And the angel of God said to me in a dream, Jacob; and I said, What is it? For when the Lord speaks once, or a second time, sending a dream, or in the meditation of the night;...then opens he the understanding of men.”
(Genesis 31:11, Job 33:14-16)

In A Dream



Why Doesn't the Church Offer More Teaching on Dreams, Deliverance or Miracles?

11:00AM EDT 4/16/2016 MARK VIRKLER

Question: Why doesn't my church take dreams seriously? I have lots of dreams.

In the Bible, God gave dreams that provided counsel, guidance, gifts and promises. I want this! Why isn't there more training on it? I don't want to have to go to the New Age movement to learn about the supernatural.

Answer: "Western Christianity" has chosen to reduce Christianity to a reasoned, logical theology about a God who lives "up there." Dreams aren't rational or logical. Dreams constitute a direct encounter with the Living God (Acts 2:17).

Therefore, dreams are ignored. The same goes for working miracles, casting out demons, speaking in tongues, heavenly encounters and every other spiritual experience recorded in Scripture. Why would the church do this, and is there a way out of this mess?

Part 1 – Losing Heart Revelation

  1. Where Did This Rational Approach to Christianity Come From?

  2. Why Would the Church Strip Spiritual Encounters From Its Experience?

  3. Did You Know Satan Has Stolen the Bible From Conservatives as Well as Liberals?

Where Did This Rational Approach to Christianity Come From?

Thomas Aquinas: Even though the Bible says that man's thoughts are not God's thoughts (Is. 55:9), and Jesus rebuked "man's reasoning" every time it showed up in the Gospels (Matt. 16:5-12; Mark 2:5-12, 8:15-18), and James declared man's wisdom comes from below and is natural, sensual and demonic (James 3:13-17), the church has decided to follow the philosophy laid out by Thomas Aquinas: to limit spiritual experiences and replace them with reasoned theology.

True Knowledge! Amazingly, the word "theology" does not even appear in the Bible! "Doctrine" would be the closest word to theology, and the word doctrine only shows up 15 times in the NASB. Half the time, doctrine was rebuked because it was man's doctrine and the other half it was considered good doctrine because it was received as revelation from God. Paul called the truth he received by revelation, "true knowledge" (Col. 3:10; 2:2-23 NASB) as opposed to "knowledge." I don't believe I had ever drawn a distinction in my mind between knowledge and true knowledge. That's interesting.

Truth: A "Who" or a "what." Pilate wanted to know, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). The answer is that truth is not a what. Truth is not a reasoned set of concepts. Truth is a Person. Jesus said, "I am Truth" (John 14:6). I experience God's truth every time I have exchanges with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16,17). This is revelation-based, God-breathed, living truth, applied correctly and directly to the moment I am living. Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" (John 6:63).

Nothing? Really?

Words or Power? The kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power (1 Cor. 4:20). Wow! So truth comes from illumination, empowering and transformation, which we experience every time we take a walk with God in the cool of the garden and He speaks.

Epistemology: The following introduces you to the basics of a Christian philosophy of "knowing." If you have already read my books on this topic, this will serve as a short summary review, and if not, this will serve as an introductory overview.

Yuck! I guess that because I took a religion-philosophy major while at Roberts Wesleyan College, my head has been geared to think philosophically about learning. While in college, I did not recognize the value of studying philosophy, as philosophers begin with the question, "Do I exist?" and then get into discussions concerning the fact that the miracles in the Bible are myths and not to be believed. I found the entire discussion repugnant, so I figured I would just set philosophy aside.

Maybe not so bad? Now, looking back over my life and seeing that I have written many books on establishing a revelation-based Christian philosophy for knowing, I realize that the philosophy courses in college trained me to ask a question that many people have never bothered to ask, which is, "What is God's approach for knowing truth?" What I have learned is that God's approach to discovering truth is completely different from what the Western culture believes, and even from what my Bible college and church taught me.

A Christian philosophy of knowing: May I present to you what God has taught me concerning establishing a biblical epistemology? I like the word epistemology as it is one of the biggest words I learned in college, and it just has such a nice ring to it! It means "system for knowing." Do you know what your system for discovering truth is?

Why Would the Church Strip Spiritual Encounters From Its Experience?

Plato: Early church fathers had fit Christian thought and experience into Plato's philosophy. Plato was a well-known philosopher who embraced spiritual encounters as a valid means for discovering truth.

Aristotle: In trying to make Christianity acceptable to Aristotle's philosophy, (which was sweeping Europe in the 1200s, and which did not accept divine encounter as a way of knowing truth), Thomas Aquinas spent his entire life laying out a logical, rational approach to Christianity.

Scholasticism: When Protestantism was formed, it adopted the scholasticism (i.e. a method of critical thought) of Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274). He was the author of more than 80 works, including the Summa Theologica, which was accorded special honor at the Council of Trent. In adopting scholasticism, Western Christianity adopted a very academic religion, which limited supernatural experiences and was counter to Plato's philosophy and to the Bible's own stated approach for discovering truth.

It's all straw! However, at the end of his life, the Lord granted Thomas Aquinas a triple dream experience (i.e. a spiritual, non-rational, supernatural experience), and it so profoundly affected him that when urged to write about it, he stated, "I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me."He would write no more, and within four months he was dead. Yet today, we have embraced his writings, which he felt were straw and essentially rejected divine encounter, which fills the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

A protest movement: Also, since Martin Luther was embattled with and reacting to the sale of indulgences along with other Papal abuses, the movement was dubbed, "Protest-ant." Admittedly, whenever we are in a protesting mode, we generally push one side of truth, rather than the whole truth. Jon Ruthven has an easy-to-read book, What's Wrong with Protestant Theology? in which he explores the fight Protestants were in and why they were forced into creating such a one-sided "gospel."

Spiritual experiences lost! Scripture records over 50 dreams and visions, whose stories and outworkings reflect a full one-third of the Bible. Yet, if you checked out 1000 churches today, how many do you think would be offering a course on Christian Dream Interpretation? Perhaps none, or maybe one or two! So the question is: What gives our churches the right to reject one-third of the Bible and not even offer a Sunday school class on it?

We ate the straw! How tragic that we have chosen to major on what Thomas Aquinas considered "straw," (i.e. man's rational abilities), rather than on the supernatural lifestyle demonstrated throughout Scripture!

Let God be God! I suppose today some pastors would like to keep Christianity rational as they believe it is just "flakes" who hear God's voice. And then, of course, there is the whole issue of undermining the pastor's authority. My suggestions are, "If you train and shepherd well on how to hear God's voice, you will greatly reduce the number of flakes. As far as authority goes, true authority comes from God's spoken word, and not from any title one might have." All sheep get to hear His voice (John 10:27).

Did You Know Satan Has Stolen the Bible From Conservatives as Well as Liberals?

Liberals such as Rudolf Bultmann use demythologization to explain that the miracles are simply myths that are not to be believed or sought after. Conservatives rightly reject such a position, but then go on to offer their own justification for a life devoid of the supernatural, using dispensationalism to explain why God no longer has direct encounters with individuals.

