WorldWatch

From the March 2014 Trumpet Print Edition

‘Putin II’ tightens grip on Russian media

President Vladimir Putin dissolved Russia’s primary state news agency on December 9 and replaced it with a propaganda machine, the latest example of his openly aggressive attempt to control Russia’s media.

The ria Novosti news agency was government-controlled, but Putin decided it did not toe the Kremlin line closely enough. He was displeased by the agency’s coverage of demonstrations that followed his 2012 announcement that he would run for president again. The last straw appears to have been ria Novosti’s reporting on the mass protests currently underway in Ukraine.

Putin dissolved the decades-old agency, and its headquarters in central Moscow is now being used by a new state-controlled organization called Rossiya Segodnya. The new agency is essentially a propaganda apparatus for the Kremlin—completely uncritical of Putin.

In a separate maneuver in late November, Putin greatly extended his grip over tv and radio when the media arm of state-controlled Gazprom bought Profmedia.

Putin is making openly authoritarian moves to consolidate his power. In a recent New York Times op-ed, Serge Schmemann wrote: “[I]n replacing a respected news agency with a propaganda machine, Mr. Putin followed the more openly aggressive stance of his return to the presidency in May 2012—what Russians call Putin ii, or Late Putin.”

The Trumpet has been anticipating an authoritarian Putin ii, predicting the second, more dictatorial phase of “Dark Rider Putin.” Time has proven that prediction accurate. Besides clamping down on the Russian media and stifling protests, Putin has also yanked Ukraine away from years’ worth of talks and cooperation with the European Union. He has claimed sovereignty over the Arctic, called Russia the “moral compass of the world,” and made a trade deal with Iran that severely undermined American and European sanctions and ultimately helps Iran’s nuclear program.

As editor in chief Gerald Flurry explains in detail in his article “The Ukraine Crisis Was Prophesied!” (page 1), one of the most significant aspects of Russia’s resurgence is the catalytic effect it will have on European unification.Pacts of friendship

Afghanistan has agreed to a long-term friendship and cooperation pact with Iran. Afghan President Hamid Karzai rushed to Tehran on Dec. 8, 2013, to sign the cooperation deal, which his spokesman said “will be for long-term political, security, economic and cultural cooperation, regional peace and security.”

For years the United States has attempted to strike a security deal with Karzai that would maintain an American presence in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of most of its troops by December 2014. With that deadline looming and the Pentagon hoping to keep 8,000 troops in Afghanistan next year, Karzai made some sudden demands. He told Washington he would sign no bilateral security agreement unless his 11th-hour conditions were met.

Now Afghanistan has made an agreement with Iran. Karzai’s actions say a lot about America’s long-term relationship with Afghanistan. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said at the time the deal was made, “We need to enhance our relationships with our neighbors because these are the countries we have our future with.” Despite Washington’s efforts to close a deal, Iran appears to have won the battle for influence over Karzai’s government.

The scenario further reveals the precipitous decline of American influence in the Middle East.

This Afghanistan-Iran pact relates to a biblical prophecy forecasting the rise of the “king of the south.” This king is Iran leading an alliance of radical Islamic nations. It will come to power in the Middle East, and the Bible prophesies that it will trigger World War III.

Pacts of friendship

Afghanistan has agreed to a long-term friendship and cooperation pact with Iran. Afghan President Hamid Karzai rushed to Tehran on Dec. 8, 2013, to sign the cooperation deal, which his spokesman said “will be for long-term political, security, economic and cultural cooperation, regional peace and security.”

For years the United States has attempted to strike a security deal with Karzai that would maintain an American presence in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of most of its troops by December 2014. With that deadline looming and the Pentagon hoping to keep 8,000 troops in Afghanistan next year, Karzai made some sudden demands. He told Washington he would sign no bilateral security agreement unless his 11th-hour conditions were met.

Now Afghanistan has made an agreement with Iran. Karzai’s actions say a lot about America’s long-term relationship with Afghanistan. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said at the time the deal was made, “We need to enhance our relationships with our neighbors because these are the countries we have our future with.” Despite Washington’s efforts to close a deal, Iran appears to have won the battle for influence over Karzai’s government.

