Nine Foreign Ministers to Discuss New EU Constitution in Berlin

Nine Foreign Ministers to Discuss New EU Constitution in Berlin

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EU needs a new constitution that reflects ‘new centers of power in the world,’ says German foreign minister.

The European Union needs to debate a new constitution, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said March 9 at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Copenhagen. Nine EU countries are expected to discuss the idea in Berlin on March 20, Reuters reported, citing an anonymous EU diplomat.

“We have to open a new chapter in European politics,” Westerwelle told reporters. “We need more efficient decision structures.”

“I think we have to reopen the debate about a European constitution again,” he said. “We have a good treaty, but we need a constitution … as there are new centers of power in the world.”

Many EU nations disagree. Britain vetoed an earlier plan by Germany to enforce EU oversight of nations’ budgets in an amendment to the treaty. Reuters reports that Germany, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Denmark are expected to attend a seminar on the subject in Berlin. But others have criticized the idea. “I don’t think the priority in the European Union at the moment is to start a new constitutional debate,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.

The Trumpet has long forecast that Germany would lead the push toward greater integration, but that not all EU nations would be willing to follow. Ultimately, 10 nations or groups of nations will rapidly push toward greater integration and common government. Countries like Britain and Sweden will be left behind.

Getting tougher to find oil

Those people worrying about rising gas prices might be interested in the following article. Courtesy of the Globe and Mail, it is revealed that Exxon Mobile, the world’s largest oil company, announced its intention to spend a whopping $150 billion over the next five years to find oil and gas. From the article:

In a statement issued ahead of a presentation at the New York Stock Exchange, ceo Rex Tillerson said huge investments are needed to expand the supply of traditional fuels like oil and gas while also advancing new energy sources. Exxon, the world’s largest publicly traded energy company, expects global energy demand to increase 30 percent by 2040, compared with 2010 levels.

Notice that Exxon expects global energy demand to increase by 30 percent by 2040. In light of that, notice this next startling statement by the Globe.

Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., bp plc and Royal Dutch Shell all produced less crude last year than in the prior year. They’re struggling to tap new sources of oil fast enough in an environment where big finds are rarer and costlier to exploit. Potential fields lie deep under the seabed, or in shale rock formations that require expensive technology to crack open. When Exxon can’t find oil fast enough, it is stuck with existing fields where production is declining.

Four of the world’s biggest oil companies have falling production profiles. They each produced less oil last year than the year before.

The price of oil may be set to skyrocket over the next few years. Energy demand, especially from the developing world, is skyrocketing, while oil production is flat at best or falling.

Since gasoline prices are linked to the price of crude oil, and crude oil is sold on the international market, expect gasoline prices to follow the price of oil. And that is not good news for consumers, or the global economy.

Severe Drought Threatens Texas Agriculture

Texas farmers are anticipating small yields this year due to an ongoing severe drought, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

The drought began in October 2010, parching hundreds of thousands of acres and causing the worst one-year dry spell in Texas history. Since then, at one time or another, more than 75 percent of the state has experienced “exceptional” drought—the most severe classification.

At the end of the 2011 summer, a global drought map created by the University College London showed Texas at the epicenter of the largest, most severe drought on the planet.

One of the drought’s most devastating results was a massive wildfire in Bastrop. The blaze was the worst fire in Texas history. It burned for more than a month, devouring 1,500 homes and damaging more than 34,000 acres, including most of Bastrop State Park.

The drought is also causing severe agricultural losses, including about half of Texas’s cotton yield last year. Monetary losses are estimated at more than $5 billion so far, with this year’s crop damage yet to be tabulated.

L.G. Raun, chairman of the Texas Rice Producers Legislative Group, said the lack of water is both an immediate and a long-term concern: “Agriculture is more than 10 percent of our state’s economy. We’re going to have to create more supplies of water, we’re going to have to do a better job of conserving water, or we’re not going to have water enough for this state in the next 50 years. We’re starting to feel that right now,” Raun said.

God promises the modern-day nations of Israel that if they will obey His commandments, He will bless them with “rain in due season.” Leviticus 26 says that this rain will cause the land to yield its increase and the trees to yield their fruit. God also says that He will use His power over the weather to allow devastating droughts and other curses if these nations refuse to obey Him. For more information about why we experience weather problems, read “Why Natural Disasters.”

Putin’s Rule Is Official Once Again—Now What?

Putin’s Rule Is Official Once Again—Now What?

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The geopolitical stage is set for the Russian leader to take on a new and more dictatorial role.

The final count has Vladimir Putin crushing all his rivals with 63.6 percent of the March 4 vote for the Russian president. Yes, he rigged the elections a little. After all, it is Russia where even if a strongman’s victory is certain he still pulls some levers behind the scenes, if only for the sake of Russian political tradition. But monitoring agencies agree that, even without cheating, Putin would still have garnered about 53 percent of the vote—placing him head-and-shoulders above the second-place contender’s 17 percent.

