Epic drought turning California into a cursed state
For three straight years, a punishing drought has devastated California and much of America’s West and Southwest.
President Barack Obama visited California on February 14 to assess the severity of the drought. “California is our biggest economy [and] our biggest agricultural producer, so what happens here matters to every working American,” he said, “right down to the cost of food that you put on your table.”
2013 was officially California’s driest year in 119 years of record-keeping. According to Prof. B. Lynn Ingram of the University of California–Berkeley, it represented the most devastating drought in 500 years.
According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, almost 99 percent of California is “abnormally dry.” At least 60 percent of the state is experiencing “extreme drought,” and nearly 10 percent is experiencing “exceptional drought.” Fire risk is high in many parts of the state. Seasonal firefighters worked all year round in 2013 because of this risk. As a consequence, camping has been essentially outlawed.
For the first time in 54 years, the State Water Project, California’s main municipal water distribution system, announced that it would not be able to supplement water supplies to local agencies, including farmers. About 40,000 residents of 17 rural communities may run out of water by mid-June.
Through billboards on California highways and other means, the state is asking Californians to drastically reduce their water usage voluntarily by taking “stop-start-stop-start” showers, not watering lawns and gardens during the day, sweeping driveways instead of hosing them down, flushing toilets less frequently and not refilling swimming pools.
Sacramento and Folsom residents have been mandated to reduce their water consumption by 20 percent. Santa Cruz restaurants have been asked not to offer water unless customers request it.
State-wide mandatory conservation measures have not yet been enforced; however, they are likely options, as Gov. Jerry Brown indicated when he declared a water emergency on January 17.
The fact that California has not mandated more drastic measures state-wide does not mean the drought is not severe. Such measures are politically charged. Water districts, for example, would lose revenue. The Santa Clara Valley Water District estimates that it would lose $20 million from enforcing a 10 percent reduction in water consumption. The Los Angeles Metropolitan District says it would lose $150 million from a 20 percent reduction. “We want to save the big hammer for when we know it’s really bad,” one water district general manager said. But delaying conservation efforts now may make the rationing much worse later if the drought doesn’t break.
Conditions are already bad in California. Aquatic life has been hit hard. Fishing has been banned in most of the state to protect endangered aquatic species like salmon. Ranchers struggling to feed their livestock have been forced to cull or sell their herds en masse. The U.S. relies heavily on California for much of its food; dwindling production will seriously impact food availability and prices nationwide.
About 80 percent of California’s freshwater supply is used for agriculture. Farmers of annual crops are reducing the acreage of crops they are planting to match the available water supplies. Such an option, however, is not available for fruit tree farmers, whose trees and vines continue from year to year and, this year, are dying. In 2009, Ken Shackel, a tree crop expert at the University of California–Davis, observed a 50 percent reduction in yield if trees were not watered for a year. A year of normal irrigation the next year only improved yield by 10 percent. After another year of normal irrigation, yields finally returned to normal. “However bad this year [is], it will be worse next [year]” for farmers, Shackel surmised. “Really bad this year means really, really bad next year.”
When President Obama visited California, he announced that the federal government would give the state $160 million in aid, including $100 million for a controversial farm bill. After blaming California’s drought on human-caused global warming, the president also announced his plan to have Congress provide $1 billion for a “climate resiliency” program. The program, if passed, will fund research and infrastructure that would help in preparation for climate disasters.
However, California’s climate problems are too big for money to solve. That state has enjoyed some of the choicest blessings on Earth. Our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy explains why those blessings are being replaced by curses. Request your free copy to understand the real “human activity” that has caused California’s curses. And watch the Trumpet Daily episode on the subject.
A ‘game changer’ hypersonic missile
China conducted a successful test flight of a hypersonic missile system on January 9. The United States military detected an object flying over China at 10 times the speed of sound. Some say the missile may be capable of delivering nuclear warheads at speeds too fast for defense systems to block. “Such a weapon has long been seen as a game changer by security experts as it can hit a target before any of the existing missile defense systems can react,” Stephen Chen explained in the South China Morning Post (January 15).
Russia, India and China have been trying to develop hypersonic missile capability for some time, yet for years the United States remained the only power that had successfully tested the technology. That has now changed.
For a missile to be considered hypersonic, it must travel between Mach 5 and Mach 10—3,840 to 7,680 miles per hour. To understand how insanely fast that is, compare it to modern cruise missiles, which travel about 600 miles per hour.
Though few details have been released about China’s test and how it compares to American military innovations, three members of the U.S. Congress have said that it means the Chinese “appear to be leaping ahead of [the United States]” in military technology development.