The scenario further reveals the precipitous decline of American influence in the Middle East.

This Afghanistan-Iran pact relates to a biblical prophecy forecasting the rise of the “king of the south.” This king is Iran leading an alliance of radical Islamic nations. It will come to power in the Middle East, and the Bible prophesies that it will trigger World War III.

Turkey’s upheaval may give Europe an opportunity

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is facing what looks to be the biggest challenge of his 11 years in office. Embroiled in a massive corruption scandal, he has been forced to reshuffle his cabinet, and Turks across the nation are still calling for him to step down.

The corruption charges date back to December 17, when at least two sons of high-ranking politicians were arrested as part of a larger operation aimed at stemming government corruption.

When he took office, Erdoğan was seen as the solution to years of corruption under former Prime Minister Abdullah Gül. Now those who put Erdoğan in office seem to think he himself is corrupt.

Immediately after the first arrests, the government attempted to control the damage, removing numerous police and judicial officials from office. Three politicians from the Justice and Development Party have resigned over the scandal.

Whether the scandal claims Erdoğan’s career or not, prophecy tells us what is about to happen in Turkey. Geographically, culturally and economically, Turkey is wedged between Europe and the Middle East. Bible prophecy tells us that it will enter a strategic partnership with the Europeans. As a literal land bridge, Turkey will play a vital role for Europe in securing control of the Middle East (Daniel 11:40).

A strong pro-European leader may be all Turkey needs to tip the nation toward European influence. A large-scale government reshuffle could have a similar effect.

In Psalm 83:5-8, the Europeans are prophesied to ally with the Turks, along with a number of other Arabic nations. The descendents of Edom, mentioned in this prophecy, are the modern Turks, and those of the Assyrians are the modern Germans.

The repercussions of this alliance will be felt across the world. The context of Psalm 83 is the destruction of Israel. Keep your eye on events in Turkey; upheavals will eventually lead that nation toward betraying its old partners, including the United States and Britain.

Angling to build an army

British Prime Minister David Cameron blocked plans for the European Union to create its own armed forces during a defense summit held December 19 to 20, saying “it isn’t right for the European Union to have capabilities, armies, air forces and all the rest of it.”

Mr. Cameron’s statement came after President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said on December 19, “We need a headquarters for civil and military missions in Brussels and deployable troops.”

Nevertheless, at the summit, the EU still took other significant but subtler steps toward amassing power.

The European Commission and other EU bodies were tasked with creating an “EU Cyber Defense Policy Framework” and an “EU Maritime Security Strategy.” That puts these two projects beyond Britain’s veto power. The Commission also aims to set new standards for European military equipment—something it could use to prevent EU nations from buying new equipment from the United States. The summit’s conclusions also call for the development of a European drone by 2020 to 2025, and the development of air-to-air refueling technology.

The European Commission now has plenty of scope to increase European military cooperation. Keep watching to see what will come of it.

Chief Executive of European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. Tom Enders is hopeful. Enders, who is usually critical of European politicians on defense matters, called the meeting a “very positive forward step.” He said that the agreements to do more to coordinate military purchasing were “a sign that the political will exists” for further action.

But in the near future, moves toward a European army will probably come from cooperation between individual member states rather than from the EU. “The frequent calls for more cooperation between member states … lends force to one of the major pre-summit arguments put forward by officials and diplomats: that some of the most significant effects of the summit would be felt not at the EU level, but in cooperation between ‘clusters’ of member states, and at the national level,” wrote the European Voice. “The focus on cooperation between groups of member states reflects the current limited level of pan-EU collaboration on defense issues, and also sensitivities about whether cooperation should be developed through the EU or nato” (Dec. 20, 2013).

This will be the way forward for the near future. Britain is Europe’s biggest obstacle to closer cooperation, but not the only one. It will probably take a major crisis to convince even the less Euroskeptic nations to give up more control over their militaries.

