Grace versus Law

A compilation

[The apostle Paul] tells us plainly in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, “I declare unto you the gospel … how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”…

The gospel is God’s wonderful story of His beloved Son. It is a message of grace to be received in faith. It is not a code of laws to be obeyed or good advice to be followed. It is not a system of ritual observances or a call to submit to certain ordinances. It does not set forth the claims of any human church organization, however venerable, nor does it exhort men to seek after experiences, however remarkable, though a blessed experience follows its acceptance. It simply sets forth Christ crucified and risen as the Savior of all who believe in Him…

When the modernist prates in glowing terms and honeyed phrases of salvation by character, salvation by altruism, salvation by ethical culture, he is proclaiming another gospel, for if character could have saved, Christ need not have died; if altruism would have fitted sinful men for heaven, the Lord Jesus would surely have told us so; if ethical culture could deliver from the wrath of God, what place would Gethsemane, Calvary, and the empty tomb have in the divine economy?—Harry Ironside[1]

*

Upon a life I did not live,

Upon a death I did not die,

Another’s life, Another’s death

I hang my whole eternity.

None will ever be confounded who put their trust in Him.

Horatius Bonar[2]

God’s righteousness

The most raging religious controversy the world has ever known has always been between the do-it-yourself religions and the God-alone-can-save-you kind. Man has always been trying to save himself with just a little help from God thrown in, so he doesn’t have to thank God too much but can give himself most of the credit, do his own thing, and go his own way.

The first murder was committed by a religionist of the do-it-yourself kind when Cain killed Abel—a man who was trusting God—the beginning of the persecution of the true religion by the false religion. Cain was religious, very religious, and he was trying very hard to save himself in his own way, even sacrificing to God and claiming to worship God, and doing his best to ask God to help him earn his own salvation. But his best wasn’t good enough.

His way was not God’s way. It was the way of all false religions. They are all dependent upon self-righteousness and their own way. Most of them claim to be worshiping God and seeking a little help from Him to make it, but working so hard to earn it that they figure they deserve it, with or without His help, and are quite offended if He doesn’t seem to appreciate their goodness. “Why, look at all I’ve done for You, God. You really ought to give me a medal. I really deserve to be saved. If You’re ever going to save anybody, You should save me. If anybody’s going to make it, I should certainly make it!”

On the other hand, Abel just did what God told him to do, “and offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain,”[3] the sacrifice of pure faith in the Word of God—the blood sacrifice of a lamb typifying salvation only through the blood of Christ, showing that he was trusting God alone to do it and that only the righteousness of God could save him. He knew he only had God’s righteousness and none of his own, and it was purely a gift from God.

Thus began the battle royal between pride and humility, between the legalistic religionists and the saved sinners, the perpetual warfare that has been waged ever since between carnal Babylon and spiritual Jerusalem, the flesh and the Spirit, works and faith, law and grace, self and God.

This has resulted in some of the greatest misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the Scriptures that have ever existed. People have been trying to save themselves ever since, with as little thanks to God as possible and wresting the Scriptures to prove they could do it.

This was the biggest source of contention among the early Christians: whether you could just believe and be saved, or whether you had to keep the law too. The Jewish Christians just couldn’t help but believe that Jews were a little bit better than Gentiles, even among Christians. “Sure, we believe that Jesus is the Messiah,” they said, “but we still have to help Him save us by keeping the old law.” This obnoxious mixture of works and grace so nauseated Paul that he bawled out Peter publicly for it,[4] and he spent most of his years fighting it in epistle after epistle.

But “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.”[5] And when Jesus came, He told the woman at the well of Samaria, “The hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father, … but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”[6] And this is the spiritual stage in which we are now living in the Lord.—David Brandt Berg

God’s free gift

We have added many things to simple faith as the condition of salvation. We have demanded that all sin be forsaken as a condition of salvation. This is not the gospel of grace at all. Sin is to be forsaken after Christ has received us and gives us His power with which to forsake sin. We have demanded that a promise to obey Christ as Lord must be made—that we give our hearts to Him. This is not grace. Grace presents salvation to helpless sinners as a free gift.[7] If promises are to be exacted, the salvation obtained would be anything but a gift.

“For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”[8] —J. Irvin Overholtze[9]

Approved

From the start we have been taught that we have to earn what we want. No handouts. No free lunches. If you want it, work for it. So we labor to earn a living, to earn a position in the company, to earn status in the community.

We think such a strategy works to secure God’s favor too. It sounds logical. Yet we will never be good enough in God’s eyes. In fact, we can’t earn his acceptance, because he has already done everything for us.

Christianity is not what we do to earn God’s favor, but what Jesus has already done for us. Jesus satisfied God’s demands. All we have to do is accept his gift.

Because of Jesus we are approved.—Author unknown[10]

1 Harry Ironside (1876–1951).

2 Horatius Bonar (1808–1889).

3 Hebrews 11:4.

4 Galatians 2:11–21.

5 Hebrews 1:1–2.

6 John 4:21–24.

7 Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8.