Psychotic, really! Some liberal commentaries have gone as far as to say those who have dreams are psychotic! Some conservative groups have gone so far as to not ordain pastors in their denominations if they believe God speaks through dreams! Lord, forgive us!

Good old scorn! As a fundamentalist, I used to scorn the liberals because they did not believe the Bible was the inerrant Word of God (i.e. my scorning was done before God showed me that I was to honor all people: 1 Pet. 2:17). One day in my prayer time, the Lord said, "Mark, you don't believe the Bible is for you either." I objected, but He went on to say, "You believe the book of Acts is transitory and transitional, the Gospels were for and only about Jesus, the Old Testament was just for the nation of Israel, and the book of Revelation is for the future. So all you believe applies directly to you are the Epistles!" I was cut to the quick. I repented, and I began an extended search to restore biblical experience to my life.

Change takes time! It took me many years to: a) break free of the false theologies I had picked up, b) conquer my own unbelief in the flow of the Holy Spirit within me and c) overcome my ignorance of how to have a variety of ongoing spiritual experiences.


The New American


There has never been a successful and long-lasting atheistic civilization

(Michael Alan Weiner (born March 31, 1942), better known by his professional name Michael Savage, is an American radio host, author, activist, nutritionist, and conservative political commentator. Savage was born Michael Alan Weiner in the Bronx, New York, one of three children of Benjamin and Rae Weiner, Jewish emigrants from Russia. Wikipedia)

Selwyn Duke

APRIL 16, 2016

There has never been a successful and long-lasting atheistic civilization — and there never will be — is the opinion of many astute observers. And it’s also apparently the belief of radio giant Michael Savage, as he issued a dire warning on his Wednesday show.

“Unless Christianity receives a new enthusiasm that sweeps the Western world, and Christianity itself rises up against the forces against it,” he said, “the entire West will collapse in your lifetime.”

Savage, author of numerous best-selling books and host of the award-winning Savage Nation radio program, has long warned that the West is imperiled by “savages” from without and is being savaged by militant secularists within. Now, addressing the crux of the matter, Savage is adamant that the death of Christian belief portends the death of the West, as he said:

I can almost prove it. I can almost feel it. It’s palpable to me.

And I’m not the only who sees it or feels it. Anyone I know with a certain intelligence level above a minimal amount, sees what’s going on in Europe, and they say that we’re not far behind.

Presumably, Savage was referring to secular Europe’s acceptance of waves of unassimilable Muslim migrants — which include some jihadists — the Islamization of the continent, and the rapid moral decay bedeviling the entire West.

It’s plain to many that the erosion of the West’s foundational faith is synonymous with the erosion of her foundation. Our second president, John Adams, issued a warning to this effect, saying in 1798, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Note that the West could still rightly be called “Christendom” at the time, and the founders generally meant “Christian” when using the term “religious.” Thus, Adams clearly didn’t view Christianity as so many do today — as something to be kept “separate” at all costs lest it become an impediment to our constitutional government — but as a prerequisite for it.

Why? Well, British statesman Edmund Burke wrote in 1791, “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites.” And George Washington addressed the origin of moral chains five years later when saying, “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

While I won’t delve deeply into the link between religion and morality here (I did so in this piece), I will quote one of the many thinkers who did recognize it, Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. As he wrote in his 1880 work The Brothers Karamazov, “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” And this isn’t hard to understand: Without acceptance of the eternal, unchanging, divine author of right and wrong, all moral questions (and, in particular, answers) are met with the cynical “Says who?! Those are your values; don’t impose them on me!”

Of course, this explains how a once healthy civilization can collapse into self-imposed tyranny. A mature and moral adult who knows the “rules of life” can safely negotiate the world just as a mature driver acquainted with the rules of the road can safely navigate the highways and byways. But a small, uncivilized child must be watched — and often controlled — by mother or father or nanny. The overgrown uncivilized child called a barbarian must be subject to the same, except the watchers in his case will be the cops and criminal-justice system. And as it is for individuals so it is for groups, even country-size ones. Only, their nanny is the nanny state.

As for a collapse inviting foreign domination, morality also plays a huge role. After all, an invading force would rather contend with a drug-addled, effete population given to dissolute living than a land of disciplined Spartans. Yet it’s easier still for the conquerors if their target is so out of touch with reality (and immoral living does reflect and encourage this, as it’s a rejection and usually a denial of moral reality) that it’s oblivious to danger.

Enter the modern West. To paraphrase Belgian playwright Émile Cammaerts, “When people cease believing in God, it’s not that they start to believe in nothing. It’s that they’ll believe in anything.” And what do we believe in today? When the Wall Street Journal’sBret Stephens wrote last year that the “death of Europe is in sight,” he opined that its people stand “for shallow things, shallowly. Europeans [only] believe in human rights, tolerance, openness, peace, progress, the environment, pleasure.” Yet it’s worse than that. There is only Truth, and then innumerable lies; disconnected from the former, a people inevitably falls victim to the latter, and we’re embracing lies only the insane could believe. Pseudo-elite dogma currently is that a boy must be considered a girl if he claims he is so “deep down,” even though the claim is made based on nothing but feelings. Moreover, we’re to be considered bigots for not participating in his delusion or for denying him access to the bathrooms of his choice. Then there’s that obsession with using Big Brother to coerce Christian businessmen into servicing faux weddings, which occurs while the Left makes not a peep when Muslim businessmen refuse to be party to them.

And treason is the norm. A former aide to ex-British prime minister Tony Blair admitted that massive Third World immigration into the United Kingdom was orchestrated by the Labour Party in order “to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date.” Swedish Social Democrat politician Mona Sahlin reveled in the Islamization of her nation, saying in 2001 “The Swedes must be integrated into the new Sweden; the old Sweden is never coming back.” Former UK “equality minister” Trevor Phillips — who helped popularize the debate-stifling term “Islamophobia” — just admitted that he “got almost everything wrong” on Muslim immigration in a 1996 report, saying he “should have known better” than to think Muslims would integrate. Now he sings a different politically correct tune, stating that it’s “disrespectful” to expect Muslims to assimilate. And all the while, more patriotic Europeans are punished under “hate speech” law for criticizing homosexuality or Islam.

Of course, there are fewer and fewer Europeans to punish all the time, as fertility rates among all Western peoples are below replacement level. So as religiosity increases most everywhere but the West, sneering, proudly secular Westerners are turning themselves into a dead-end “species.” And none of these problems would be occurring were we still robustly Christian.

Savage also mentions the Crusades and “what happened that saved Christianity,” as he put it. He was referring to how these events were defensive campaigns designed to protect the West from Muslim invasion. And note: The Crusades were proposed and preached by the leader of Europe’s Christians, Pope Urban II.

Of course, this doesn’t mean we must send soldiers to the Holy Land, only that we must become a holier land. We must strive to be today’s Crusaders — meaning “those who are marked with a cross” — as we once again infuse that symbol into our minds and hearts.



Don’t Widen the Plate

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention. While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers

scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment — “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung — a full-sized, stark-white home plate. Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty-five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about

home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally …

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches,” more question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth? Any Babe Ruth

coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?”came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear. “How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide home plate is in the Major


“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls.