The bottom line is that Mr. Putin has made his rule of Russia official once again, and Russians, by and large, are happy about it. But that doesn’t mean that Putin is returning to the Kremlin exactly as he left it.

A Cub Growing Up?

At his victory rally in Moscow Square, Putin gently wept (his spokesman insisted his tears were the result of wind, not emotion) as he spoke to multitudes of flag-waving citizens. He said their decision to reelect him was “a sign of Russia’s growing political maturity.” A few days earlier, Dmitry Medvedev (still Russia’s official president until May) said Russian society is growing up.”

So, Russia’s head honcho and the number two man both say the Russian bear is maturing. These comments are noteworthy because change is under way in Russia.

What does it means for Russia and for the world?

A ‘White Rider’ Resurrects a Dead Empire

When Putin took the reins in 2000, Russia had fallen into chaos after the Soviet collapse and resulting financial crisis of 1998. The nation was threatened internally and externally, but the ex-kgb agent aggressively consolidated the country socially, politically and, above all, economically. During Putin’s eight years in the Kremlin, Russia’s industry increased by 76 percent and investments grew by 125 percent. Real incomes of Russian citizens grew by over 100 percent, and the average salary increased a staggering sevenfold from $80 per month to $640. The middle class also swelled from 8 million to more than 55 million, and the percentage of Russians living below the poverty line fell from 30 percent to 14 percent. Moscow’s oil exports steadily climbed throughout Putin’s presidency, and in 2009, Russia overtook Saudi Arabia to become the world’s number one energy exporter.

The advancements were stark, and the nation rallied around Putin as Russia’s “savior,” with many even espousing the belief that he is the sole heartbeat of Russia.

Putin left office in 2008, handing the reins of official leadership to Medvedev. But Putin remained Russia’s de facto ruler throughout Medvedev’s term, and most facets of Russian life continued to improve. Dissatisfaction with Moscow’s leadership began to emerge in some circles, however. The dissatisfaction gave way to some dissent, and many pundits have regarded it as evidence that the “savior Putin” days are over.

Is a ‘Slavic Spring’ Under Way?

The dissent became stark in September of last year when Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev somewhat casually announced that, come election time, they would swap places, returning the presidency to Putin. The anti-democratic nature of the announcement soured the mood of some Russians, and the popularity of Putin’s United Russia party slid. In the December 2011 parliamentary election, United Russia lost its supermajority in the Duma. The week after the vote, demonstrations against alleged election rigging started stirring and coalesced in a December 24 rally of over 80,000 protesters.

Some nations, especially the United States, are fascinated by the volatility and strive to paint it as evidence that Putin and the Russian bear are weakening. Western groups have openly supported the anti-Kremlin movements, and Western journalists have rushed to interview Russia’s minority of smart, English-speaking, self-confident opposition supporters—while ignoring the less-affluent majority. In one instance revealing Western media’s exaggeration of Russia’s protests, Fox News “accidentally” aired video footage of fierce riots in Athens, Greece, while reporting on a peaceful rally in Moscow.

The truth is that the various anti-Kremlin protest groups have never blended into a unified force that could threaten Putin’s reelection. The demonstrators—everything from free-market reformers and radical feminists to unapologetic Communists and far-right ultranationalists—are not at all linked in their ideologies or goals. Despite Western attempts to paint Russia’s protest movements as signs of a “Slavic Spring,” the hodgepodge is far less like the effectual Middle Eastern uprisings than it is like the flaccid Occupy Wall Street movement.

The Russians who hate Putin are mostly from among the urban elite in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and they loudly criticize him from atop their ivory towers. But the average low-income Russians in Omsk, Dagestan and Chechnya and beyond continue to view Putin as Russia’s savior. They are the silent majority who made their support inescapably clear during last week’s elections. These politically silent masses have seen their incomes dramatically increase since 2000, and they can’t but attribute their improved standard of living to Putin’s leadership.

Russia is still overwhelmingly supportive of the white rider who lifted the nation from the doldrums of the Soviet collapse. But has that white rider now served his purpose?

The Russian Cycle

A look back through the annals of Russian history reveal that the country operates on a four-phase cycle. First comes a national calamity—usually the result of foreign invasion or poor internal planning. Second, from out of the ruins emerges an idealistic “white rider” ushering in an era of the thing Russians crave most: national stability. Third, after the white rider succumbs to political frustration, he hands the reins of rulership to a dark rider—bent on internal control and external aggression. The dark rider ruthlessly quashes domestic opposition and expands Russia’s unsecurable borders until the overextended empire collapses into the final phase: stagnation and decline. It declines until finally collapsing into the first phase of calamity once again, and so the cycle goes.