8 Romans 4:2–5.

9 J. Irvin Overholtzer (1877–1955).

10 Every Day with Jesus (Worthy Publishing, 2011).

***

1P5

Pro-Pope Francis Cardinals Seek His Resignation to Avoid Schism, Reports Times of London

Deacon Nick Donnelly March 2, 2017

The London Times newspaper is reporting that a group of cardinals who supported Pope Francis now want him to resign and be replaced by Cardinal Pietro Parolin because they fear his reforms will cause a schism “more disastrous” than the Reformation. The Times article draws on a report by the Vatican expert Antonio Socci, a prominent Italian Catholic journalist.

Antonio Socci reports that it is the curial faction of the Holy See that backed the election of Jorge Mario Bergoglio out of “impatience with the rule of his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI” that now wants Pope Francis to resign out of fear of an impending schism. The Times reports:

“A large part of the cardinals who voted for him is very worried and the curia . . . that organised his election and has accompanied him thus far, without ever disassociating itself from him, is cultivating the idea of a moral suasion to convince him to retire.

It was the latter faction who now believed that the Pope should resign and who would like to replace him with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, Mr Socci said. He believed that the group numbered around a dozen, but the importance of the members counts more than their number. Four years after Benedict XVI’s renunciation and Bergoglio’s arrival on the scene, the situation of the Catholic church has become explosive, perhaps really on the edge of a schism, which could be even more disastrous than Luther’s [who is today being rehabilitated by the Bergoglio church].

The cardinals are worried that the church could be shattered as an institution. There are many indirect ways in which the pressure might be exerted.”

An expert on the Vatican gave this assessment of the latest development:

“A good number of the majority that voted for Bergoglio in 2013 have come to regret their decision, but I don’t think it’s plausible that members of the hierarchy will pressure the Pope to resign. Those who know him know it would be useless. [He] has a very authoritarian streak. He won’t resign until he has completed his revolutionary reforms, which are causing enormous harm.”

Antonio Socci reports that the significance of this development is that the group who want Pope Francis to resign are not the “conservative” cardinals who have opposed the Holy Father’s innovations, “What was significant, he said, was that the doubters were not the conservative cardinals who had been in open opposition to the Pope since early in his reign.”

***

WND

THIS IS THE END? POPE GIVES UP CRYPTIC HINT

Comments on short papacy show possible awareness of ancient forecast

Published: 03/16/2015 at 8:20 PM

Pope Francis

An author who successfully predicted Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation now is suggesting Pope Francis may be a believer in an ancient prophecy that foretells disaster for the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope unleashed an international frenzy of speculation when he recently commented, “I have a feeling my pontificate will be brief. … It is a vague feeling I have that the Lord chose me for a short mission.”

Bestselling author Tom Horn, featured on the blockbuster movie, “The Last Pope?,” told WND in an exclusive interview that the statements imply the man once known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio sees himself as part of a prophecy.

Horn stated, “The comments by Pope Francis regarding possible assassination or retirement and that he may not be the pontiff much longer make me wonder if he is a believer in his role as the last pope (pope No. 112 in the ‘Prophecy of the Popes’), which speaks of the destruction of Rome.”

St. Malachy’s “Prophecy of the Popes” is said to be based on his prophetic vision of the next 112 popes, beginning with Pope Celestine II, who died in 1144.

Malachy presented a description of each pope, culminating with the “final pope,” “Peter the Roman,” whose reign would end with the destruction of Rome and judgment.

But other Catholic prophecies also speak of the final subversion of the Roman Catholic Church.

As Horn notes, “Even St. Francis of Assisi – the current pope’s namesake and one of the most venerated religious figures in history – gathered his devotees shortly before his death and prophesied, ‘At the time of this tribulation a man, not canonically elected, will be raised to the pontificate, who, by his cunning, will endeavor to draw many into error and death. … Some preachers will keep silence about the truth, and others will trample it under foot and deny it. … for in those days Jesus Christ will send them not a true pastor, but a destroyer.'”

Horn believes Francis may also see his fate revealed as part of one of the famous “secrets of Fátima.”

“The final secret of Fátima was supposedly given to three Portuguese children, Lucia dos Santos, Jacinta Marto and Francisco Marto, when they saw an apparition of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Fátima) in 1917.”

As Horn observed, “There is a great deal of controversy over whether the third secret was ever completely released by the Vatican, but part of what was released describes a city, which some believe to be the Vatican City. The city is attacked and many priests, including the pope (described as the ‘Bishop in White’), are killed by fighters who could easily be interpreted as members of ISIS.”

This section of the prophecy reads,

… before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way [and] on his knees at the foot of the big cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other bishops, priests, men and women religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions.

ISIS has vowed to “conquer Rome” by 2020 and has called for an alliance with the radical left to further its objectives. ISIS has also included Catholic countries like Spain in its vision of the restored caliphate.

Pope Francis seems aware of the danger posed by the terrorist group. Only a few days before musing on the likely brevity of his papacy, the pope spoke fatalistically about the danger of assassination. The pope declared his life or death is “in God’s hands” and joked, “I have said to the Lord, ‘You take care of me. But if it is your will that I die or something happens to me, I ask you only one favor: that it doesn’t hurt.'”