“And what do they do with a a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello!” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay,

Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'”


“Coaches …”


” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him, do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We widen the plate!”

Pause. Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence. He replaced the flag with a Cross.

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate!”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to …”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.“… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the

ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players — no matter how good they are — your own children, and most of all, keep yourself at seventeen inches.


Is Ba’al Arch the Mysterious “Gate” in Ancient Messiah Prophecy?

By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz April 14, 2016 , 9:30 am

And Shlomo built Gezer, and Beth-horon the nether, and Baalath, and Tadmor in the wilderness, in the land.”(Chronicles 9:17-18)


A recreation of the Roman Triumphal Arch that stood in Palmyra, Syria has been the focus of controversy, and rightfully so. A cryptic section of the Talmud describes the rebuilding of just such an arch as the precursor to Messiah from the House of David.

The original Roman Triumphal Arch stood for 2,000 years as the main entrance to the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, a city known as Tadmor in the Bible. The site has always been important, as a thriving urban center in the Fertile Crescent, but is also known for its powerful spiritual significance.

Originally built as a temple to the idol Ba’al, the Temple of Palmyra was repurposed at different points in history as a church and then, until its destruction in May 2015 by the Islamic State (ISIS), as a mosque. An archaeological wonder, it attracted over 150,000 visitors each year.

The 15-meter tall full-size reproduction is a project of the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA), a joint effort of Harvard and Oxford universities. Made using proprietary 3-D printing techniques, it will stand in Trafalgar Square, London as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Week. The IDA is recreating the partially destroyed arch as a showcase for new technology and as a symbol of protest against religious extremism.The replica of the Triumphal Arch to be built in London. (Photo: Courtesy)

There has been much heated controversy surrounding the recreation of the arch. The display in London coincides with Beltane, one of the major occult festivals whose roots lie in worshipping Ba’al through child sacrifice and orgies. The Mesopotamian god Ba’al, for whom the Temple of Palmyra was originally built, is no longer worshipped, though the holiday still exists as a Gaelic tradition and in the West as May Day.

Many have compared the worship of Ba’al to Western secular liberalism. Prophecy News Watch likened legalized abortion to pagan baby sacrifice and internet pornography to public orgies.

The IDA has vociferously denied that the arch which stood at the entrance to the temple in Palmyra for 2,000 years had any connection to the temple. The institute has also cancelled its plans to erect a model of the arch in New York’s Time Square later this summer.

The arch is clearly a powerful symbol to many people. It therefore comes as no surprise that the Talmud explicitly predicts the present day saga of the of the Palmyra arch as a precursor to the Messiah of the House of David. The Hebrew-language religious website Sod1820 pointed out that in Tractate Sanhedrin (78a), the Talmud says:

“The disciples of Rabbi Yossi the son of Kisma questioned him, asking when the son of David (the Messiah) will appear. And he answered: I am afraid you will request from me a sign as well. And they assured him that they would not. He then said to them: When this gate will fall, be rebuilt and fall again, be rebuilt again and fall again. And before it will be rebuilt for the third time the Messiah will appear.”

Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, a medieval French rabbi known by the acronym ‘Rashi’, is the primary source for understanding the Talmud. Rashi explains that the arch mentioned by Rabbi Yossi was “A Roman arch in a Roman city”.

The Palmyra arch is just such a one. Palmyra became part of the Roman Empire in the first century and remained so for the next 250 years. The arch was built in the 3rd century during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus and represents a classic Roman arch.

The second incarnation of the arch is the full-size replica being created by the IDA. The third incarnation of the arch, which Rabbi Yossi predicted would stand incomplete when the Messiah came, would have been the reproduction in New York this summer.

Though the New York Post wrote that the IDA “plans to construct approximately 1,000 such versions of the arch in cities throughout the world”, Roger Michel, Executive Director of the IDA, contacted Breaking Israel News to clarify that the IDA is “supplying the files only, not the ‘prints’”. With plans readily available and 3-D printing becoming more widespread, it seems that it is only a matter of time before construction of another arch is attempted and Rabbi Yossi’s prophecy comes into effect.

CNN (Notice there is no mention of Baal anywhere in this article. Ed)

Palmyra's ancient Triumphal Arch resurrected in London's Trafalgar Square

By Sophie Eastaugh, for CNN

Updated 1604 GMT (2304 HKT) April 19, 2016

London (CNN)A replica of a 2,000-year-old Syrian monument demolished by ISIS militants has been built and unveiled in London's Trafalgar Square.

The scale model of Palmyra's Triumphal Arch, which was destroyed in an act captured on an ISIS video, has been reconstructed using 3-D printing technology and photographs of the original. The new structure was built in Italy using Egyptian marble before being shipped to London.

It was constructed by experts from Oxford's Institute of Digital Archeology (IDA) as an act of solidarity with Syria to raise awareness of the fight to safeguard its ancient treasures.

Syria's top antiquities official, Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, was in London to watch the arch being installed. He told CNN that "Palmyra is not for the Syrian people, it's for all the people in the world."

"Do not leave us alone through this war, it's enough. We are very tired after five years. As archaeologists working in Syria, we've saved 99 museum collections, but we were alone all the time. What we need now is the international community to move to help us, through solidarity, feeling and technical help," Abdulkarim said.

He's been working for the last four years to empty Syria's museums of priceless cultural artifacts and hide them in secret locations safe from ISIS.

Abdulkarim told CNN it was a "double happiness" to see the arch unveiled after the liberation of Palmyra three weeks ago, something he "never thought would happen" when the model's construction began.

Weighing nearly 11 tons and standing roughly 20 feet tall, the replica arch is two-thirds of the original's size.

It was financed and created by the IDA, a joint project between Oxford and Harvard universities and Dubai's Museum of the Future.

IDA Director Roger Michel said the reconstruction of violently destroyed treasures serves a crucially important social value.

"Monuments, as embodiments of history, religion, art and science, are significant and complex repositories of cultural narratives," he explained. "No one should consider for one second giving terrorists the power to delete such objects from our collective cultural record."

The homage was unveiled by London Mayor Boris Johnson Tuesday and will remain in Trafalgar Square for three days before traveling to Dubai and New York for public display.

"Daesh (ISIS) and other terrorist organizations seek to destroy democracy and obliterate history through the appalling acts of terrorism and murder they commit around the world," Johnson said. "Antiquities like this belong to all mankind and it is imperative that we all strive to safeguard our common heritage."

Abdulkarim said that after its tour, the arch will be placed in the square of Palmyra's modern city where his colleague, Kalid al-Asa'ad, was beheaded by ISIS last August after he refused to reveal the location of hidden artifacts.

"It's a message and gift to the Syrian people," said Abdulkarim. "We can never have the same image we had before IS, but we need to do the best work we can to show the maximum through restoration."

Next month, London's Victoria & Albert museum will open an exhibition exploring the threats facing global heritage sites and how the production of replicas can aid in their preservation. Entitled 'A World of Fragile Parts', it is the museum's first collaboration with the Venice Biennale.