Where is Russia in its cycle now?

In the 1990s, Russia suffered great national calamity with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Then, Putin emerged as the heroic white rider to resuscitate the dying bear. But Russia’s changing landscape indicates that the white rider phase is rapidly coming to its end.

So, does this mean White Rider Putin is soon to be replaced by another Russian ruler—a dark rider? Or does Mr. Putin have something else in mind?

In 2007, as it became clear that Putin would be installing a puppet ruler in the Kremlin while he plotted his return to official rule, Stratfor wrote this about the Russian cycle: “Russia’s current white horse period is coming to an end. Putin’s efforts to stabilize Russia have succeeded, but his dreams of Westernizing Russia are dead. The darkness is about to set in. … In particularly gloomy periods in Russia’s past (which is saying something) the white rider himself actually has shed his idealism and become the dark rider.”

These were sobering words in 2007, and much more so now that Putin has confirmed all suspicions that his departure from the Kremlin was temporary and largely artificial.

Even during Putin’s white rider days, his economic sunshine often cast dark political shadows. He restructured Russia’s political architecture to amass his personal power, he created policies whereby the Kremlin can prevent whomever it pleases from participating in politics, and he altered the constitution to expand presidential terms from four years to six—just in time for his next term. Putin is no stranger to corruption, and now the stage is set for him to exchange his white robes for black.

Putin is well aware of Russia’s changing political landscape. It may not be “maturing” as he and Medvedev recently said it is, but it is changing, and he will use the change to his advantage. Last month, Stratfor wrote this of the shift under way in Russia:

[M]uch of the generation now coming of age was not raised under the Soviet Union or during the chaotic years immediately following its collapse. An extremist brand of nationalism has also risen across the country, leading more Russians to have no interest in a balanced government. … Now [Putin] is beginning to form a strategy to deal with the crises in the short term and formulate long-term political and social policies to take into account the shifts in Russia.

In 2004, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry explained that the most significant aspect of Russia’s resurgence would be its catalytic effect on European unification:

A more dictatorial Russian government is coming fast …. That power will be able to challenge Europe, when nobody else can, including the U.S. … Russian elections have recently moved President Vladimir Putin much closer to becoming a dictator. This strikes intense fear in Europe. The Europeans still remember how violent Russia was in World War ii, and Russia is a close neighbor with massive piles of nuclear weapons. … The Russian election is triggering a fear that will hasten the uniting of the European Union. The Russian election will cause Germany and other European nations to want a stronger leader. Throughout history, Germany has often sought a strong leader. Bible prophecy says it will do so again—for the last time!

As Vladimir Putin enters into the Kremlin once again, he does so with more power than any Russian has had since the collapse of communism. And the stage is set for him to take on a new and much more dictatorial role. History proves that once a dark rider becomes Russia’s ruler, he pulls out all stops in order to achieve national security: Domestic challengers are crushed, economic life is completely subjugated to Moscow’s needs, and Russia’s military is built up with the goal of securing and expanding the nation’s borders. Putin has long been working to rebuild Russia’s influence in its former Soviet periphery, and analysts believe his reelection will intensify these efforts. Such “dark rider” ambitions in Moscow will frighten Russia’s European neighbors, and hasten their unification.

Although these trends have sobering implications for the short term, Bible prophecy makes plain that they immediately precede the most hope-filled event ever to occur: the return of Jesus Christ! To understand how today’s headlines about Russia intricately connect to this awesome future, read Russia and China in Prophecy.

Shale-Shocked: Hydraulic Fracking Turns Into a Curse

Shale-Shocked: Hydraulic Fracking Turns Into a Curse

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America’s need for energy is growing, and it is running out of good options.

Ever feel like America is cursed? Take our addiction to fossil fuels. It’s a conundrum. America desperately needs an inexpensive and clean source of energy. America has plenty of coal—it even has oil—but they are dirty. Conversely, America has geothermal, wind and solar, but most of it is comparatively expensive.

Lately, natural gas has been hailed as an energy savior. But is it?

America has been harvesting traditional sources of natural gas for decades. At one time it was so abundant and cheap that when energy companies drilled an oil well and accidentally encountered natural gas, they would burn it to get rid of the worthless stuff.

But demand for natural gas grew. By 2006, prices reached $15 per cubic meter. Five short years later, however, they have crashed to nearly $2. During this time, the energy industry was thrown into chaos. Companies floundered. Others skyrocketed in value.

What happened?

America got its wish. It found a cleaner and abundant source of energy: shale gas. Coal prices plummeted, and mines closed as utilities switched to the cheaper and cleaner fuel to produce electricity.