Such levity, says Horn, conceals more disturbing questions about the nature of Francis’ papacy and the manner in which he obtained his office.

Horn explains the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano claimed to have uncovered a plot in 2012 to assassinate Pope Benedict XVI because of an internal power struggle. Horn asks, “Is that why Benedict ‘retired’ officially in 2012, though not publicly until 2013?”

Pope Francis is doing his best to convince the world about the stability of the papacy. Despite his reputation as an innovator, the pope has expressed opposition to an age limit for future popes.

New York Times bestselling author Jerome Corsi also wonders about instability in the Vatican. In an interview with WND, Corsi said Pope Francis’ comments about a short papacy surprised him.

“With Pope Benedict resigning, a new model of the papacy seems to be developing. Granted, Benedict is not day-to-day active, but he appears to give advice to Pope Francis when consulted. Do we already have two popes?”

“In the future, will popes have terms for which they serve, as presidents in the USA have term limits?” Corsi wondered. “Is Pope Francis the last pope to be appointed for life? Will Francis step down as Benedict did? We do appear to be in a new age where the papacy is undergoing redefinition.”

But Horn said the events in progress may be something far more substantial than simply organizational changes.

“Francis appointed Pietro Parolin as his secretary of state, an Italian (Roman) whose name is Peter,” Horn said. “If the Vatican were attacked or Francis and his Camerlengo (papal administrators) were to be killed at the same time or taken out of the way, this man would sit on the pope’s throne and literally be known as ‘Peter the Roman,’ the final line in the Prophecy of the Popes.”

***

RT

UK private school to offer £20k-a-year pupils ‘empathy lessons’

Published time: 5 Mar, 2017 18:39

The Head of one of Britain’s most prestigious high schools has noticed such an increase in isolation, apathy, and indifference towards the suffering of others in his students that he will introduce empathy lessons as early as next year.

Andrew Halls, the headmaster of the exclusive King's College School in Wimbledon, which costs a whopping £20,400 ($25,000) a year, has decided to take a more proactive approach to help combat what he sees as a growing disconnect between learners at his school and the world around them.

When speaking with the Times, he describes his perception that, as time goes on, students "become locked in a world of incomprehension, with an increasingly two-dimensional understanding of other people, [and are] incapable of forming real relationships in the world of flesh and blood...”

While the phenomenon has been observed worldwide for years, many felt it was just a symptom of the changing times and that a balance would eventually be struck.

New research indicates, however, that adults born in the 1990s have lower empathy scores than those born 10 and 20 years earlier reports the Sunday Times.

“...Underlying the community of likes, Photoshopped pictures, shared Instagram obsessions is an empty wilderness of solitude and disconnection,” Halls added.

The school has yet to reveal the syllabus for these empathy lessons but Halls will host the first conference for head teachers on this particular issue later this year, which is entitled “The Empathy Deficit.”

Sara Konrath, a US academic who has investigated the phenomenon and will speak at the gathering told the Times, “Many people see the current group of college students sometimes called Generation Me as one of the most self-centered, narcissistic, competitive, confident and individualistic in recent history.”

(“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:2-5)

***

NORTHWEST LIBERTY NEWS

IBM Patent: A.I. Fact-Checker with In-Call Actionability

By k.Renee -

March 5, 2017

File Date (@US Patent Office): January 19, 2017

Patent: 20170019535 Family ID: 57775256 Kind Code: A1

Applicant: International Business Machines (IBM)

Super Easy Explanation:

A system that fact-checks live calls and takes action to “cause change” in any call that is “determined…as false”. [Abstract]

Now, to Break It Down a Bit Further:

Who’s Involved (initially) :

2 telecommunicating from &

an automatic program, ran on an artificial-intelligencia computing system.

What’s Happening :

The A.I. system “detects a fact statement made during a conversation” [0024]. It detects “alleged facts” by using NLP (Natural Language Processing) to identify a “defined grammatical construct” and “the presence of one or more keywords”. [0025]

“As some non-limiting examples” the system “can be configured to detect statements that include financial terminology…words referring to a location, an institution, an entity, and the like”. [0025]

The A.I. system “initiates a capture of a call segment”, recording the “fact statement”. The capture can retroactively record, including the conversation that occurred “at a time prior” to “wnhen the fact statement was made” [0026]. The call data is pre-processed and converted for fact-checking.

“The (call) data can include text, sound, graphical, or video information.” The A.I. “applies different methods to convert…the information.” [0035]

The A.I. system then sends that processed data set “for fact-checking…verifying the accuracy of the fact statement by using information from a third-party.” [0030]

As an example; call-data from a video transmission could include a text form of the “fact statement”, along with result data from ”sentiment analysis, facial expression analysis, or applied forensics” performed by the A.I. system.[0035] “Voice facts, such as timber or pitch of the voice can assist in verification.”[0037] The text data of the fact statement can be checked against third-party records, like “phone directories” [0038], “company directories” [0039], “financial or credit databases” [0040], “news databases” [0041], or any “social media site” [0055].