But this “clusters” approach is exactly the route Germany has been pursuing. There are some big obstacles in the way of a common European military, but Germany, especially, is committed to making it happen.

Get to know the new head of DHS

The United States Senate confirmed a new Secretary of Homeland Security on December 16. Winning confirmation by an overwhelming vote of 78 to 16, Jeh Johnson is the fourth person to lead the sprawling domestic security agency since its inception after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Johnson is one of three African Americans in President Barack Obama’s new cabinet, and will take over a department overseeing 22 agencies with a far-flung jurisdiction that includes counterterrorism, fighting illegal immigration and responding to natural disasters. But many civil rights advocates are deeply concerned about the direction Johnson is likely to move national law enforcement.

Although he has been an obscure figure thus far to both the general public and the law enforcement community, the American Civil Liberties Union has been voicing concerns about his human rights record—specifically his unapologetic support of the Obama administration’s drone warfare policies.

During his stint as a legal adviser for the Pentagon, Johnson provided legal rationale for military involvement in the drone program. To the shock of civil rights advocates, Johnson advocated targeting U.S. citizens in such drone strikes. “Belligerents who also happen to be U.S. citizens do not enjoy immunity where non-citizen belligerents are valid military objectives,” he said in a speech at Yale Law School.

Now Johnson is head of Homeland Security. Has he changed his legal rationale, or will he beef up the department’s domestic drone fleet?

Johnson has also defended the National Security Administration’s massive and unpopular program of spying on Americans. During a discussion at the 2013 Aspen Security Forum, Johnson said that when Americans make a phone call, they have “no legitimate expectation of privacy.” Their metadata (including phone numbers, call duration and sometimes even gps location) belongs to the government. Johnson is unperturbed by this massive, unprecedented expansion of government power.

With support from the Pentagon, the federal Department of Homeland Security is working with local police departments to spy on American citizens without warrant and to conduct arrests with military hardware. What comes next? To find out, request your own copy of our booklet America Under Attack.

Record for volcanic eruptions smashed

A brand new island created by volcanic explosion is quickly growing and will likely remain a fixture of the Pacific landscape, Japan’s Meteorological Agency said on December 12. The island was formed from lava that cooled and hardened above sea level after a large underwater volcano began erupting in late November.

While it is quite rare for new islands to spring up out of the sea, major volcanic eruptions are becoming commonplace. In fact, 2013 had the most volcanic eruptions in any year since record keeping began: It had 84 volcanic eruptions, according to calculations by Alvin Conway, author of The Extinction Protocol. Considering that the average is between 50 and 60 per year, this represents a significant increase. This number does not even include undersea volcanoes like the one that produced the new Japanese island.

Conway wrote about the potential importance of the uptick in eruptions: “While most scientists may readily dismiss any significance to the latest figures and may be quick to say the planet is just experiencing normal geological activity, it does raise other concerns about just what may be transpiring within the interior of our planet.”

Having 23 to 33 eruptions more than usual also represents a potentially significant increase in the amount of ash and gases entering into Earth’s atmosphere. Some analysts believe the increase could lower global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius or more, which could be enough to alter agricultural yields in key regions. Even if it isn’t, the trend is significant.

The Holy Bible reveals that the God who created Earth and the universe can cause volcanoes to erupt: “Mountains have shaken because of Him, And the hills have been melted” (Nahum 1:5; Young’s Literal Translation). Psalm 104:32 says, “He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.”

Although Jesus Christ is not recorded as having mentioned volcanoes specifically, He did talk about earthquakes, which are often the result of volcanic activity. During His earthly ministry, Jesus said earthquakes would increase just before His return (Matthew 24:7-8).

It seems that every few weeks the Earth unleashes devastating violence of one kind or other: a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, a tornado, a tsunami, a mega storm, a flood, drought, a rash of wildfires. Bible prophecy makes plain that these disasters signal that this present evil world is about to end. In the rubble of the catastrophes lies invigorating hope. To understand more, request a free copy of Why ‘Natural’ Disasters?

