World Watch Today

Vice President Speaks to Friends of Israel About Iran

Steven LeBlanc

US Vice-President Joe Biden addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) this week and insisted that President Barack Obama was not bluffing about using force to halt Iran’s nuclear threat. He said there was still time for a diplomatic solution, though he warned “that window is closing”.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, speaking soon after the Vice President [via satellite from Jerusalem], stirred up the crowd:

“Words alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions alone will not stop Iran. Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail,” Netanyahu said to loud cheers from the conference.

Vice President Biden urged caution to avoid losing international solidarity against Iran, which faces tough sanctions. “If, God forbid, the need to act occurs, it is critically important for the whole world to know we did everything in our power, we did everything that reasonably could have been expected to avoid any confrontation,”.

Israel appreciates the comments by the Vice President, but doubts that President Obama will be willing to confront Iran when diplomacy runs its course. The Prime Minister is greatly concerned that the American leadership may never recognize that the time for war is fast approaching– “…a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”—Ecclesiastes 3:8.

Japan Becoming A Military Threat

North Korea launched a rocket in December. Japan viewed this act as a threat to their national security. Japan is now showcasing its world-class military. North Korea is not the only concern for Japan. China is a growing menace to Japan’s sea-lanes. Japan is extremely vulnerable because it depends on shipping which it depends on for survival because it lacks sufficient natural resources.

The key catalyst behind Japan’s military resurgence is the rise of China. China’s maritime ambitions and its immense naval buildup are considered a serious challenge to Japan’s ability to control its surrounding islands and seas. This has led to maritime flare-ups– [the dispute over the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands that continues to this day]. Matthew 24:6 speaks of “wars and rumors of war”—do not be surprised if a limited flash fight takes place between China and Japan in the South China sea over the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

As a maritime nation, Japan depends on imports for 82 percent of its energy supply. Japan depends on the Middle East and Southeast Asia for more than 90 percent of its oil and natural gas imports, leaving it vulnerable to both regions’ political chaos. Japan’s dependency on imports also extends to raw materials, such as steel, copper and zinc.

With the United States guaranteeing the security of Japan’s sea-lanes after World War II as part of the U.S.-Japanese alliance, Japan was able to focus on economic goals during the Cold War. Japan gradually was able to rebuild its armed forces for self-defense. Japan’s now maintains the third largest Military Defense Budget in the world.

It is a mistake to think of Japan as a docile military power. Japan has sixteen Patriot firing units and is the only country in the world besides the United States to have SM-3 intermediate-range missile interceptors, which are on its four Kongo class destroyers.

Targeting Japanese business in China

These territorial disputes have had considerable economic impact on Japan, such as China’s embargo on rare earth exports to Japan and violent demonstrations targeting Japanese business in China. Trade between the two nations has been hurt.

The Obama Administration is not willing to get involved in local affairs, though it has made clear that it would intervene on Japan’s behalf in the event of actual combat. Nevertheless, the United States’ intentional distance from the issue has caused a slight schism in the U.S.-Japanese alliance and has made Japan aware that it needs to take on more responsibility for guarding its vital sea-lanes to the Middle East through the South China Sea.

In late 2010, Japan responded to its tension with China by introducing a new military doctrine known as “dynamic defense,” which aims for sustainable deterrence that exploits the full spectrum of Japan’s well developed and technologically advanced military. This doctrine can also be used to defend the Ryukyu Islands, which could have significant regional implications.

These geopolitical challenges provoked a genuine sense of insecurity among many Japanese, who have recently been channeling their frustrations into a nationalistic movement. Nationalistic fervor has increased considerably in both nations. 90 percent of the Japanese population holds the military in a positive light after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters.

Japan’s past military aggression continues to shape public opinion in many of its neighboring countries. South Korea, in particular, is alarmed by Japan’s militaristic fervor. China’s bold moves in the surrounding seas continue to upset not only Japan, but other countries in the region, it is likely that Japan’s normalized armed forces will be seen by some Asian countries as a welcome buffer against China’s own increasing military might. This will help Japan expand its military influence abroad and increasingly drive its renewed nationalistic pride.

Syrian Civil War Threatens Israel

Steven LeBlanc

Fighting in Syria has claimed the lives of at least 75,000 people, leaving more than 2 million people homeless and 175,000 people locked up in prison or confinement centers. These are staggering numbers for a country of just 23 million people. As the number of refugees in Syria swells [5,000 leaving Syria every day] the Syrian border states of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq must deal with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees.

As the war drags on the nation is disintegrating into a patchwork of tribal mini-states. This concerns Israel: As Syria’s rebels advance against the forces of President Bashar Assad, Israel fears that his regime could seek to transfer its sophisticated weaponry including chemical weapons, to its proxy in Southern Lebanon– Hezbollah, who has been used by Iran in the past to attack Israel.