The A.I. system receives a “result of the fact checking operation…indicating that the fact statement is accurate, or inaccurate.” [0031]

“If the result indicates that the fact statement is inaccurate”, the A.I. system “takes action” “while the call in progress”. [0032]

“Some non-limiting examples of possible actions” the system can take are “terminating the call,…notify the (telecommunication device) user via a haptic interface, or notify a third-party such as law enforcement.” [0032]

This IBM A.I. system application “allows” telecommunication devices”to be “operated in a manner that prevents the perpetration of…undesirable activities.”[0045]

“If the application determines that the caller or the call has violated the law, the application may notify the appropriate law enforcement agency” [0090], as the A.I. simotaneously “determines whether to continue the call-monitoring”.[0091]

So You’re Absolutely Clear on This :

IBM…the company that came up with the idea, and the system to number the Jews during the Holocaust…the company that created operating systems, like Linux….the company that created the “Smarter Cities” grid control program in 2008…the company that made the A.I. system that won Jeopardy! against the 74-game champ in 2011…and the A.I. system that beat the world’s chess champion

IBM…creator of the first supercomputer..the first personal computer with a standardized platform

IBM….who invented ATM’s…

IBM has patented a system which monitors calls, using Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing to take statements made during the call and fact-check them against a third-party database. These statements can be made in any transmitted verbal, visual, textual, or graphical data that is communicated between any two devices. Devices include, but are not limited to, phones, laptops, wearable devices, or tablets. The third-party database used to fact-check is configurable. It can be configured to an internal network-server database; it could be Wikipedia; or the Google/Oracle servers in whole; even the entire plethora of institutional recorded familial, educational, employment, legal, financial, and geological recorded data. This fact-checking is made in real-time, through the data network. If any statement made is deemed as “false”, IBM’s system will make a change in the call. These changes include, but are not limited to, ending the call, alerting the device’s user of the danger of “invalid” fact statements, or involving the appropriate legal agencies of the user’s “incorrect” statement, with or without the telecommuter’s knowledge, to arrange for arrest or any other correctional-type action from the alerted agency. This A.I. system can and will decide to continue a user’s communications, to an undefined extent or limitation, for data capture continued for any undefined reason.

The A.I. listens and scans all, deciphering all communications between device users; using self-determined emotion-analytics,based on voice patterns, body language,and facial motions made during statements between communicating device users; fact-checking statements on its own terms, against its configuration of decided facts; then empowered to take action during the data transmission between the users. The A.I. can act to get you arrested, put you on an agency’s alert list, or block the user from telecommunicating on that device.

***

MailOnline

CIA can and does hack almost EVERY device: Giant WikiLeak of agency's secrets reveals it infiltrates iPhones, smart TVs and Whatsapp and can even take over self-driving cars which could be programmed to kill

  • WikiLeaks published 8,761 documents and files claiming to be from the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence on Tuesday

  • Leak details information on how CIA-developed malware can target iPhones, Android phones and smart TVs

  • WikiLeaks alleges some remote hacking programs can turn electronic devices into recording and transmitting stations to spy on targets

  • Documents also claims the CIA can bypass encryption of Whatsapp, Signal, Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloakman by hacking smartphones

  • CIA investigated hacking control systems in cars and trucks, which would allow agency to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations

By Emily Crane For Dailymail.com and Associated Press

PUBLISHED: 14:18, 7 March 2017 | UPDATED: 21:16, 7 March 2017

WikiLeaks has published thousands of documents claiming to reveal top CIA hacking secrets, including the agency's ability to infiltrate encrypted apps like Whatsapp, break into smart TVs and phones and program self-driving cars.

WikiLeaks said the files released on Tuesday - mysteriously dubbed ' Vault 7' - are the most comprehensive release of U.S. spying files ever made public.

The leak purportedly includes 8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Virgina.

It details intelligence information on CIA-developed software intended to hack iPhones, Android phones, smart TVs and Microsoft, Mac and Linux operating systems.

WikiLeaks alleges that some of the remote hacking programs can turn these electronic devices into recording and transmitting stations to spy on their targets.

It also claims the CIA can bypassWikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange, has published thousands of documents that it says come from the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence

WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange, has published thousands of documents that it says come from the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence

According to a document in 2014, CIA's Embedded Devices Branch met to discuss malware that could infect vehicle systems.

'The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations,' WikiLeaks said.

The documents could not immediately be authenticated, but WikiLeaks has a long track record of releasing top secret government documents. A spokesman for the CIA would not comment.

WikiLeaks, which had been dropping cryptic hints about the release for a month, said in a lengthy statement that the CIA had 'recently' lost control of a massive arsenal of CIA hacking tools as well as associated documentation.

The organization said that 'the archive appears to have been circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner' and that one of them 'provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.'

They said the archive of files - referred to as Year Zero - introduces the scope of the CIA's global covert hacking program and includes software that could allow people to take control of consumer electronic products.

The documents cover a range of topics, including what appeared to be a discussion about how to compromise smart televisions and turn them into improvised surveillance devices.