The V&A's director Martin Roth told CNN there is a delicate balance between harnessing digital technologies and remaining faithful to original techniques.

"Replicas are a phenomenon of our age and are rapidly transforming attitudes towards authenticity; the possibilities that 3D technologies are opening up are truly fascinating," he said.

"However, the abilities we have also pose challenging questions. Which has a greater authenticity; an arch recreated in precise and perfect detail by a robotic arm, or an arch reconstructed using the same artisanal techniques as the original? I am certain that this debate will shape the museums of our future."



Sun god Apollo presides over final flame rehearsal

By Karolina Tagaris

April 20, 2016

Greek actress Katerina Lehou , playing the role of High Priestess, lights a torch from the sun's…

By Karolina Tagaris

ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (Reuters) - The high priestess raised her arms towards the sky, invoking the sun god Apollo at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics on Wednesday in the final rehearsal for the flame that will burn at the Rio Games later this year.

In a long pleated robe she then knelt solemnly to the ground and lit the torch within a few seconds using a concave mirror to catch the sun's rays.

Hundreds of onlookers stood quietly near the ruins of the Doric temple to the goddess Hera in Ancient Olympia, southern Greece, where Greeks competed in the ancient games. The ritual with the high priestess and the torch was only established eight decades ago for the Berlin Games.

The flame will be used as a back-up if overcast skies loom over the official ceremony on Thursday at Ancient Olympia, but weather forecasts predict that event will be similarly blessed by abundant sunshine.

"It's very special. It's been a dream of mine to come here for many, many years," said Mark Ledeux, a British tourist.

From past games Ledeux has amassed a collection of about a dozen torches. They can be bought at various sites as memorabilia.

During the rehearsal a dozen young women in long, pleated robes, escorted by a dozen male youths, danced to the rhythm of a drum and the sound of a flute, according to ancient Greek tradition.

The rehearsal ended with the high priestess, played by actress Katerina Lehou, handing the flame and an olive branch to a volunteer filling in for the first torchbearer - Greek gymnast Eleftherios Petrounias, world champion on the rings in 2015.

On Thursday, Petrounias will pass the torch to Brazilian volleyball player Giovane Gavio, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in Barcelona 1992 and Athens 2004.

The torch will then begin a six-day relay across Greece, passing through the town of Marathon, which gave its name to the endurance race, as well as a camp for refugees and migrants in Athens, housing mostly Afghans and Iranians, the International Olympic Committee has said.

There, one refugee will bear the torch in the name of all refugees. As many as 10 refugees - competing as Team of Refugee Olympics Athletes (ROA) - could take part in this year's Games.

The torch will arrive in Brazil on May 3 for a 100-day relay across the country, traveling through 500 cities and villages in every Brazilian state and borne by some 12,000 torch bearers before arriving for the opening ceremony in Rio on Aug. 5 for the first Games in South America.

(This version of the story removes the erroneous reference in paragraph 3 to Ancient Olympia as site of first modern Games)

(Editing by Gareth Jones)



Occupied Golan Heights part of Israel forever: Netanyahu

Sun Apr 17, 2016 12:21PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C front) poses with ministers prior to the weekly cabinet meeting in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights, April 17, 2016. (Reuters Photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out any possibility of returning the occupied Golan Heights to Syria, saying Israel will lay claim to it forever.

"The Golan Heights will remain in the hands of Israel forever," Netanyahu said at the beginning of a cabinet meeting in the occupied territory on Sunday.

He said he held the first cabinet meeting there to “send a clear message: Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights.”

Israeli media say that the meeting was planned to be held in the occupied territory as a statement amid fears that Tel Aviv may come under pressure to return Golan Heights to Syria.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 six-day war and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community.

Israel has built tens of illegal settlements in the area ever since. It has also used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.

A picture taken on February 21, 2016, from the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights shows a section of the border fence between the Golan Heights and Syria. ©AFP

Netanyahu also said that some 50,000 people are living there and "thousands of families that are supposed to join them in the coming years."

The Israeli prime minister demanded that the international community recognize Syria’s Golan as Israeli territory. He said, “Whatever happens on the other side of the border, the border itself will not move. Secondly, after 50 years it is time that the international community realized that the Golan will remain under Israeli sovereignty.”

Netanyahu also referred to his recent talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry about the war in Syria and said he had expressed pessimism that the Arab country would ever become what it was. He also told the top US diplomat that Tel Aviv would not oppose any agreement in Syria “on the condition that it doesn’t come at the cost of Israel’s security.”

According to a February report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the foreign-backed militancy in Syria has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people since March 2011. The so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, however, puts the number at about 270,000.



Iran, Germany, Arab League, US reject Israel claim over Golan Heights

Tue Apr 19, 2016 1:54AM

Israeli soldiers are patrolling close to the Syrian border in the occupied Golan Heights. (Reuters)

The Islamic Republic of Iran, Germany, the Arab League and the United States have joined Syria in rejecting Tel Aviv’s claim over the occupied Golan Heights, a day after the Israeli premier said the region will be part of Israel "forever”.

During a Sunday cabinet meeting in the occupied territory, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out any possibility of returning the occupied Golan Heights to Syria.

He also demanded that the international community recognize Syria’s Golan as Israeli territory, a call that drew condemnations and rejections from across the world.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said the Israeli call was in “blatant violation of international law,” and called on the international community to make a serious effort to stop the Israeli regime’s "expansionist and provocative" acts.

Germany also firmly rejected the Israeli claim over the occupied Syrian territory, and called it a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.

“It’s a basic principle of international law and the UN Charter that no state can claim the right to annex another state’s territory just like that,” said German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer, adding that Tel Aviv lacked the legal basis for annexation.

Meanwhile, Nabil al-Arabi, the secretary general of the Cairo-based Arab League, also denounced Netanyahu's statement as “a new escalation that represents a brazen violation of international law.”

Separately, Washington rejected Tel Aviv’s claim, saying it would not recognize the occupied region as part of Israel.

“The US position on the issue is unchanged. This position was maintained by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Those territories are not part of Israel and the status of those territories should be determined through negotiations,” said State Department spokesperson John Kirby, stressing that the current situation in Syria does not allow such a move.

The first quick response was from Syria itself on Sunday, when its Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad vowed to liberate the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation at any cost and return it to Syria.

“We are prepared to do anything in order to return the Golan to the Syrian motherland, including using military force,” Mekdad asserted on Sunday.

Israel seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six Day War and illegally annexed the region in 1981, a move which was unanimously rejected the same year by the UN Security Council. The occupation has never been recognized by the international community.

Israel has built tens of illegal settlements in the area ever since. It has also used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.




'It's going to be eliminated by the international community'

Published: April 21, 2016


Retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson

The man who once served as chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell and who was tapped in 2015 to be an adviser for Sen. Bernie Sanders – retired U.S. Army Col. Lawrence Wilkerson – rocked Israeli media by claiming the Jewish state is on a path toward annihilation.

He also claimed America was bought and paid for by far-right Jewish interests during an interview on The Real News Network.

“The ultra-right wing of Israel has captured AIPAC,” he said, of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Israel National News reported. “And AIPAC has captured the United States Congress. And to a certain extent, the Oval Office as well.”