Meanwhile, a report published in January shows that China is developing its military air power faster than any other nation on the globe, particularly new jet fighters and special mission aircraft. Beijing is also currently developing the world’s largest amphibious plane and is set to become the world’s number one missile producer this year.
House Armed Services Committee members Howard McKeon, Randy Forbes and Mike Rogers issued a joint statement expressing their concerns over the implications of the hypersonic missile test: “While round after round of defense cuts have knocked America’s technological advantage on its back, the Chinese and other competitor nations push toward military parity with the United States; in some cases, as in this one, they appear to be leaping ahead of us. … We have dithered for three decades now, delaying badly needed replacement equipment for our troops, relying on hardware that was built during the Reagan years.”
The U.S. is indeed “dithering” in key security areas. It is rapidly succumbing to its moral and economic diseases, and is appeasing the growing number of governments demanding that Washington stop “policing” the rest of the world.
Bible prophecy confirms that U.S. power will increasingly collapse, and Asian nations will rise. Scripture specifically says that several Asian juggernauts will pool their resources and form a military force of proportions the world has never seen. For more details on the Bible’s forecasts for China and Asia, request your free copy of Russia and China in Prophecy.
Leapfrogging America in world trade
China overtook the United States in 2013 to become the world’s biggest trading nation according to data released by the two countries. The year marked the end of America’s decades-long trade dominance. China’s total exports and imports of goods hit $4.16 trillion. Final figures for the U.S. have not yet been published, but they are expected to fall well below $4 trillion. Since China’s exports and imports are growing considerably faster than those of the U.S., the gap between the two nations is likely to widen this year.
In 2009, China overtook Germany to become the world’s largest exporter. In 2010, it eclipsed the U.S. as the world’s thirstiest consumer of energy, a sign of China’s extraordinary economic growth and its increasing industrial clout.
Though the U.S. economy is still almost double the size of China’s—with a gross domestic product in 2012 of about $15.2 trillion, compared to China’s $8.4 trillion—these trends confirm a historic geo-economic shift.
China’s explosive economic might now threatens to unsettle regional trading blocs as it becomes the most important commercial partner for Asia, Europe and even distant countries like Brazil, where Chinese trade eclipsed American trade in 2009.
For most of the past century, America has been the world’s single greatest guarantor of global stability, and the main force maintaining the system of open trade. But now other nations like China are overtaking and outperforming the Americans. These governments do not prioritize global stability or mutually beneficial trade the same way Washington long did. To understand what to expect in the wake of America’s decline, read the January 2014 cover story, “What Happens After a Superpower Dies?”—also available on theTrumpet.com.
The global economy is shaking
A startling fact has become clear: The global financial system is propped up by United States Federal Reserve money-printing. And now that the Fed is slowing its stimulus, chaos is engulfing a world dependent on easy money.
“The crisis is imminent,” says EuroPacific Capital’s Peter Schiff. “I don’t think Obama is going to finish his second term without the bottom dropping out. And stock market investors are oblivious to the problems.” Schiff says the only way to mitigate the global wreckage will be for the Fed to reverse course and dramatically increase its monetary stimulus. Doing so might postpone the crisis and buy some time.
But what will the Fed do? It refuses to acknowledge any responsibility. Its posture resembles what U.S. Treasury Secretary John Connally said to foreign finance ministers in 1971: “The dollar is our currency, but it’s your problem.”
In December, the Fed announced it would start to wind down its unprecedented stimulus programs. Since Federal Reserve money printing is the biggest factor keeping interest rates low and debt “affordable” for consumers, it didn’t take long before tremors began to be felt. Within days, markets began to tumble, and volatility surged. By the beginning of February, the Dow Jones Index and Nasdaq were both down 7 percent from their highs; the S&P 500 was down 5 percent. The Royal Bank of Scotland warned on February 4 that the world is staring into the face of a “market bloodbath” unless the Fed halts its tapering.
The “blood in the streets” won’t be confined to Wall Street. Factory orders in the U.S. suffered their sharpest fall in 33 years this January. The ism manufacturing index sustained its biggest one-month decline since the Lehman crisis.
Compounding the problem, the U.S. money supply growth rate has been slowing for months. Now that the Fed is reducing stimulus, money supply growth may soon disappear altogether. In a debt-based economy that mathematically requires ever greater amounts of money to cover principal and interest payments, even a reduced money supply can turn deadly.
