Current Events

British Spying

The Guardian wrote on June 21:

“Britain’s spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA).

“The sheer scale of the agency’s ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate. One key innovation has been GCHQ’s ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.

“GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects. This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites.”

The Local wrote on June 22:

“German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger reacted with shock on Saturday to revelations by British newspaper The Guardian that the British spy agency GCHQ had been gathering even more communications data than the Americans. The paper published further material from whistle-blower Edward Snowden on Friday suggesting that GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables on British soil carrying email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares this data with the US. ‘If the allegations are true, it would be a catastrophe,’ said Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger and demanded the European Union immediately look into the matter of British spying.

“Yet while concern in Germany over recent revelations showing the extent and scope of US and British online snooping capabilities has been widespread, most people do not personally see themselves as targets… Over 70 percent of German participants in the online survey said they believed the NSA had accessed telephone and internet data in Germany, yet just 30 percent believed their own communications data had been seen by employees of the recently-uncovered US secret service Prism program. Only 9 percent thought it very probable that the Americans had been spying on them and 21 percent fairly probable…  Fifty-eight percent said they thought Germany as a nation would feel the consequences of the revelations, which 70 percent believed would be negative.”

All in all, Germans seem to still be pretty naïve, as are many Americans. On June 24, International Business Times reported: “While the [American] public is divided over the NSA PRISM program itself, a majority of those surveyed said that the program probably helped prevent terrorism.”

The relationship between Europe and the USA and Britain is bound to deteriorate over revelations like these spying activities, as the next articles show.

German “Indignation” with Britain

Deutsche Welle reported on June 24:

“First Prism, now Tempora: the British security service GCHQ has been surveying electronic communications of hundreds of millions of people. German politicians are expressing frustration and seeking information. It’s ‘like a nightmare out of Hollywood,’ says German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger with respect to the British Tempora electronic surveillance program…

“It’s not clear how many Germans were affected, but there has been severe criticism from German politicians of all parties… Erich Schmidt-Eenboom, an expert on intelligence agencies, says he’s surprised that German politicians are so indignant. He told MDR that German authorities have long known that British and US services were tapping internet and telephone connections.”

“American and British Totalitarianism Must Come to an End”

Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 24:

“Overzealous data collectors in the US and Great Britain have no right to investigate German citizens. The German government must protect people from unauthorized access by foreign intelligence agencies, and it must act now. This is a matter of national security…

“At the beginning of last week, we thought after the announcement of the American Prism program, that US President Barack Obama was the sole boss of the largest and most extensive control system in human history. That was an error. Since Friday, we have known that the British intelligence agency GCHQ is ‘worse than the United States’…

“We have Edward Snowden to thank for this insight into the interaction of an uncanny club, the Alliance of Five Eyes. Since World War II, the five Anglo-Saxon countries of Great Britain, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have maintained close intelligence cooperation, which apparently has gotten completely out of control. It may be up to the Americans and the British to decide how they handle questions of freedom and the protection of their citizens from government intrusion. But they have no right to subject the citizens of other countries to their control. The shoulder-shrugging explanation by Washington and London that they have operated within the law is absurd. They are not our laws. We didn’t make them. We shouldn’t be subject to them.

“The totalitarianism of the security mindset protects itself with a sentence: If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. But firstly, that contains a presumption: We have not asked the NSA and GCHQ to ‘protect’ us. And secondly, the sentence is a stupid one: Because we all have something to hide, whether it pertains to our private lives or to our business secrets…

“Thus the data scandal doesn’t pertain just to our legal principles, but to our security as well. We were lucky that Edward Snowden, who revealed the spying to the entire world, is not a criminal, but an idealist. He wanted to warn the world, not blackmail it. But he could have used his information for criminal purposes, as well. His case proves that no agency in the world can guarantee the security of the data it collects — which is why no agency should collect data in such abundance in the first place. That is the well-known paradox of totalitarian security policy. Our security is jeopardized by the very actions that are supposed to protect it.

“So what should happen now? European institutions must take control of the data infrastructure and ensure its protection. The freedom of data traffic is just as important as the European freedom of exchange in goods, services and money. But above all, the practices of the Americans and British must come to an end. Immediately.