Wilkerson criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for taking the nation on a sharp turn to the ideological right and said Jewish interests are trying to dominate the Middle East.

“So for the future for Israel, as contemplated by Netanyahu, is a greater Israel,” he said, the news outlet reported. “Having secured the West Bank, Jerusalem as its capital, perhaps gotten Gaza back, parts of Lebanon, parts of Syria that’s not looking like it’s falling apart. And parts, if not all, of Jordan. This is Netanyahu’s ultimate goal. This is the Zionist ultimate goal. And so, that’s very dangerous because it’s not tenable.”

He warned Israel was on a path toward destruction.

“What you’re going to have is you’re going to have a one state solution,” Wilkerson said, the Israel National News reported. “That state is going to be increasingly apartheid as the West Bank and Jerusalem are now. … And as Israel proper is becoming more and more alike, that state’s going to be apartheid [like South Africa]. It’s going to be untenable, it’s going to be eliminated by the international community if not the 350 to 400 million people around it who are opposed to it.”

Wilkerson also seemed to fault Netanyahu and his Likud Party for the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

“The current ultra-right wing leadership in Israel under Bibi Netanyahu, to give a historical context, actually probably contributed to the tension and the incredible shift in political momentum in Israel that led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin,” he said. “It’s not going too far to say that Netanyahu and his group created the circumstances that produced the assassin.”

History records Rabin’s assassination as due to Yigal Amir, who was not tied to the Likud Party.

Wilkerson has a record of making claims that paint Israel in a poor light.

In 2013, he suggested Israel was at fault for the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And in 2007, he said on a Dutch documentary that U.S. foreign policy was usurped by “the Jewish lobby.” In 2015, however, the Sanders campaign tapped him for a foreign policy advising role – though as Israel National News noted, he just lost that spot due to his controversial statements.

“The last time I spoke this way on your show,” Wilkerson told the Real News Network, just this week, “I compromised by ability to work for the Bernie Sanders campaign. So now I’ve probably foreclosed my ability to work for anyone.”



Hopes for Temple Mount to be ‘flattened’ expressed at Passover sacrifice ceremony

Barry Rubin

04.21.2016 | 13 Nisan, 5776

Cohanim priests taking part in the Passover ritual. (photo credit:JEREMY SHARON)

At a model Passover sacrifice ceremony on the Mount of Olives attended by approximately 400 people, several public figures expressed the hope that the Dome of the Rock shrine and the al-Aqsa mosque will soon be removed from the Temple Mount.

Hard-right Jerusalem city council member Arieh King said he hoped that the Temple Mount would soon be free of what he termed “the abomination” currently at the site, while Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, head of the Temple Institute and a former Knesset candidate for the banned Kach party said the event was preparation for when the Temple Mount would be “flattened and cleaned” and the Temple rebuilt.

The model ceremony included the various ancient Temple rites prescribed by the Torah and Jewish law, including the slaughtering of a lamb by Cohanim, priests, in the white robes used in Temple times, the sprinkling of the blood and the burning of fats and other parts of the lamb on a model altar, and the blowing of trumpets by the Cohanim.

It was conducted just next to the Beit Orot yeshiva on the Mount of Olives in full view of the Temple Mount.

The Passover Sacrifice is one of the religious commandments of the Torah obliging Jews to sacrifice a lamb on the Temple Mount on the day before the Passover pilgrimage holiday and eat on the first night of the festival.

The organizers, the Joint Staff of Temple Organizations, emphasized that the event on Monday was a simulation and not supposed to represent the actual sacrifice.

Speaking before the ceremony began, King, who heads the United Jerusalem faction in the Jerusalem Municipal Council decried the current situation in which said that Jews were still prevented by the government from going to the Temple Mount and performing the Passover sacrifice.

“We’re here opposite the Temple Mount,” he continued. “We can see the abomination upon it and we need to wish that even in our days we won’t see it anymore and we’ll see there the altar, the Cohanim and Levi’im and we’ll see ourselves there.”

Also addressing the crowd was Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, who expounded on passages from the Talmud relating to the Temple Mount.

He added “We came here to say we are preparing for when the day will come, when they will flatten the Temple Mount, clean everything out, build the Temple, offer the Passover sacrifice, and all the Jewish people will come up in their droves for the pilgrimage and we’ll see the Cohanim and Levi’im at their service.”

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, another leader of the religious hard-right sector, was also in attendance, and underlined what he said was the importance of realizing that prayers for the rebuilding of the Temple which appear frequently in Jewish are practical.

“When we talk of the Temple we’re talking about something practical and not something imaginary,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “In order to feel how practical this is we are doing this Passover sacrifice ceremony. All Jews, every day for 2,000 years prays three times a day that this will be practical.”

The Hallel prayer service was sung to musical accompaniment after the animal was slaughtered, which was done behind a curtain, and the Cohanim blew ceremonial silver trumpets belonging to the Temple Institute which are designed to be fit for use in the Temple itself.

MK Miki Zohar of Likud attended the event as well, and told the crowd that there had been pressure on him not to attend.

“But I wanted to come to perpetuate the inheritance of the Jewish people,” he said. “My goal in the Knesset is to protect and strengthen the Jewish idea in the State of Israel. Strengthening this principle is an integral aspect of my work, because this is the only way to justify our rights to this land.”




Artist Edoardo Tresoldi creates a phantom church in Italy's Puglia

By Tomo Taka

Artist Edoardo Tresoldi has created a ghostly reconstruction of a destroyed basilica at the Santa Maria Maggiore di Siponto church in Puglia, Italy.

The permanent installation -- made from transparent metal wiring -- marks the opening of a new archaeological park beside an existing church.

Built in three months, the €3.5 million ($3.96 million) structure corresponds to the original size of the Paleo-Christian basilica that once stood on the site.

Tresoldi, who conceived similar works for last year's Secret Garden Party and Milan Fashion Week, describes his installation as 'a return of this great building as if it was part of the historical memory of the place.'


End Of The American Dream.

The Shaking Continues: The Most Dangerous Volcano In Mexico Has Erupted In Spectacular Fashion

BY Michael Snyder

APRIL 19, 2016

More than 25 million people live in the vicinity of Mt. Popocatepetl, including Mexico City’s 18 million residents. At 2:32 local time on Tuesday morning, the most dangerous volcano in Mexico roared to life in spectacular fashion, and this has many experts extremely concerned about what is coming next. Popocatepetl is an Aztec word that means “smoking mountain”, and historians tell us that once upon a time entire Aztec cities were buried in super-heated mud from this volcano. In fact, the super-heated mud flows were so deep that they buried entire Aztec pyramids. A full-blown eruption of Mt. Popocatepetl would be a catastrophe unlike anything that modern Mexico has ever experienced before, and considering what has been happening in Ecuador, Japan and at Yellowstone over the past week, I believe that there is great reason for concern.

The eruption of Mt. Popocatepetl very early this morning took residents of the area very much by surprise. The following is how one Mexican news course reported the news…

The volcano Popocatépetl came to life at 2:32 this morning, sending out a column of ash that fell on much of the city of Puebla and closed the airport.