A technological advance called hydraulic fracturing (fracking for short) allowed energy companies to harvest shale gas (a type of natural gas) trapped deep within the earth. It changed the United States into a natural gas superpower. Recent estimates indicate America now has as much economically recoverable natural gas as Saudi Arabia. It is enough, experts say, to power America’s current electricity needs for 100 years or more.

Six years ago, who would have thought that America would be planning on exporting natural gas to other countries? What a blessing, right?

Not so fast. As it turns out, there is a catch. And the catch is big.

Unlike in conventional gas fields where the gas is trapped in bubble-like caverns, shale gas is trapped in billions and billions of tiny pores dispersed throughout the shale. To get the gas, energy companies literally blast apart the underground formations to create billions of tiny fractures for the gas to escape.

In each high-volume hydraulic fracking event, anywhere from 1 to 8 million gallons of water mixed with sand and chemicals are forced into the underground shale formation to crack it and keep it open. Approximately half of the water-chemical mix will flow back up the well, is considered industrial waste, and needs to be disposed of. Each well may go through up to 10 fracking events in its lifetime.

Eighty million gallons of water—per well. Currently, more than 150,000 wells have undergone hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania alone. And analysts say shale gas drilling is only getting started.

That’s a lot of water—a lot of polluted, unusable water.

The gas industry describes fracking fluids as containing ingredients like soap and oil. However, because recipes are highly guarded secrets, the public never knows what is in them until an accident happens. Samples from some spills have revealed that the fluids contain more than 200 different chemicals, many of which have been linked to cancer and birth defects. USA Today reports that municipal waste water systems can’t handle the chemicals in the waste water, which can contain radioactive elements.

Instead of paying to clean up this polluted water, gas companies instead chose to bury it in the ground. There are about 144,000 disposal wells in the U.S., into which about 2 billion gallons of waste fracking water are injected daily. This is the new “safer” disposal method. Previously, gas companies just let the polluted water sit in lagoons until it seeped away.

Water is a precious commodity. Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh. Most is locked away in glaciers and icecaps. Of the water that is available, the vast majority is in the ground. But it is unevenly distributed.

Groundwater is a huge blessing for America. It makes much of America agriculturally habitable. It is why ranchers can run cattle and farmers grow crops in parts of the country considered desert. It is what sets apart Arizona from parts of North Africa.

America’s groundwater is so precious that President Obama supposedly cancelled the proposed Transcanada pipeline because it transversed the important Ogallala water aquifer. The risk of contamination was just too great, he said. There are thousands of pipelines already dissecting it, but one more is one too many.

Yet with hydraulic fracking, America is not only purposefully polluting huge amounts of water to frack rock formations, but it is then purposefully disposing the wastewater by pumping it back down other wells—and potentially into contact with groundwater aquifers. And once groundwater gets polluted, it can take generations to clean it up.

Of course, gas companies will tell you that fracking fluid does not escape into the environment or pollute groundwater supplies. James Northrup, a former manager for oil company arco, calls that theory “junk science.” He says that 25 percent of frack wells leak after five years and 40 percent after eight. “Everybody in the industry knows that gas drilling pollutes groundwater,” he says. “It’s not … whether they leak. It’s how much.”

The shale gas blessing has turned into a curse.

Most people probably don’t believe in curses today. Yet the more you look at America—the economic collapse despite astounding natural resources, the crazy weather, the military defeats by nations fractions of our size, and so on—it is getting harder and harder to believe anything else.

If you believe the Bible, you know that God promises blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. The curses are getting harder and harder to discount. Don’t be shale-shocked if they keep on coming.

I Was Sacked for Intelligent Design, Says NASA Scientist

I Was Sacked for Intelligent Design, Says NASA Scientist

NASA

Former team leader of the Cassini mission to Saturn, David Coppedge, claims he was demoted and eventually lost his job because he preached intelligent design to his co-workers, according to a court case in Los Angeles Superior Court. Opening statements were held March 12, after Coppedge was demoted from his job as team leader at nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (jpl) in 2009 and then lost his job in 2011.

“It’s part of a pattern. There is basically a war on anyone who dissents from Darwin, and we’ve seen that for several years,” said John West from the Discovery Institute, who is supporting Coppedge’s case. “This is free speech, freedom of conscience 101.”

Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education, which promotes the teaching of evolution in public schools, disagrees. “It looks like a pretty straightforward case,” he said. “The mission that he was working on was winding down, and he was laid off.”

Coppedge says his conversations about intelligent design and distribution of dvds on the subject, along with protesting the naming of the annual party a “Holiday Party” instead of a “Christmas Party,” and his opposition to homosexual “marriage,” led to his demotion. jpl said he was officially warned after his co-workers complained he was harassing them, and that he was demoted because of conflicts with other staff.