“It is the responsibility of the German government to see to it that the programs of the NSA and GCHQ no longer process the data of German citizens and companies without giving them the opportunity for legal defense. A government that cannot make that assurance is failing in one of its fundamental obligations: to protect its own citizens from the grasp of foreign powers.”

German Spying

On June 22, reported the following:

“Revelations of widespread U.S. spying on foreign Internet communications put a damper on President Obama’s first state visit to Berlin. The German chancellor and other officials there say they want to know more about what the National Security Agency is looking at. Yet the backlash has been more muted than expected. One reason is that the German government is doing similar surveillance.

“… the U.S. is actually doing German authorities a favor — especially when Washington shares what it collects. Just like the American government, German officials quietly justify increased surveillance as necessary to protect their country from terrorist attacks… Germany’s top court also recently upheld the right of security agencies to maintain an anti-terror database containing sensitive personal information about German citizens…”

The hypocrisy involved is dumb-founding.

US Drone Spying

The Washington Post wrote on June 20:

“The FBI has received clearance from federal aviation officials to conduct drone surveillance operations in the United States… The documents provide virtually no detail on where the FBI has operated drones in U.S. airspace, for what purpose or how long the missions lasted. But they shed some additional light on the origins and extent of the FBI’s secretive drone program…

“Drones, or unmanned aircraft, are generally prohibited from flying in U.S. airspace… The Department of Homeland Security flies large surveillance drones along the borders with Canada and Mexico. Congress has directed the FAA to open domestic airspace to drones by 2015…”

Even Obama a Target of NSA

Business Insider wrote on June 22:

“Russ Tice worked as an offensive National Security Agency (NSA) from 2002 and 2005, before becoming a source for this Pulitzer-Prize winning The New York Times article exposing NSA domestic spying…

“‘In the summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a forty-some-year-old senator from Illinois… That’s who the NSA went after. That’s the President of the United States now.’ Tice added that he also saw orders to spy on Hillary Clinton, Senators John McCain and Diane Feinstein, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gen. David Petraeus, and a current Supreme Court Justice. That sounds like a lot of abuse of the rules that govern NSA domestic spying. And that’s exactly what Tice is claiming…”

This shows how the US spying activities are being used—and have been used—against just about any person so desired.

Snowden–Major Embarrassment for Obama

Reuters wrote on June 23:

“Fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden was seeking asylum in Ecuador on Sunday after Hong Kong allowed his departure for Russia in a slap to Washington’s efforts to extradite him on espionage charges.

“In a major embarrassment for President Barack Obama, an aircraft thought to have carried Snowden landed in Moscow on Sunday, and the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said he was ‘bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum.’…

“It was a blow to Obama’s foreign policy goals of resetting ties with Russia and building a partnership with China. The leaders of both countries were willing to snub the American president in a month when each had held talks with Obama.

“The United States continued efforts to prevent Snowden from gaining asylum. It warned Western Hemisphere nations that Snowden ‘should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States,’ a State Department official said. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer charged that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely knew and approved of Snowden’s flight to Russia and predicted ‘serious consequences’ for a U.S.-Russian relationship already strained over Syria and human rights…

“Ecuador, which has been sheltering WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange at its London embassy for the past year, once again took center stage in an international diplomatic saga over U.S. data secrecy…

“In their statement announcing Snowden’s departure, the Hong Kong authorities said they were seeking clarification from Washington about reports of U.S. spying on government computers in the territory… A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said it had allowed the departure of Snowden – considered a whistleblower by his supporters and a criminal or even a traitor by his critics – as the U.S. request for his arrest did not comply with the law…

“The issue has been a major problem for Obama, who has found his domestic and international policy agenda sidelined as he has scrambled to deflect accusations that U.S. surveillance practices violate privacy protections and civil rights. The president has maintained that the measures have been necessary to thwart attacks on the United States…

“Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper earlier quoted Snowden offering new details about U.S. surveillance activities, including accusations of U.S. hacking of Chinese mobile phone firms and targeting of China’s Tsinghua University.”

Reuters reported on June 24:

“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to India that it would be ‘deeply troubling’ if Moscow defied the United States over Snowden… Russian officials said Moscow had no obligation to cooperate with Washington, after it passed legislation to impose visa bans and asset freezes on Russians accused of violating human rights. ‘Why should the United States expect restraint and understanding from Russia?’ said Alexei Pushkov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament.”