The National Disaster Prevention Center, Cenapred, said the volcano spewed ash to an altitude of about three kilometers above the crater.

The explosion was accompanied by the emission of incandescent fragments which were reported to be landing up to 1.6 kilometers away, northeast of the volcano, which is commonly known as El Popo.”

But words cannot really describe just how spectacular this eruption was.

Meanwhile, seismologists all over the globe are speculating about which area of our planet may be hit next.

For example, scientists in India believe that the tremendous amount of tectonic strain that has built up out there could ultimately produce a magnitude 8 or magnitude 9 earthquake, and they are convinced that this quake “can come at any time”…

A subduction process similar to the one that caused the Ecuadorean quake is happening under the Himalayan region as well, where the Indian plate is getting inside the Chinese landmass.

This northward push has been creating a huge amount of tectonic strain in the region, making it particularly prone to earthquakes.

Scientists believe there is so much energy stored in the area that an earthquake of magnitude greater than 8, possibly even 9, would be needed to release it. This earthquake can come at any time.”

Here in the United States, some experts are deeply concerned that the west coast is particularly vulnerable. One of those experts is former USGS scientist Jim Berkland. The following is what Wikipedia has to say about him…

Jim Berkland studied geology at the University of California, Berkeley earning the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1958. Thereafter he worked for the United States Geological Survey while pursuing graduate study. In 1964, he took a position at the United States Bureau of Reclamation. After further graduate study, he taught for a year at Appalachian State University, 1972–1973, then returned to California to work as County Geologist for Santa Clara County from 1973 until he retired in 1994.”

During a recent interview with Bobby Powell, Berkland explained that most “megaquakes” take place either during a new moon or a full moon, and he pointed to the San Andreas Fault and the Cascadia Subduction Zone as areas that he is particularly concerned about at the moment…

Is “The Big One” imminent? Famed USGS scientist Jim Berkland, the man who predicted the Loma Prieta “World Series Earthquake,” has a terrifying warning for the West Coast of the US in the wake of massive earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan that have left hundreds dead, awakened volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” and kicked off earthquake swarms in Hawaii, Arizona, and Yellowstone National Park.

Beware the new and full moons,” Berkland says in this exclusive interview. The “maverick geologist” says that 20 of the last 25 “megaquakes” have occurred on the dates of new and full moons, the result of “equinoctal tides,” extreme gravitational forces that cause solid earth to expand and contract much as ocean tides rise and fall.

Berkland says that he is particularly worried about the San Andreas Fault in the LA Basin and the Cascadia Subduction Zone along the coast of Oregon and Washington State, where a long overdue earthquake would undoubtedly be accompanied by a massive tsunami that could kill thousands and cause billions of dollars in property damage.”

Even though I recently wrote a major article about the vulnerability of the Cascadia Subduction Zone, I want to make it clear that I am not forecasting that any particular disaster will hit any particular area at any particular time.

But what we can say with certainty is that the crust of our planet is becoming increasingly unstable. Our world is being pummeled by dozens of earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater, and as you read this article a total of 38 volcanoes are erupting worldwide.

And it is quite interesting to note that in 1906 there were major earthquakes in Ecuador and Japan that preceded the historic San Francisco earthquake.

On January 31st, 1906 an enormous magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit Ecuador, and that was followed by a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in Japan on March 17th.

Of course most Americans have already heard about the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that hit San Francisco on April 18th of that year, but most people don’t understand that it came in the context of these other major quakes.

Could we be witnessing a similar pattern today?

In Matthew 24, Jesus warned us that earthquakes in diverse places would be one of the signs that His return was drawing near. He also explained that the time immediately preceding His return would be the worst time in all of human history.

Could it be possible that we are now entering that period of time?




'It's an unfamiliar phenomenon'

Published: April 18, 2016


Japan was rocked by earthquakes on April 14 and April 16 (Credit: CNN)

A flurry of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions wreaked havoc around the globe in the past week and reignited widespread interest in the natural time bombs beneath humanity’s feet.

A volcanic eruption near Mexico City on Monday and an earthquake in Ecuador on Saturday followed a pair of earthquakes that rocked Japan last week. In short, Mother Nature dealt millions of victims five days terror that involved collapsed buildings, soot-filled streets, tsunami warnings and emergency workers searching through rubble.

Filerma Rayo, 33, told Reuters she spent five hours trapped under debris in Pedernales, Ecuador, after Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Nearly 300 people and at least 2,000 were injured. Hundreds of corpses were consolidated at a nearby stadium to be identified.

“I was yelling and yelling and then, at the end, I started to think I would die there,” Rayo said Monday. “It was my siblings who saved us. The rescue teams hadn’t arrived yet.”

Mexico’s Popocatepetl volcano, meanwhile, unleashed glowing rock and ash that covered the city of Puebla. No one died, but the city’s airport was forced to close. Particles from the eruption also pose a health risk to the 25 million people who live within 60 miles of the volcano.

Popocatepetl has geologically grumbled since April, although its last significant eruption was in 2000.

As is the case whenever volcanic activity captures global headlines, American media outlets discussed the possibility of Yellowstone National Park’s super-volcano erupting over Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. While the fallout from such an event could be devastating – scientists believe there is enough plume trapped underneath the area to fill the Grand Canyon multiple times over – an eruption has not occurred in 640,000 years.

“Scientists believe [an] eruption will have global consequences as large amounts of ash and pulverized rock will be thrust into the atmosphere and fall back to earth. Volcanic ash and material will linger in the atmosphere, blocking out the sun, causing global temperatures to lower,” WNCT-9 reported Monday.

Finally, Japan continues to dig itself out from earthquakes last Thursday and Saturday near the city of Kumamoto. At least 41 people died in connection with the quakes, hundreds were injured, and 300,000 people were left without power, BBC reported.

Scientists told Asian Review on Monday that it was odd to have a cluster of earthquakes with the intensity of Thursday’s 6.4 magnitude quake and Saturday’s 7.3 magnitude quake.

“I don’t quite understand what is happening with the recent earthquakes, because it’s an unfamiliar phenomenon,” said Yoshihisa Iio, a professor at Kyoto University’s Research Center for Earthquake Prediction, told the website.

Electronics giant Sony, which has an image sensor plant on the island of Kyushu, said it will shutter the facility while experts conduct a damage assessment. The same factory also produces components for Apple’s iPhone.

“We are not expecting any immediate supply disruption as we have some inventories right now,” a company spokesman told Reuters on Saturday.


ASIA TIMES (This is very similar to what Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya were attempting to do with the gold dinar.)

China launches its first gold ‘fix’


The “fix” is in.

In an effort to have greater access and control over the international gold market, China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of gold, announced on Tuesday it launched its own benchmark, or “fix,” for the price of gold.

The Shanghai Gold Exchange, which operates the benchmark, set the price for 99.99% gold at 256.92 yuan ($39.71) per gram, it said on its website. This was marginally higher than the international price at the time, according to

“China needs a gold benchmark that reflects local market flows and reduces gold’s price dependency on the US dollar,” Roland Wang, managing director of industry group the World Gold Council in China, said in a statement.