The alleged program called 'Weeping Angel' is said to have been developed in conjunction with the British spy agency MI5 and allows them to hack a Samsung smart TV when it is seemingly switched off.

'After infestation, Weeping Angel places the target TV in a 'Fake-Off' mode, so that the owner falsely believes the TV is off when it is on,' the files say, according to WikiLeaks.

'In 'Fake-Off' mode the TV operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the Internet to a covert CIA server.'

WikiLeaks said the leaked data also included details on the agency's efforts to subvert American software products and smartphones, including Apple's iPhone, Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows.

The files claim the CIA had developed numerous attacks to remotely hack and control popular smart phones.

'Infected phones can be instructed to send the CIA the user's geolocation, audio and text communications as well as covertly activate the phone's camera and microphone,' the files state.

'A similar unit targets Google's Android which is used to run the majority of the world's smart phones including Samsung, HTC and Sony.'

According to WikiLeaks, the CIA knew about several flaws in software made by Apple, Google, Samsung and others but didn't tell the companies about them.

Disclosing such vulnerabilities is supposed to be common practice so companies could fix them before hackers use them. But WikiLeaks says the CIA kept knowledge of the vulnerabilities to itself for use in bypassing the encryption on apps such as WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Confide.

WikiLeaks says the CIA had two dozen such undisclosed vulnerabilities for Android gadgets alone.

***

21st CENTURY WIRE

SYRIA: Erdogan and McCain Conspire to Create Drought in Syria

MARCH 5, 2017 BY VANESSA BEELEY

Whitney Webb

Mint Press News

While some measure of stability has returned to pockets of northern Syria following the Syrian Army’s recent liberation of al-Qaeda from Aleppo and elsewhere, external forces seem determined to keep the region volatile, regardless of the cost. In the latest example of aggressive foreign intervention in Syria, Turkey, which has long played an antagonistic role in Syria’s nearly six-year-long conflict, has now cut off the flow of the Euphrates River into Syria, depriving the nation of one of its primary sources of water.

According to the Kurdish Hawar News Agency, Turkey cut water supplies to Syria around Feb. 23, which subsequently forced a hydroelectric plant at the Tishrin Dam to shut down while also significantly reducing water levels on its associated reservoir. The dam supplies both water and power to key parts of northern Syria, such as the city of Manbij and other parts of the predominantly Kurdish Kobani Canton.

The dam is one of several major dams along the Euphrates River. Just downstream from Tishrin lies the Tabqa Dam and its reservoir Lake Assad, which supplies Aleppo with most of its power and drinking water, as well as irrigation water for over 640,000 hectares (2,500 square miles) of farmland. A city official in Manbij told Hawar that the city would provide generator fuel to civilians to help cope with the blackout that has resulted from the river being cut off. The same official added that Turkey had “violated the international conventions of water and rivers energy by cutting off Euphrates water.”

This is not the first time Turkey has deprived Syrians of water as a means to advance their political goals in the region. Turkey previously cut the river off in May of 2014, causing water levels on Lake Assad to drop by over 20 feet and creating the potential for genocide by means of dehydration. By blocking the river, Turkey threatens Iraqi civilians as well. Major urban centers like Mosul, whose water supplies largely depend on reservoirs fed by the Euphrates, could be gravely impacted if the river continues to be blocked.

The act of cutting off the river is not unprecedented, but its timing is peculiar. Just days prior to Turkey’s act, U.S. Senator John McCain “secretly” visited the Kobani Canton, the very region that now finds itself without water, before heading to Turkey, where he met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to the senator’s office, “Senator McCain’s visit was a valuable opportunity to assess dynamic conditions on the ground in Syria and Iraq.” It adds that McCain looks forward to working with the Trump administration and military leaders “to optimize our approach” on fighting the Islamic State.

While the U.S. has backed the Kurds in their fight to keep their territories along the Syrian-Turkish border free of terrorist influence, it has come at the cost of greatly complicating diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Turkey. For example, in early 2016, Erdogan dramatically demanded that the U.S. choose between an alliance with Turkey or with the Syrian Kurds. The diplomatic stand-off has since reached new heights of tension, with Turkey threatening to invade Kurdish-held Manbij less than two weeks ago. Manbij is suffering the most from Turkey’s blockage of the Euphrates, suggesting that the move could be intended to destabilize the Kurds before something more drastic takes place.

It also warrants mentioning that despite Erdogan’s and McCain’s claims that they are eager to “defeat” the Islamic State and other terrorist factions, both have close ties to those very same groups. This, of course, suggests that McCain’s visit, as well as recent moves by Turkey, have ulterior motives that have yet to be publicly expressed.

For example, McCain has been so intent on removing Assad from power that he has fostered relationships with the Syria’s “moderate rebels” and its more notorious opposition factions such as the Islamic State. Photographic evidence has confirmed this, with one infamous photo showing McCain posing with Khalid al-Hamad – a “moderate” rebel who gained notoriety after a video of him eating the heart of a Syrian Army soldier went viral online. McCain has also admitted meeting with ISIS on national television, going so far as to acknowledge that he is still in contact with the infamous terrorist group.