But so far, the bigger effect has been overseas. Foreign investors are fleeing emerging markets. Since the Fed’s December announcement, the Brazilian real has tumbled 4 percent against the dollar; Russia’s ruble has cascaded 8 percent; India’s rupee is down 1.2 percent; and South Africa’s rand has dropped about 7 percent. These are massive distortions for currencies that usually move fractions of a percent.
Bond markets are under pressure too. Credit default swaps—measurements of a nation’s ability to repay debt—among virtually all emerging markets are widening. Both Russia and Brazil have been forced to cancel government debt auctions.
To stop foreign capital flight, these countries are jacking up interest rates. This threatens to cripple their banking sectors and push their economies into recession.
Turkey once bragged about avoiding the 2008 economic meltdown. But on January 29, its central bank doubled its interest rate to protect the lira. The Turks have seen 10 percent of their currency’s value disappear since the Fed announced its tapering. Protesters are already standing down water cannons in the streets of Istanbul over government corruption and Internet monitoring. Violent, Greek-like protests may be next.
Argentina’s hyperinflation and soaring unemployment is not the Federal Reserve’s fault—it is a socialist tragedy years in the making. Yet the Fed’s policy may have pushed Argentina over the edge. In January, Argentina devalued the peso by 19 percent. It then promptly restricted all businesses from raising prices—under threat of prosecution. As a result, businesses are closing and unemployment is rising.
The Fed gives and the Fed takes away. To combat the 2008 crisis, it ignited an artificial boom that spread around the globe. Now it is bringing a bust. But the Fed was always a false god. It could never have healed the world’s debt-addicted financial systems. It cannot re-create the global economy. It can’t even mend the economic fault lines tearing apart America’s own economy.
If the money printing really is ending, be ready for big economic shaking.
Putin: Now it’s the West that is godless
During the Cold War era, American leaders labeled the atheist Soviet Union a “godless nation.” Twenty-five years on, the tables have turned. On January 28, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that, under President Barack Obama, it’s the West that is now godless.
“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,” Putin said without specifically naming America. “Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”
President Putin’s statements about the West were echoed by Patriarch Kirill I, the leader of Russia’s Orthodox Church. Kirill said Western leaders are engaging in the “spiritual disarmament” of their people. “The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character,” he said. “We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God. We want to shout to the whole world, ‘Stop!’”
Getting swallowed by the EU
Serbia began negotiating its entry into the European Union on January 21, marking the “most important moment for Serbia since the end of World War ii,” according to Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic.
Dacic, who led the Serbian delegation in Brussels, said that Serbia aims to finish the negotiations by 2018, though that goal is considered quite ambitious.
Serbia had to accept many EU conditions ahead of the meeting, including a compromise on the status of its breakaway province, Kosovo. Its formal commencement of the accession process expands Serbia’s access to EU funds.
Dacic does not overestimate the importance of the moment. Germany pushed the Western world to go to war to break up Yugoslavia so Europe could gain a strategic advantage in the Balkans. Now that Serbia is officially negotiating to join the EU, that process is almost complete.
For more information on this history, see the recent Trumpet Daily documentary, “Germany’s Conquest of Europe” and request our free booklet Germany’s Conquest of the Balkans.
Desperate police hire vigilantes
Overwhelmed by a drug war that has claimed more than 80,000 lives since 2006, Mexico’s law enforcement authorities have integrated once-illegal, Michoacán state vigilante groups into their ranks.
Announcement of the policy change came on January 27, at the same time the government issued a statement about the arrest of one of the bosses of the Knights Templar—a mystic, quasi-religious drug cartel that has dominated the western state of Michoacán for years.
The “autodefensa” vigilante groups launched their most offensive attacks yet against the Knights Templar in early January and threatened to take one of Michoacán’s cities by force. This reinforced tension between Mexican soldiers and the vigilantes, resulting in heavy clashes.
Now, however, vigilantes are cooperating with law enforcement officials, who are relying on the self-defense groups’ familiarity with Michoacán’s rural towns. This development is largely seen as a sign of the Mexican government’s helplessness in curbing the drug war. The Knights Templar cartel has ruthlessly terrorized civilians through killings, kidnappings and extorting money from local farmers and businesses. And it is only the third-most powerful cartel in Mexico.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the crux of Mexico’s drug woes in 2009: “[The United States’] insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.” The remark of 19th-century Mexican President Porfirio Diaz is even more true today: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”
Where are the jobs?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics February 7 jobs report found that 113,000 jobs were created during January. That was better than December, when only 75,000 jobs were added—far lower than the 200,000 hoped for. The trouble is, America’s economy needs to produce around 150,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth.
More than five years into the worst recovery since the Great Depression, the American economy is stumbling once again.