“An Asian-focused, yuan-denominated benchmark will significantly increase the liquidity and efficiency of the gold price,” he said.

Last year, mainland China’s demand for gold was 984.5 tonnes, with jewelry at 783.5 tonnes, and bars and coins at 201 tonnes, according to the World Gold Council in China.

Analysts said denominating the gold fix in China’s own yuan currency is aimed at increasing international use of the unit.

“Having more sway in the gold market befits the long-term strategy of expanding the yuan’s role as a global currency,” Jiang Shu, chief analyst at Shandong Gold Financial Holdings Capital Management, told Bloomberg News.

In December, Jiao Jinpu, the head of the Shanghai Gold Exchange, said that launching a yuan-dominated benchmark for gold would promote “internationalization” of its business.

The exchange has said it ‘s looking into creating yuan-based benchmarks for other precious metals including silver, platinum and palladium, according to domestic media reports.



Saudis warn of economic reprisals if Congress passes 9/11 bill

By Tom Kludt, Elise Labott and Ted Barrett, CNN

Updated 2233 GMT (0533 HKT) April 16, 2016

(CNN)Saudi Arabia is warning it will sell off billions in American assets if the U.S. Congress passes a bipartisan bill that would allow victims of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks to sue foreign governments.

Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir issued the warning to U.S. lawmakers last month during a visit to Washington, two senior State Department officials told CNN. A source with knowledge of the Saudis' thinking said investments would be put in jeopardy if this bill passes, so they are trying to protect themselves from risk.

The story was first reported Saturday by The New York Times.

The Obama administration has, in turn, applied heavy pressure on Congress to block the bill. Top officials from the State Department and Pentagon warned Senate Armed Services Committee staffers last month that the bill could bring economic risks to the U.S.

The Saudis did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Asked if President Barack Obama would veto the legislation if passed by Congress, a senior administration official told CNN that "rather than entertain a hypothetical, we believe there needs to be more careful consideration of the potential unintended consequences of its enactment before proceeding with legislation."

"We would welcome opportunities to engage with the Congress on that discussion," the official added.

In February, Secretary of State John Kerry said the legislation could "expose the United States of America to lawsuits and take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent."

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, and John Cornyn, R-Texas, opens the door for families of 9/11 victims to sue foreign states and financial partners of terrorism.

Former Sen. Bob Graham, the co-chair of the 9/11 congressional inquiry, told CNN's Michael Smerconish Saturday morning that he is "outraged but not surprised" by the warning from the Saudi government.

"The Saudis have known what they did in 9/11, and they knew that we knew what they did, at least at the highest levels of the U.S. government," Graham said on "Smerconish."

The government of Saudi Arabia, a longtime and key strategic U.S. ally in the Middle East, has never been formally implicated in the 9/11 attacks and Saudi officials have long denied any involvement. But 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals, and in February, Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker" who pleaded guilty to participating in an al Qaeda conspiracy in connection to the 9/11 attacks, alleged members of the Saudi royal family supported al Qaeda.

Twenty-eight pages of the 9/11 Commission Report, which are said to focus on the role of foreign governments in the plot, remain classified. Saudi officials asked the U.S. to release the redacted 28-page section in 2003, saying this would give them the opportunity to defend themselves against claims of involvement.

But the Bush administration refused, saying the material would jeopardize their ability to gather intelligence on suspected terrorists. The Obama administration has carried on that policy.

Families of both victims and survivors in the 9/11 attacks filed a lawsuit against the Saudi government, but the suit was thrown out last year when a federal judge ruled that the kingdom had sovereign immunity in the case.

CNN's Allie Malloy, Kevin Bohn and Michelle Kosinski contributed to this report



Brazil's lower house votes for Dilma Rousseff's impeachment

By Shasta Darlington, Flora Charner and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN

Updated 0350 GMT (1050 HKT) April 18, 2016

Brasilia, Brazil (CNN)Brazilian lawmakers shouted, scuffled and even sang as they debated whether to impeach the country's President on Sunday.

And after more than five hours of voting and fiery speeches, the results didn't fall in President Dilma Rousseff's favor.

More than 342 lawmakers, the two-thirds majority required by law, have voted in favor of impeachment. More than 130 lawmakers have voted against it. Voting was ongoing late Sunday night.

Rep. Bruno Araujo was triumphant as he cast the 342nd vote against Rousseff Sunday night.

"It's an honor, what an honor that destiny has reserved for me. ... From my voice will come the scream of hope for millions of Brazilians," he said.

The impeachment motion will next go to the country's Senate. If a majority approves it there, Rousseff will have to step down for 180 days to defend herself in an impeachment trial.

If the motion is approved, Rousseff could be suspended as early as May. That would be about three months before the Summer Olympics kick off in Rio de Janeiro, an event that was supposed to showcase Brazil as a rising power on the global stage.

Sunday's vote came after weeks of raucous debates inside Brazil's Congress and rival protests outside.

Crowds pack area outside Congress as debate rages

As lawmakers spoke their minds on the floor of Congress, throngs of demonstrators waited for word of the results. In Copacabana, Brazil, three big-screen TVs were set up for people to watch the proceedings.

In Brasilia, police erected a 1-kilometer-long barricade on the lawn in front of Congress to separate anti-government protesters from Rousseff supporters.

Chants, songs and fierce debate

Lawmakers on both sides didn't mince words as they took their turns to speak Sunday. And at one point, there was a scuffle on the floor as tensions boiled over.

Rep. Ronaldo Fonseca waved a copy of the country's Constitution in the air as he spoke, fiercely denying allegations that impeachment was akin to a coup for Rousseff.

"Those who are outside, those who are in the streets, the Constitution guarantees this act. It's not a coup," he said. "You know what this looks like, this thing? This looks like verbal diarrhea that nobody can take anymore. Brazil wants a decision."

Rep. Jose Guimaraes urged his colleagues to support Rousseff.

"This is not good for democracy," he said. "They want to take the government away from an honest woman."

Rep. Paulo Pereira da Silva sang a song, beginning, "Dilma, go away, because Brazil does not want you."

It wasn't the only song of the night.

After Araujo cast the deciding vote late Sunday night, lawmakers erupted in a popular soccer chant: "I'm Brazilian, with a lot of pride, a lot of love."

Critics cite recession, scandals

Lawmakers accuse Rousseff of hiding a budgetary deficit to win re-election in 2014.

Opponents blame Rousseff for the worst recession in decades, now in its second year. They also hold her accountable for a massive bribery and corruption scandal that has engulfed dozens of politicians in the Workers' Party and coalition government.

Although Rousseff has not been implicated in the scandal, for many years she was the chairwoman of Petrobras, the state-run oil company at the heart of the investigation.

Her supporters argue the impeachment trial is a petty revenge orchestrated by politicians accused of much more serious crimes.

Rousseff's exit would mark the end of an era for the Workers' Party, which assumed the presidential office in 2004 with the election of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

During Lula da Silva's two terms, the left-leaning party was credited with lifting millions of Brazilians out of extreme poverty through increased social spending, largely financed by booming commodities exports to China.