Senator John McCain in Syria with members of the U.S.-backed rebel group Northern Storm.

Erdogan, for his part, was revealed to be a major player in the smuggling of Islamic State oil out of Syria for sale on the global market. It was these oil sales that enabled the Islamic State to grow into what it is today and to become one of the world’s most well-funded terror groups.

With such connections now well-documented, it seems unlikely that McCain and Erdogan discussed how to defeat the Islamic State. Based on the evidence, it seems much more likely that both remain eager to destabilize the region due to their shared goal of deposing Assad. With Turkey already working to destabilize Northern Syria by cutting off key resources, we will soon see what other measures may have been discussed during this “secret” meeting.

***

The Telegraph

Jacob Zuma calls for confiscation of white land without compensation

Stuart Graham, johannesburg

3 MARCH 2017 • 8:24PM

President Jacob Zumahas called on parliament to change South Africa’s constitution to allow the expropriation of white owned land without compensation.

Mr Zuma, 74, who made the remarks in a speech yesterday/FRI morning, said he wanted to establish a “pre-colonial land audit of land use and occupation patterns” before changing the law.

“We need to accept the reality that those who are in parliament where laws are made, particularly the black parties, should unite because we need a two-thirds majority to effect changes in the constitution,” he said.

Mr Zuma, who has lurched from one scandal to another since being elected to office in 2009, has adopted a more populist tone since his ruling African National Congress (ANC) party suffered its worst election result last August since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The party lost the economic hub of Johannesburg, the capital Pretoria and the coastal city of Port Elizabeth to the moderate Democratic Alliance party, which already held the city of Cape Town.

The ANC is also under pressure from the radical Economic Freedom Fighters, led by Julius Malema.

Mr Malema has been travelling the country urging black South Africans to take back land from white invaders and "Dutch thugs".

He told parliament this week that his party wanted to “unite black people in South Africa” to expropriate land without compensation.

“People of South Africa, where you see a beautiful land, take it, it belongs to you,” he said. Although progress has been made in transferring property to black South Africans, land ownership is believed to be skewed in favour of whites more than 20 years after the end of apartheid.

The Institute of Race Relations, an independent research body, said that providing a racial breakdown of South Africa’s rural landowners was “almost impossible”.

“In the first place the state owns some 22 per cent of the land in the country, including land in the former homelands, most of which is occupied by black subsistence farmers who have no title and seem unlikely to get it any time soon,” the group said.

“This leaves around 78 per cent of land in private hands, but the race of these private owners is not known.”

Mr Zuma’s comments caused outrage among groups representing Afrikaans speaking farmers on Friday.

The Boer Afrikaner Volksraad, which claims to have 40,000 members, said its members would take land expropriation without compensation as “a declaration of war”.

“We are ready to fight back,” said Andries Breytenbach, the group’s chairman. “We need urgent mediation between us and the government. "If this starts, it will turn into a racial war which we want to prevent.”

Mr Zuma first mentioned the expropriation of land in his opening of Parliament speech last month, but Friday was the first time he called for a change in the law. In his February speech, he controversially called in the military to maintain “law and order” on the streets of Cape Town ahead of expected protests calling for him to step down.

It was the first time in South Africa’s history, including the heavily militarised apartheid era, that the president has ordered the military to provide security at parliament.

***

The Atlantic

Brexit’s Shadow Looms Over Northern Ireland

This week’s election could threaten a long-standing, uneasy peace

Katherine Riley• Mar 4, 2017

In January, Sinn Féin, Northern Ireland’s second-largest party, abandoned the government, causing its collapse and triggering a new round of elections. Sinn Féin’s decision was a distinct act of protest, a reaction to a scandal that has ensnared Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the country’s largest political party. The new election, which was held on Thursday, was Northern Ireland’s second in just 10 months.

On Friday, as results began to come in, Foster told a journalist from Sky News, “This has been a very good day for Sinn Féin.” Of course, she’s correct. Sinn Féin has gained a good deal of ground, coming within just one assembly seat of the DUP, denying Foster’s party the crucial 30-seat plurality that allows any party to employ a veto mechanism, the same mechanism which the DUP recently used to block same-sex marriage legislation. But the DUP and Sinn Féin are still Northern Ireland’s two largest parties, and the issues that precipitated this snap election in the first place remain unresolved.

Overall turnout on Thursday was almost 65 percent—an increase of almost 10 points from the most recent election last May. Perhaps some of that spike in participation stems from the fact that this is no ordinary election. In many ways, its result will test the resilience of Northern Ireland’s fragile power-sharing system, set up in 1997 by the Good Friday Agreement, which officially ended the almost three decades of sectarian fighting known as the “Troubles.” From 1969 to 1997, unionists and republicans fought, often violently, over the fate of their country. The unionists wanted the North to remain a part of the United Kingdom, while the republicans wanted the North to join the Republic of Ireland. To appease both communities, the Good Friday Agreement established a system in which power would be shared. The two sides—largely represented in this election by the republican Sinn Féin and the unionist DUP (both communities also include numerous other smaller parties)—pledged to govern together, with the republican community accepting the North’s continued status within the U.K., and the unionist community agreeing to share political power with republicans. (In Northern Ireland, republicans are often called nationalists. There are differences between the two, but the terms refer to the same broad community.)