Israel has increased its foray into Lebanese airspace and has sent reinforcements, consisting of anti-missile batteries, to its northern border with Lebanon and Syria. According to Israeli intelligence, Hezbollah has accrued more than 60,000 rockets and missiles since a 2006 war with Israel. Israeli officials say these include some Scud-D ballistic missiles, with a range of more than 400 miles, supplied by Syria in recent years. And there are other missiles that can reach major city targets in Israel. Sophisticated ground-to-air missiles, if they were to fall into the grip of Hezbollah would not only threaten Israel’s reconnaissance flights over Lebanon but also Israeli airspace.

Do not be surprised to see further Israeli incursions into Syria to take out weapons caches. And even a flash war against Hezbollah in the next year is a very real possibility.

There will come a time when Syria is completely devastated. But that prophecy, which can be found in Isaiah 17, beginning in verse 1, does not play out until just before Christ returns:

A prophecy against Damascus [Chief city of Syria]:

“See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. 2 The cities of Aroer will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down, with no one to make them afraid. 3 The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, and royal power from Damascus; the remnant of Aram will be like the glory of the Israelites,” declares the LORD Almighty. [Notice verse 4]– “In that day the glory of Jacob will fade; the fat of his body will waste away.

Why do we believe this is an end-time prophecy? Because the repeated phrase “in that day” (17:4, 7, 9), most often refers to events surrounding the coming of Christ to reign over the nations (compare 2:11, 17, 20; 4:1-2; 11:10-11).

Goodbye to Compassion...

Americans losing the ability to express empathy

There is ample evidence of the connection between witnessing violence in the media and violent and aggressive behavior in games. While most people will not commit violent acts in their lifetimes, we must acknowledge that violent behavior is just a symptom of a deeper problem; aggression is at its root a lack of compassion or empathy for others. Studies have even shown that children raised in an abusive and violent environment not only have impaired empathy and compassion, but the impact is seen on a physiological level within the brain. We adapt to our environment. Whether we internalize this information or not, the media we consume, the computer games we play—all are part of our environment and influence how we view the world and react to it.

“You are what you eat.” Surely we have all heard this phrase. Mental diet is just as real as physical diet. What our minds consume make us who we are. Our outlook and worldview are shaped by our “mental diets.” This can include all the forms of media both on and off-screen. Movies, television, computer games, the books we read—all of these “inputs” effect us more than we realize.

The bible warns us to guard our mind: “I will set no vile thing before my eyes. I hate the deeds of faithless men. They will not cling to me.” Psalm 101:3

The lack of compassion is leading to a cold culture: “…and because lawlessness will increase, the love of many people will grow cold.” –Matthew 24:12. God blesses the compassionate: “Blessed are the compassionate, for they shall receive compassion.” Matthew 5:7

A wife, and mother of 3 children

Cattle herd lowest level since 1952

Steven LeBlanc

The drought is hammering the beef industry and driving cattle ranchers out of business; families who have been ranching for generations are selling off their herds. Cattle ranchers were already thinning their herds because of higher corn prices, which increased the cost of feed; grasslands have dried up causing the price of hay to rise 60 percent above the 10-year average.

The total number of cattle and calves in the U.S. beginning this year was 89.3 million head, 7.5% lower than at the last cyclical peak in 2007. This is the smallest cattle inventory since 1952.

The annual USDA Cattle Inventory report underscores how the drought in America is affecting cattle herds:

The inventory of all cows and heifers (38.5 million head) that calved in 2012 is 2% less than last year, the lowest January 1 inventory since 1941 (36.8 million head).

The beef cow inventory (29.3 million head) is 3% less than 2012.

Cattle and calves on feed for slaughter (13.4 million head) are down 5% from last year.

The number of calves grazing small grain pasture in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas (1.34 million head) is 16% lower than last year.

The worst drought since the 1930s continues. Its latest casualty is one of the largest beef processing plants in the country: Cargill’s Plainview (Tex.) facility, which handled about 4 percent of all the cattle slaughtered in the America. 2,000 workers there will lose their jobs at the Texas plant.

A recent three-month outlook by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts that the drought will persist across the Plains and spread across most of Texas in 2013.

“The drought is so intense at the moment in parts of the U.S. that it will take a lot to end it,” Nielsen-Gammon, based in College Station, Texas, said. “And the seasonal forecasts right now are tilted to normal to below-normal rainfall, which means the odds are stacked against ending it anytime soon.”

Make sure to read Leviticus 26, a chapter that explicitly instructs us how to receive the blessing of regular rain, and good crop yields. “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full …” (verses 3-5). National obedience to God’s laws is the key to a healthy economy and productive farming.

The solution to drought is national obedience to the Ten Commandments. We wait to see if the mid-west gets the rain it desperately needs. We will be keeping a close watch on the spring rains of [April, May & June].

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