The president’s strange choice to oversee mortgage giants

One of the most controversial Obama appointees yet was sworn in as director of the Federal Housing Financial Agency on January 6. Democrat Rep. Mel Watt now oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two giant government-owned mortgage companies. Ironically, he was also one of the chief architects of the housing bubble that popped in 2007.

Watt, who was chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, is perhaps best known for pushing banks to give risky loans to blacks and other minorities that could not afford them. In the lead-up to the housing bubble, he drafted legislation that would have pushed banks to even give mortgages to people on welfare as long as they could come up with $1,000. To placate the banks, which resisted, his plan called on the government to cover any losses incurred by the banks by guaranteeing the mortgages.

In October 2002, Watt announced the public-private partnership called “Pathways to Homeownership.” This plan was designed to coerce banks to give mortgages to people even if they couldn’t scrape together a down payment.

Watt aggressively pushed policies to get people to buy homes whether or not they could afford them. He worked to expand government mortgage insurance programs, government handouts and tax credits. Even in 2007, when the housing market was imploding from all these subprime loans, Watt pushed a bill to force Fannie and Freddie to make more loans to non-creditworthy minorities in inner cities.

Watt also vehemently fought against any effort to reduce subprime lending. He and Rep. Barney Frank led the effort to successfully block the 2003 Fannie and Freddie reform effort.

What do you think Watt’s agenda will include? He has already told us: Reflate the housing bubble by helping people buy houses they cannot afford.

Even before he was confirmed, Watt pledged to stop the planned increases in government-backed mortgage fees that were designed to wean the mortgage market off government subsidies. He also put his name to a letter calling on Fannie and Freddie to forgive the debts of underwater homeowners who speculated on houses at the height of the bubble.

Mel Watt’s record is public knowledge. So why didn’t Republicans challenge him on that, rather than criticizing his lack of business experience?

Here’s one reason: Everybody is afraid to be called a racist. No one wants to be associated with anything that can be twisted or perceived to be against minorities. The race card is a powerful motivator in today’s political climate.

Additionally, Republicans were also complicit in the housing bubble and pushing banks to issue risky loans to those who could not afford them.

But there is a bigger reason.

Big banks and real estate groups are some of the biggest donors to both political parties. As the Center for Responsive Politics points out, financial industry players (commercial banks, investment banks and insurance companies) are three of the top five contributors to Watt’s election coffers.

Mel Watt is just the man for Wall Street. He said he wants to reflate housing prices, and he is for lowering lending standards again. The big banks couldn’t be happier. They love giving subprime loans to those who can’t afford them—now that they know the government will subsidize them and bail them out when things go wrong.

By appointing Watt as the mortgage market regulator, President Obama has signaled that government-backed loans are here to stay. Housing Bubble 2.0 is on the way.

You CAN conquer credit card debt

Call if you can’t make a payment

There’s a good chance your credit card company can work with you by taking a partial payment or deferring your payments, especially if you have a good payment history.

Seek advice 

Because your credit rating is on the line, be very choosy about who you turn to for help. Beware of “debt negotiation schemes.” Non-profit debt-help organizations can provide much-needed expert counsel.

Transfer high to low-interest 

If you are paying 20 percent on one card but can transfer it to a card that only charges 11 percent, do so. But, be careful—many cards have penalties and fees associated with balance transfers or have low teaser interest rates. Talk to the credit card company and read all the fine print.

Pay more than the minimum 

Making just the minimum payment will cost you thousands of dollars over time.

Prioritize 

In most cases, it makes sense to pay off the card with the highest interest rate first. Make minimum payments on all your cards, but use extra funds to pay off the higher-rate cards.

Quit using those cards 

Think of your cards as a tool, not a license to spend. If you have a binge-spending problem, get rid of the cards. Simply cut them up.

Create a budget 

Start by listing all your monthly expenses. Be thorough and accurate. Next, total your sources of income. If your balance sheet doesn’t add up, you must increase your earnings or reduce your standard of living.