Putin is currently facing enormous international criticism. Not just from fellow world leaders, including President Obama, who stated last week that “nobody’s more offended than me” by what’s happening in Russia. (Mr. Obama is so upset he called off a scheduled meeting with Putin.) But also from the mainstream media, from intellectuals and popular figures, and even from the public.

Around the world, thousands are turning out at organized protests to vent their fury. Bars, nightclubs and restaurants are joining an international boycott of Russian-made vodka and other Russian-made products. Cities in America and elsewhere are severing relations with “sister” cities in Russia. In California, Democratic politicians are trying to ensure state funds are not invested in Russia. Last week, the International Olympic Committee received an international petition with 300,000 signatures demanding the boycott of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

President Putin is being compared to Adolf Hitler and his actions to that of pre-war Nazi Germany. “I’m surprised this is not a huge story,” lamented Jay Leno to President Obama last week. “I mean, this seems like Germany: Let’s round up the Jews; let’s round up the gays; let’s round up the blacks. I mean, it starts with that …. Why is not more of the world outraged at this?” Putin’s actions come “straight from the Nazi playbook,” wrote Harvey Fierstein in the New York Times. In Britain, Stephen Fry likened Putin to Hitler, and wrote that “an absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 is simply essential.”

After years of tyrannical behavior, it seems Putin has finally incited vast and genuine outrage. What action was so despicable, so atrocious, so morally reprehensible and offensive, that it roused the normally tolerant and imperturbable West?

He signed a law banning the dissemination of homosexual propaganda to minors.

Yes, that’s all. Never mind the years this man has engaged in domestic and international bullying—invading nations, brow-beating others; beating, imprisoning and even murdering opponents; undermining the West and supporting genocidal regimes. It’s when Putin intruded on the right of Russian homosexuals to indoctrinate children that the world flipped.

This is the state of Western morality: Vladimir Putin can tyrannize the world, but the moment he interferes with the right of Russian homosexuals to educate children in their lifestyle, the world screams condemnation!

There’s no denying Russia has a measure of intolerance of homosexuality. In Russia it’s illegal to advocate homosexuality to people under 18, to engage in homosexual behavior with a person under 16, and for homosexual couples to adopt children. But do we seriously believe these laws are the equivalent of Nazi Germany’s pre-war treatment of Jews? As recently as a decade ago you could find similar legislation in Britain and America.

While Putin clearly isn’t a fan of homosexuals, and Russia can be a dangerous place for homosexuals (generally only those who flaunt their sexuality), the man isn’t rounding them up and tossing them in prison. He hasn’t shuttered homosexual bars, or banned homosexual pornography, or made it illegal to practice homosexuality. Russian law does not explicitly ban participation in gay pride parades, or the promotion of lgbt equality online. It’s entirely legal to be homosexual in Russia. All this admittedly vague “anti-gay” law does is make it illegal to propagandize homosexuality to minors.

Homosexual advocates are protesting against Russia in defense of human rights, specifically the right of Russians to freely engage in the homosexual lifestyle. (The violent persecution of homosexuals in Russia, although the problem has been greatly exaggerated, is unfortunate.) But what about the human rights violations occurring daily that are 100 times worse? Where’s the fervent international moral backlash—the global protests, the celebrity outcries, the international boycotts, the cancellation of high-level meetings—in protest of Bashar Assad, or America’s black-on-black violence, or the mistreatment of women by Islamists? In each instance, tens of thousands have suffered horribly and been killed.

The international brouhaha surrounding Russia’s laws governing homosexuality reveals the rapidly growing power and influence of the global lgbt movement and agenda. More significantly, it testifies to the collapsing moral state of the West. The violent persecution of any human being is wrong and it’s unfortunate some homosexuals are suffering in Russia. But let’s be honest. The laws Mr. Putin is creating and the moral standard he seeks to preserve aren’t historically anomalous. (Eighty-five percent of Russian adults strongly oppose homosexual marriage. A large majority oppose homosexuality altogether.) Truth be told, when it comes to homosexuality, Putin is in moral territory that was until quite recently inhabited by America, Britain and virtually the entire world.

Considered against the long history of Western morality, Putin isn’t the anomaly. We are.

Mideast Peace Talks Hinge on Jerusalem

The status of Jerusalem is among the core issues being discussed at the U.S.-brokered peace talks that began on August 14 between Israel and the Palestinians. This is the first direct negotiations between the two sides after five years of diplomatic stalemate.

Israel’s government considers Jerusalem its political and religious center, and is unwilling to divide it. The government holds to the 1980 Israeli Basic Law, which states that “Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.”

However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas argues that no agreement can exist with Israel without a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is central to Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The al Aqsa mosque in the Old City is Islam’s third-holiest site. The mosque is located on the Temple Mount, which Jews consider to be Judaism’s holiest site.

Jordan occupied East Jerusalem until 1967, when Israel captured it during the Six-Day War. Since then, Jewish neighborhoods have been interwoven within the Arab core of East Jerusalem. The Jewish population now numbers 200,000, which nearly equals the number of Arabs in East Jerusalem.

Wednesday’s meeting marks Israel and the Palestinians’ third attempt since 2000 to agree on the terms of a Palestinian state.

[SOUNDBITE: Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs]

“It is a very unique city. People believe that this is the shortest spot on Earth to heaven. People believe in this whether they are Muslim or Christian or Jews. So it is faith, it is people, it is religion, and then comes to the political side of it. It cannot be and should not be under any circumstances exclusive to one people at the expense of other people. That is why the Palestinian position should be an open city, a shared city, two capitals, two flags, two municipalities. Jerusalem cannot be and should not be a closed city.”

The Bible prophesies that half of Jerusalem will be taken captive. This indicates that Israel will not willingly give up sovereignty over East Jerusalem. The captivity of half of Jerusalem is the first domino to fall leading to the return of Jesus Christ. To understand these pivotal events surrounding Jerusalem, read Zechariah—The Sign of Christ’s Imminent Return.