Under the terms of the agreement, Northern Ireland’s executive would be led by a first minister and a deputy first minister, one from a republican party and one from a unionist party. Neither republicans nor unionists could act without the consent of the other. The first minister and deputy first minister positions would also be interdependent: The government could not have a first minister without a deputy first minister, ensuring each community would have a stake in the other’s participation in government. It would never be in either camp’s interest to allow intra-party relations to sour to such an extent that the first or deputy first minister would be forced to resign, because then the entire government would simply collapse.

Brendan O’Leary, who advised the British, Irish, and American governments during the Good Friday negotiations, told me that for most of the past 20 years this system has worked relatively well. “In general, the power-sharing institutions have been a remarkable success,” O’Leary said. “The core institutions functioned, and they presided over what, by comparative standards elsewhere in the world, has been a remarkably successful peace process.” But the events of recent months, starting with the Brexit vote and, now, this election, have revealed how vulnerable the power-sharing system in Northern Ireland has always been.

The scandal that now threatens the Good Friday system began back in 2012, when Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster, then minister for enterprise, trade, and investment, helped initiate a subsidy program to encourage people to use renewable fuel to heat their homes. But the absence of price controls led to major cost overruns and claims of deliberate abuse, sticking Northern Irish taxpayers with a bill of almost £500 million for a program that was originally supposed to cost £25 million over five years. The first investigation into the program began in February 2016, after whistleblowers claimed it had overspent by millions.

Then, last December, another whistleblower claimed Foster had not only mismanaged the program, but had refused to address its deficiencies even after learning of them, unwilling to face the political repercussions. Ten days after the news broke, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, the leader of Sinn Féin, called for Foster to temporarily step aside while the scandal was under investigation. She refused, saying she did “not take her instructions from Sinn Féin.” Sinn Féin, in turn, announced it could not work with a DUP with Foster at the helm. The DUP said it had been trying to fix the program since 2015, but accused Sinn Féin of using the allegations against Foster as an excuse to force an election. In January, McGuinness stepped down, reportedly for health reasons, and Sinn Féin chose not to nominate a replacement—its way of officially withdrawing from the government and triggering new elections.

While the scandal was the immediate cause of the election, Northern Ireland’s government was already headed for breakdown. “[T]he big elephant in the room is Brexit, which these two parties [Sinn Féin and the DUP] have taken different positions on,” John McGarry, a professor of political science at Queen’s University in Canada who has worked extensively on power-sharing and policing in Northern Ireland, told me.

Like a majority of the U.K., the DUP supported Brexit, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on anti-EU ads. And like a majority of Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin wanted the U.K. to remain within the EU. This pit the two parties—which are supposed to lead the country together—against one another in the run-up to the Brexit vote, and even more so in its aftermath.

O’Leary said that Sinn Féin saw the DUP’s decision to back Brexit, which none of the four other main parties supported, and economists warned would be especially bad for Northern Ireland, as reckless. “From Sinn Féin's point of view, not only were the DUP being ideological, they were acting against the evident self-interest, the material self-interest of Northern Ireland,” O’Leary said. “And so if you have a partner that is irresponsible, a partner that won't listen to advice, it's a very difficult issue.”

As Brexit began to shred the fragile threads of trust between Sinn Féin and the DUP, it also further exacerbated underlying tensions between the larger republican and unionist communities. Perhaps the most crucial of these is the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Since 1923, the U.K. and Ireland have maintained the Common Travel Area (CTA), which allows free movement of people between the two. But when the U.K. finally leaves the EU, that border will no longer divide two EU member-states, putting its current open status into question. British Prime Minister Theresa May continues to maintain that there will be no return “to a border of the past for Northern Ireland,” but it’s still unclear what that even means.

Republicans and nationalists, as well as moderate unionists and independents, want Northern Ireland to receive a special status allowing it to remain in the EU’s common travel area, thus retaining free movement between the North and the Republic. More hardline unionists, like Foster, reject this solution for precisely the reason the others embrace it: It would mean, as McGarry put it, “Northern Ireland wasn't in the United Kingdom in the same way as everywhere else.”

On Tuesday, during the second half of the final leaders debate, this issue of Brexit and the border dominated discussion. At one point, while the candidates were arguing over the role of the EU and the Republic in negotiating the North’s post-Brexit fate, Colum Eastwood, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, shouted, “It’s not up to the British government!”

Amid the rancorous debate, this was a particularly telling moment. At the most basic level, Northern Ireland’s political divisions stem from whether the country should be part of the United Kingdom or the Irish Republic. Much of the Good Friday Agreement was concerned with ensuring that both the U.K. and Ireland would have a role in Northern Ireland. So for the North, Brexit is not only an exit from the EU, but one step further away from Ireland. To a nationalist like Eastwood, this is unacceptable. In 1997, the British government agreed to allow the North to have a uniquely close relationship with the Republic. By leaving the EU, the U.K. will be breaking that agreement, upsetting the careful balance of Northern Irish politics.

