World Watch Today

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].

Will The Next Pope Be European?

Steven LeBlanc

There is growing pressure within the Catholic Church to elect a non-European Pope, something that has not happened for more than 1500 years. European cardinals now make up 52 percent of the Conclave [Catholic Church summit to elect the next Pope].

Philip Jenkins, a professor of history at Baylor says, “One figure I find very powerful is that by 2030, there will be more Catholics in Africa than in Europe”.

Latin America, meanwhile, has 41 per cent of the world’s Catholics, yet Latin Americans claim only 19 Cardinals. Brazil is the largest Catholic country in the world, and Mexico is the second largest. Nearly three-quarters of Latin Americans identify as Catholic, only a quarter of Europeans do.

The chances are still slim that the successor to Pope Benedict will come from Latin America or Africa. Such a change would mean a major power shift in the direction of third world countries—something many European Cardinals do not want to see take place.

Many believe Canadian Cardinal Marc Quellet may be the best choice. He is well-known in European circles, he speaks five languages, he also spent time in Colombia [Latin American nation]; and would make the ideal compromise candidate as both third world and European cardinals respect him.

Revelation 13:11-14 describe a “beast” who looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon, one who will perform stunning signs. We believe this is a reference to a future charismatic, religious leader who will sway much of the world to his way of thinking. But this man will be strongly influenced by Satan himself. We believe this man will be the leader of the Roman Catholic Church [a leader who is alive when Christ returns].

The office of Pope is still highly respected in political circles. We watch carefully to see who the next Pope is and what his agenda will be.

North Korea carries out biggest nuclear test

North Korea has carried out its third, most powerful nuclear test despite UN warnings, and said “even stronger” action might follow.

It described the test as a “self-defensive measure” necessitated by the “continued hostility” of the US.

Its main ally, China, criticized the test, which was condemned worldwide.

Nuclear test monitors in Vienna say the underground explosion had double the force of the 2009 test, despite reportedly involving a smaller device.

If, as North Korea reports, a smaller device was tested successfully, analysts say this could take Pyongyang closer to building a warhead small enough to arm a missile.

The UN Security Council will meet at 14:00 GMT to discuss the test and its ramifications, diplomats say.

All we know at the moment about the North Korean test is gleaned from seismic data: the event was magnitude 4.9, significantly larger than the 2006 and 2009 tests.

North Korea announced last month that it would conduct a third nuclear test following those in 2006 and 2009 as a response to UN sanctions that were expanded after the secretive communist state’s December rocket launch, a move condemned by the UN as a banned test of missile technology.

Activity had been observed at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site for several months.

Seismic activity was then detected by monitoring agencies from several nations at 11:57 (02:57 GMT) on Tuesday. A shallow earthquake with a magnitude of 4.9 was recorded, the US Geological Survey said.

North Korea said the nuclear test – which comes just before US President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address – was a response to the “reckless hostility of the United States”.

“The latest nuclear test was only the first action, with which we exercised as much self-restraint as possible,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“If the US further complicates the situation with continued hostility, we will be left with no choice but to take even stronger second or third rounds of action.”

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization said the “explosion-like event” was twice as big as the 2009 test, which was in turn bigger than that in 2006.

It is the first such test under new leader Kim Jong-un, who took over the leadership after his father Kim Jong-il died in December 2011.

“It is a grave threat to our nation’s safety and cannot be tolerated as it will significantly damage international society’s peace and safety” Shinzo Abe Japanese prime minister

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the test as a “clear and grave violation” of UN resolutions and a “deeply destabilizing” provocation.

Mr Obama said the test was a “highly provocative act”, and called for “swift” and “credible” international action in response.

China expressed “firm opposition” to its ally’s test, urging the North to honor its commitment to denuclearization and “not take any actions which might worsen the situation”.

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