Reuters added on June 25:

“President Vladimir Putin confirmed on Tuesday a former U.S. spy agency contractor sought by the United States was in the transit area of a Moscow airport but ruled out handing him over to Washington, dismissing U.S. criticisms as ‘ravings and rubbish.’”

Whatever the US tries to do, it fails…

Do China and Russia Know About U.S. Nuclear War Plans?

The National Free Beacon wrote on June 26, 2013:

“Intelligence agencies in China and Russia gained access to highly classified U.S. intelligence and military information contained on electronic media held by renegade former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, according to U.S. officials… One of the biggest fears about the compromise is whether Snowden… gained access to new U.S. nuclear war plans…

“The nuclear war plans, among the most closely guarded U.S. secrets, were recently modified as a result of President Barack Obama’s shift in U.S. nuclear strategy. The president last week signed new guidance for the Pentagon limiting the use of nuclear weapons in U.S. planning and strategy. The shift is the first step in the president’s plan to cut deployed nuclear weapons by one-third to about 1,000 warheads. That plan was announced in Berlin June 19.”

An Innocent Mistake?

The Washington Post reported on June 22:

“In April 2011, Barack Obama, president of the United States, took the extraordinary step of releasing the long-form version of his birth certificate. As the New York Times wrote at the time, the idea behind the move was ‘to finally end a long-simmering conspiracy theory among some conservatives who have asserted that he was not born in the United States and was not a legitimate president.’ The certificate proved that Obama was born in Hawaii.

“Rachel Rose Hartman, a White House reporter for Yahoo! News, couldn’t possibly have missed the ‘birther’ story. It was unavoidable, after all, for an unhealthy chunk of the president’s first term. Yet: In her story yesterday on Obama’s Africa trip, Hartman managed to say that ‘he won’t be stopping in the country of his birth.’ From the context of the story, it’s clear she was referring to Kenya…

“A birther-oriented mistake of this magnitude cannot possibly be finessed, ignored or Daily Callered. So Yahoo! News went ahead and published a properly placed correction, complete with a clever save:

“‘Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the president’s birthplace. President Barack Obama makes the first extended trip to Africa of his presidency next week—but he won’t be stopping in his ancestral homeland.’

“The Erik Wemple Blog has a number of questions for Yahoo! Newsers:

“1) How on earth?

“2) Did someone forget that the president of the United States needs to be born in the United States (or fulfill other constitutional requirements)?

“3) Any editing over there?

“A spokesperson for Yahoo! News, however, said that there would be no comment beyond the correction.”

If that was an innocent mistake, then there would be a great deal of utter incompetency involved. But what if it was no mistake? Sadly, neither cowardly Republicans nor self-serving Democrats are willing to touch this hot potato—if Kenya is indeed Mr. Obama’s birthplace, the far-reaching consequences would be far too unpleasant.

Pelosi and Others in Hot Water With Catholic Church

Newsmax reported on June 24:

“A Catholic priest active in the pro-life movement said if Nancy Pelosi continues her refusal to condemn abortion, she should renounce her Catholic faith… Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, sent the House minority leader a strongly worded letter demanding she explain her position on late-term abortion.

“His letter followed Pelosi’s June 13 news conference at which Pavone contends she sidestepped the issue… Pelosi said during her news briefing, ‘As a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this. I don’t think it should have anything to do with politics.’

“Addressing her comments in his letter, Pavone wrote, ‘With this statement, you make a mockery of the Catholic faith and of the tens of millions of Americans who consider themselves ‘practicing and respectful Catholics’ and who find the killing of children — whether inside or outside the womb — reprehensible. Whatever Catholic faith you claim to respect and practice, it is not the faith that the Catholic Church teaches. And I speak for countless Catholics when I say that it’s time for you to stop speaking as if it were… for decades you have gotten away with betraying and misrepresenting the Catholic faith…’”

It is not only Nancy Pelosi who is in hot water with the Catholic Church. Other US Democrats, such as Vice President Joe Biden or Secretary of State John Kerry, likewise approve of abortion, while claiming to be practicing Catholics.