The latest numbers were bothersome for several reasons. Employment is still about 2 million below where it was when the recession started in 2008. December was particularly bad because it is typically a month of strong hiring due to the holiday season—and over half the jobs were temporary employment. January’s weak numbers confirm that it probably wasn’t an aberration.
Over the past year, the U.S. population rose by more than 2 million, yet the labor force fell by about a quarter of a million. The labor participation rate hit a 35-year low in December.
Meanwhile, political bickering continues on Capitol Hill. Democrats say the dismal employment reports show the need for the federal government to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans are using the same figures to say that the welfare state is why America’s workforce participation rate is falling.
While the arguments continue, the economy stumbles toward the abyss.
Iran’s defiant nuclear program
Iran’s push for nuclear weapons constitutes “a major threat to the security of the United States, deployed troops and allies,” according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Clapper’s evaluation came in an annual U.S. intelligence assessment on Capitol Hill on January 29.
According to Clapper’s report, “Iran’s overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige and regional influence have led it to pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so.” The report highlighted three factors that play in to Iran obtaining a missile-capable nuclear weapon.
The first is the delivery system: Iran developed ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear payloads years ago. The second is highly enriched uranium. According to the report, despite being burdened with sanctions, Iran has not stopped developing its nuclear facilities to increase its uranium enrichment capabilities.
The third factor Clapper cited for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon is “its political will to do so”—the right leader. Clapper and the administration apparently view Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a man to help curb Iran’s nuclear aspirations. They overlook the fact that Rouhani is only ruling at the supreme leader’s behest.
Tehran now has everything it needs to construct a nuclear device in the near future: delivery technology, nuclear industrial capability and sufficiently ambitious leadership. On the flip side, the world lacks the discernment to see where Iran is headed. Even Clapper, after presenting overwhelming information in the report, said, “We do not know if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”
The White House also appears to believe it can stop Iran’s nuclear advancements through talks like the negotiations in Geneva in November. There, the Joint Plan of Action was signed, whereby Iran would supposedly halt its progression toward creating a nuclear bomb while still being allowed to have nuclear energy. It wasn’t long, however, before ample evidence showed how little the Iranians care for the promises they made.
In the deal, Iran promised to cap its enrichment at 5 percent. Shortly thereafter, Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told students in Tehran that “The structure of our nuclear program has been maintained and the 20 percent enrichment can be resumed in less than 24 hours.” So if Iran wants to disregard the Geneva deal, it claims it will take less than a day to do so.
Iran also plans on keeping up work on its plutonium reactor, despite President Barack Obama saying that work would halt at the site. Finally, the Iranians will continue to install new centrifuges, despite saying they would cease in the Geneva deal.
Iran’s nuclear program is more advanced than ever, and Iran’s leaders defy the international community with more audacity every day. Soft words around a negotiating table cannot hope to undo what Iran has been forging toward for decades. Iran wants a nuclear bomb. And in a world of weak leadership and appeasement policies, what Iran wants, Iran gets.
Where the Taliban and poppies grow together
Opium is the lifeblood of the Taliban. If the United States were to have any hopes of leaving Afghanistan without the Taliban immediately filling the vacuum with well-trained and well-funded militias, it needed to end opium production. But the opposite is happening.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (unodc) has released its Afghanistan opium survey for 2013, and it says that “opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a sobering record high in 2013.” The 2013 Afghanistan Opium Survey revealed a 36 percent increase over 2012 in land devoted to the crop.
Every province saw poppy cultivation growth, and two provinces previously considered “poppy-free” lost that status. Production of opium also increased in most provinces. “All in all, opium production in 2013 went up to some 5,500 tons, a 49 percent increase over 2012,” the report said. Not only has there been more poppy planting, but the yield has also increased: Production per acre was 11 percent higher in 2013 than in 2012. The higher yield helped lower the price of opium to $172 per kilogram—but that is still four times the profit made from the same quantity of wheat in Afghanistan.
The gross value of opium to the Afghan economy is estimated to be $3.1 billion—an increase of $1.1 billion over 2012.
This trend testifies of the resurgence of the Taliban and the diminishing impact of the United States—in Afghanistan and the Middle East as a whole. The truth is that where security is weaker, terrorists are stronger, and where the terrorists are stronger, the opium industry flourishes. And a booming opium market makes defeating the Taliban increasingly unlikely.
The Trumpet has warned of America’s decline in this region for over a decade. As we wrote in 2006, “With the U.S. gaining little traction against the Taliban, we can expect the rugged Afghan hills to be filled with opium poppies—the dangerous crop that puts dollars in Talibani pockets—for some time to come.”