Although this week’s election has been called “the most important” since the Good Friday Agreement, the actual results look very similar to 10 months ago. The DUP has won 28 seats to Sinn Féin’s 27, forcing them, once again, into government together. But maintaining the status quo isn’t necessarily a good thing, as the disputes between the two parties that led to this snap election remain unsettled.

Maintaining the status quo isn’t necessarily a good thing, as the disputes between the two parties that led to this snap election remain unsettled.

According to Sinn Féin, the party forced the election because of Foster’s refusal to step aside. Nothing about that situation has changed: Foster remains the head of the DUP, and thus the party’s choice for first minister should it win the most votes, and Sinn Féin still refuses to work with her. During that last debate, Michelle O’Neill, the party’s new leader, made this very clear. “I can’t dictate who leads the DUP, but I can dictate who we [Sinn Féin] go into government with,” she said.

Before the election, some speculated that, should the DUP perform poorly, Foster’s party might pressure her to step down, or at least agree to Sinn Féin’s demand for her to step aside during the investigation of the subsidy program. But now, with the votes counted and DUP’s 10-seat loss clear, it doesn’t appear this will happen. Jeffrey Donaldson, who represents the DUP in Westminster, told the Beflast Telegraph that Foster’s leadership is safe. “Arlene is leading the largest party and we need to get on with the job of forming a government that works for us all,” he said.

If three weeks pass and the DUP and Sinn Féin still can’t come to an agreement that will allow them to form a government together, it’s likely that London will temporarily impose direct rule on Northern Ireland while the British and Irish governments try to hammer out some sort of deal between the two parties. So at the very moment that Northern Ireland needs its government at the table to help negotiate the details of Brexit, it will be left without one.

In this scenario, although the immediate concern will be a deal between Sinn Féin and the DUP, it is possible that this deadlock, plus the announcement of a border arrangement unpalatable to either the union or republican camp, could seriously threaten stability. At this point, no one is seriously considering a return to the violence and chaos of the Troubles, but uncertainty is making people uneasy. “If it turns out that there's a hard border between the North of Ireland the Irish Republic this would be completely unacceptable to Irish nationalists and would be a profound threat, not just to power-sharing but to the peace process,” McGarry said.

For months, most have assumed that the largest domestic fallout from Brexit would come from the Scots, who are poised to hold another referendum on their independence. But, to understand the kind of damage Brexit could end up causing inside the United Kingdom itself, it may well be time to turn away from Edinburgh and towards Belfast.

***

Healthy Cures

Clean Your Arteries And Prevent Heart Attack And Stroke Only With One Glass Of This Powerful Drink

Thursday, February 23, 2017 3:48

There are natural ways to unclog your arteries to prevent a heart attack or stroke…

Your arteries are the rivers within your body that continually transport essential nutrients and oxygen from your heart to the rest of your body.

A big part of staying healthy and also keeping your arteries clean and clear is related to your diet and what you eat. There’s no joke in the popular saying that says: “You are what you eat.”It just makes good sense that what you put in your body is what will reflect out in all aspects of your health.

If you eat a lot of processed foods laden with saturated fats, chemicals, and toxins, that entire gunk is going to cling to and clog up your arteries over time – eventually causing serious heart-related problems and other nasty stuff. You also run a high risk of suffering a heart attack or devastating stroke.

Improving your cardiovascular health by clearing plaque buildup from arteries is a sure-fire way to decrease your risk of serious heart disease or stroke. While there are surgeries and medications available that might do the trick, most of them come with some form of side-effect which can make you feel sick or weak for years of your life. For those who would rather use natural alternatives to improve their heart health, here is a 3 ingredient beverage to point you in the right direction.

3 Ingredient Beverage to Unclog Your Arteries: (RECIPE)

Ingredients:

30 cloves of garlic, chopped to small pieces

6 lemons, peeled and cut into small pieces

1 liter of clean water

Method of Preparation:

First, rinse and cut the lemons.

Add the garlic to the lemons and put them all in a blender.

Blend the mixture until smooth.

Put the mixture in a pot and add 1 liter of water; then boil the liquid.

When it begins boiling, remove it and let it cool off.

Strain liquid in bottles. Keep the beverage in a dark glass bottle, in the fridge.

How to use it:

First dosage: Drink 50 ml for three weeks on a daily basis

Then stop for one week

Second Dosage: Drink 50 ml every day for three weeks.

You are allowed to repeat this treatment every 6 months.

Benefits of this beverage:

It reduces bad cholesterol.

It can improve your circulation.

It can reduce the number of triglycerides in the blood.

It can also improve liver function and cleanses it.

It can lower the blood pressure.

It can also prevent the formation of tumors

Renews and rejuvenates your cells through the antioxidant properties.

Strengthens the immune system.

Improves the function of kidney and it helps you to reduce the quantity of fluids retained.

Eliminates fat deposits that accumulate in the body

***

Until next week...keep on believing.
Almondtree Productions


http://www.missionarychristian.org