Same-Sex Marriage—How the Tides Turn

The New York Times wrote von June 26:

“The Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings Wednesday expanding gay rights, ruling unconstitutional a 1996 law denying federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples and paving the way for California to legalize same-sex marriage…

“The rulings continue a rapid shift, in which public opinion and laws have become far more accepting of same-sex marriage, only a few years after a clear majority of Americans opposed it and it was legal almost nowhere. Today, same-sex marriage is legal in 12 states, not including California, and polls show that a majority of people support it.

“The decision on federal benefits was 5 to 4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy writing the majority opinion, which the four liberal-leaning justices joined… Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was in the minority… The ruling overturned the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed with bipartisan support and which President Bill Clinton signed. The decision… will also raise a series of major decisions for the Obama administration about how aggressively to overhaul references to marriage throughout the many volumes that lay out the laws of the United States.

“The five-member majority in the California case was different than in the Defense of Marriage case… Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion…

“The decision on the Defense of Marriage Act does not alter any state laws governing whether same-sex couples can marry. It instead determines whether same-sex couples that are legally married in one state receive federal benefits that apply to heterosexual married couples…

“Public opinion on same-sex marriage has shifted sharply in the last decade. In President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, Republican strategists put ballot initiatives to ban same-sex marriage on several state ballots, believing it would help raise turnout and lift Mr. Bush’s chances. As late as 2010, polls showed that a majority of Americans opposed same-sex marriage.

“In the last three years, public opinion has flipped. Mr. Clinton has said he regretted signing the 1996 law that the court struck down Wednesday. President Obama reversed his position last year, in the midst of the presidential campaign, and said he now favored same-sex marriage.”

Time wrote on June 26:

“Seventeen years after a Democratic president signed a federal law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down Wednesday, capping one of the fastest civil rights shifts in the nation’s history.”

ABC News reported on June 27:

“Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told ABC News he believes the Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act was appropriate…  The comments from Paul, a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2016, highlight how the [Republican Party’s] field could divide over gay marriage. Many Republicans have been unusually muted in their reactions to the Supreme Court rulings today.”

Newsmax reported on June 26:

“The U.S. Supreme Court decisions June 26 striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and refusing to rule on the merits of a challenge to California’s Proposition 8 mark a ‘tragic day for marriage and our nation,’ said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops…

“‘Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation… The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so…  Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it… When Jesus taught about the meaning of marriage – the lifelong, exclusive union of husband and wife – he pointed back to ‘the beginning’ of God’s creation of the human person as male and female (see Matthew 19)… we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life…’”

Civil rights shifts, public opinion and political maneuvering do not define godly standards, nor do they alter biblical teaching. The Bible reveals that GOD created marriage and that He defines “marriage” as a union between a man and a woman, and no human law or definition can change that. It is interesting that polygamists hope now that the Supreme Court rulings will pave the way to decriminalizing polygamy and allow for multi-partner marriage, according to the Washington Times, dated June 27. So what is coming next?

Why the War in Afghanistan Is Lost

The German mass tabloid, Bild Online, stated on June 22 that the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan is lost; that the death of 3,340 NATO soldiers was in vain; and that the adventure in Afghanistan was destined to failure from the start. It also pointed out that there are no rights of women or democracy in the country, and that America’s decision to negotiate with the Taliban is, according to German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere, a “psychological victory” for the Taliban and an admission of defeat.

Bild gave the following five reasons why the Afghan war is lost:

Reason #1: Corrupt Partners, including President Hamid Karzai, who is not well respected by most Afghans who rather deal with the Taliban.

Reason #2: Wrong Strategy. Instead of concentrating on the war against terrorism, the West wanted to bring growth and peace to the country.

Reason #3: Tactical mistakes. President Obama announced the withdrawal of the troops by 2014. Since then, the Taliban is collecting money and weapons and is waiting to return.

Reason #4: Drugs. NATO never dealt with them. 90% of all heroin sold worldwide is originating in Afghanistan.

Reason #5: Proud Afghans. The West tried to win the heads and hearts of the Afghan people and overlooked that Afghans don’t like foreigners in their country. The armies of Alexander the Great, the British Empire and the Russians had to leave Afghanistan in disgrace. The same will happen to NATO.

America has still not learned its lesson. According to the Washington Post, dated June 24, “U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry assured India and other concerned partners in this volatile region Monday that the United States plans to continue supporting the Afghan military and to keep American forces in Afghanistan after the scheduled 2014 combat withdrawal, ‘under any circumstances.’”

Never mind the contradictory and inconsistent expressions of intent from the American government…

Egypt in Turmoil–Again

AFP wrote on June 23:

“Egypt’s defence minister warned on Sunday that the army will intervene if violence breaks out in the country where opponents of President Mohamed Morsi are planning rallies against him this month… Morsi’s opponents, who accuse him of hijacking the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak’s regime, plan a rally on June 30 to mark the day Morsi was sworn in as Egypt’s first civilian and Islamist president… Tens of thousands of Morsi supporters massed on Friday in a show of strength ahead of the June 30 protest…

“Egypt is deeply polarised. Morsi’s supporters say he is clearing institutions of decades of corruption, but his critics accuse him of concentrating power in the hands of his Muslim Brotherhood movement. Since taking office a year ago, Morsi has squared off against the judiciary, media, police and most recently artists.

“Leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei, a former chief of UN watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency, urged the president to resign for the sake of national unity… A campaign dubbed Tamarod (rebellion in Arabic) first called the anti-Morsi rally to coincide with the first anniversary of his taking office. Tamarod rapidly picked up steam, and organisers said they have collected 15 million signatures demanding that Morsi step down.”

The West applauded the Arab Spring, because politicians and governmental officials were struck with blindness.

Iran—a More Dangerous Place Than Ever Before

The Economist wrote on June 22:

“When a country has seen as much repression as Iran, outsiders hoping for a better future for the place instinctively want to celebrate along with all those ordinary Iranians who took to the streets. The smiling Mr Rohani’s public pronouncements encourage optimism, for he sounds like a different sort of president from the comedy-villain, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who precedes him. Yet even if his election bodes well for Iranians, it does not necessarily hold equal promise for the rest of the world. Iran’s regional assertiveness and its nuclear capacity mean that it is a more dangerous place than it ever was before…

“Yet the Persian lion has not lost its claws, nor has the theocracy suddenly become a democracy. Mr Rohani was indeed the most reformist of the candidates on offer at the election… The 64-year-old cleric has been a loyal servant of the Islamic Republic from its inception. For years he headed the national security council… He is constrained by a system that deemed just eight people fit to stand in the recent election and rejected 678 others (including a former president). The president’s power is limited by Iran’s other institutions, many of which are in conservative hands.

“While Iran’s politics have probably changed less than Mr Rohani’s election suggests, the balance of power between Iran and the rest of the world has been shifting in Iran’s favour for two reasons. First, thanks to heavy investment in nuclear capacity by the mullahs, and despite attempts by the West and Israel to delay or sabotage the nuclear programme, Iran will soon be able to produce a bomb’s worth of weapons-grade uranium in a matter of weeks… Iran has installed more than 9,000 new centrifuges in less than two years, more than doubling its enrichment capability. It is a short step from the 20% enriched uranium that the country’s facilities are already producing at an increasing rate to conversion into the fissile material needed for an implosion device. Although Western intelligence agencies think Iran is still at least a year away from being able to construct such a weapon, some experts believe that it could do so within a few months if it chose to—and that the time it would take is shrinking…

“But now it looks as though Iran will soon be in a position to build a weapon swiftly and surreptitiously. Should the West decide to use force, Iran could amass a small arsenal by the time support for a military strike was rallied… Despite its economic troubles, the Iranian state is a powerful beast compared with its neighbours, and is keen to assert itself abroad. The Iraqi government is now its ally. It has sway over chunks of Lebanon through Hizbullah… And it has sent Hizbullah into Syria, where its fighters have joined Iranian advisers, money and special forces to help turn the tide of the war in Bashar Assad’s favour. Ostensibly the reason why Barack Obama agreed last week to arm the rebels in Syria… was Mr Assad’s use of chemical weapons; but many believe that the greater reason was his reluctance to see Mr Assad hold on to power as a client of Iran’s…”

The article concludes with these words, perhaps without realizing that they might be prophetic, if applied to Europe—but not the USA or NATO:

“The West… has the economic and military clout to influence events in the region, and an interest in doing so. When Persian power is on the rise, it is not the time to back away from the Middle East.”

The Bible says that Europe will indeed intervene in the Middle East… with terrible consequences for the rest of the world. Please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”

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