But under Rousseff, his handpicked successor, those exports dried up. The economy started to drop at the same time the corruption investigation revealed a history of bribes involving the country's biggest construction companies, Petrobras and dozens of politicians.

Last month, Lula da Silva was taken in for questioning on suspicion he benefited from the scheme during his tenure and afterward.

A few days later, Rousseff sought to appoint her former mentor as her chief of staff, which would have given him certain protections from prosecution. The move fueled nationwide protests.

What happens next?

The problem is that there is no quick fix going forward.

If the impeachment trial goes to the Senate and is approved there, Rousseff would have to step down for 180 days to defend herself against accusations.

She would be replaced by Vice President Michel Temer, whose party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, has also been implicated in the corruption scheme and could be further weakened by the ongoing investigation.

Rousseff's supporters have vowed to take to the streets in retaliation, ensuring a long battle ahead.

CNN's Shasta Darlington and Flora Charner reported from Brasilia. CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet reported from Atlanta. CNN's Marilia Brocchetto and Paulo Nogueria contributed to this report.



UK magazine offers £1,000 for most offensive Erdogan poem

Tue Apr 19, 2016 11:45PM

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP)

A British magazine has launched a contest to choose the most offensive poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is currently pursuing legal action against a German comedian over similar satirical verses.

Earlier in the month, German television aired Jan Boehmermann's satirical poem that poked fun at Erdogan. But following backlash from Ankara, in a widely criticized move, German Chancellor Angela Merkel permitted court action to be carried out against the comedian who has since been under police protection.

ZDF has apologized for the poem and removed it from the internet, saying the poem "had crossed the line into slander."

On Tuesday, The Spectator offered £1,000 ($1,439) for the best reader-submitted poem.

“The fact such a trial could even be contemplated demonstrates that Germany is becoming little more than a satrapy [province] of Erdogan's," said commentator Douglas Murray who announced the competition.

"I'm a free-born British man... In honor of this fact I have spent the weekend writing rude limericks about Mr Erdogan,” he said. "And I would hereby like to invite all readers to join me in a grand Erdogan limerick competition."

The Guardian

We love ‘disruptors’. But it’s regular people who keep the world afloat

David Ferguson,

April 16, 2016

This week, Fortune magazine pointed to a provocative essay by Lee Vinsel and Andrew Russell titled Hail the maintainers, which says that as a society, we are overvaluing innovators and desperately undervaluing the engineers, cleaners, repair technicians and service personnel that keep everything running.

Waves of “disruptive” new technologies and business practices may be giving us successive generations of maverick entrepreneurs, but someone had to make Elon Musk’s latte this morning and make sure it got to him in a clean cup. If he falls off his hoverboard and breaks his arm, an ER nurse is going to help diagnose him and patch him together again, but when will we get to hear her Ted talk?

I have endless respect for people behind the scenes keeping the world together. I remember the pride I once took in being a restaurant dishwasher. Yes, the job is, in some ways, at the bottom of the food chain. It’s typically the lowest-paid position in any restaurant, and yet there is a simple, satisfying power to it. To customers, you’re invisible, but you’re ultimately the person who is keeping them safe from germs and cross-contamination, an invisible lifeguard at life’s watering hole.

Each morning, you show up, put on an apron and then tackle the day’s mound of dirty dishes. It’s sweaty, sometimes backbreaking, work, but the core mission is always the same: make it all sparkle and put it back where it belongs. Keep everything moving. Everybody’s got to eat, and if they’re going to eat, they’re going to need some dishes.

Not everyone appreciates the amount of work it takes to keep the things as they should be, though. I learned that right out of college, when I was working as a ward clerk on a pediatrics unit making $5.75 an hour. At the time, I was singing in a rock band and staying out all night. Being a young 20-something-year-old, one day I just didn’t have time to iron my white dress shirt. I decided to wear it crinkly and call it a look.

Halfway through my shift, one of the doctors on rounds asked me what kind of a shirt it was, that he hadn’t really seen one like it. With a start, I realized that he had probably never in his life seen a dress shirt that wasn’t fresh and starched on the hanger or disappearing into his clothes hamper at the end of the day. He was completely incapable of recognizing a white cotton dress shirt in its native state.

I said a quiet vow to myself on that day that I would never take for granted the labor going into keeping my world running. Doctor what’s-his-face, I realized, probably doesn’t even know the names of the workers–undoubtedly women and given that this is the South, probably women of color–who pressed his shirt. He probably thinks shirts come out of the dryer that way, if he thinks about it at all.

So maybe janitors, line cooks and hotel workers think I’m strange for thanking them on my way by. I don’t usually word it, “Thank you for holding the world together,” or at least I haven’t yet. But that’s exactly what they do.

The Truth Barrier

HuffPo Pulls VAXXED review From Veteran Columnist, Blocks His Account, as Vaxxed-Fever Spreads

April 17, 2016 By Celia Farber

“This is seriously troubling.”

Lance Simmens, author, whistleblower, political veteran, fracking activist, and more, went to see Vaxxed: From Coverup To Catastrophe at one of the California screenings, and was moved, enraged, awakened. He wrote a column for The Huffington Post about it, and it went up, as per the usual protocol–he has been a contributor for 8 years and written almost 200 articles without incident.

Shortly thereafter, without warning or explanation, the piece was taken down, and his account was blocked.

The Truth Barrier reached out to Simmens via an email interview:

TTB: Give us if you would, a brief history of your writing for Huff Po. How many years, how many pieces, what topics…

LS: I have been writing on Huffington Post for nearly eight years and during that time they have published something close to 180 articles. I am a political writer and have written articles over the years about events as they unfold, which is the nice feature of blogging. I have a decidedly liberal bent to my politics but have striven to write thoughtful, provocative pieces that try to define a rationale and logic to the policy prescriptions being offered.

TTB: What happened exactly when you posted your review of VAXXED to HuffPo?

LS: I saw a premier of VAXXED the other evening and was so moved by the presentation and discussion that followed that I felt compelled to write a piece asking that we at least begin a serious national dialogue on the allegations contained in the documentary. I also drew attention to the spate of events that have unfolded over the past several years, where there has been a massive governmental failure to do its essential job which is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens. I sent it to Huffington Post as I normally do–I have an account there–and they published the article. About a half hour later as I was sending it out to my network I was alerted by some folks that when they went to access it it was not coming up. It turns out that they pulled down the original piece and when I tried to rewrite it I was alerted that permission was denied to my account. I have made at least a half dozen attempts to reach someone at HuffPo to alert them that there was a malfunction and over the course of the last two days have not received one response. I even went so far as to email Arianna herself.

It never crossed my mind that this might be some sort of censorship because it has never happened to me and the article, while provocative, is not beyond any bounds of journalistic or political propriety.

TTB: Does Huffpo have editorial guidelines that writers are clear about? What are they?

LS: Yes, HuffPo outlines editorial guidelines and I follow them. I respect that they can determine whether or not to publish articles but what is so frightening here is that they originally published the article and then evidently pulled it back, unless it truly is a technical issue but I suspect they would have been right on fixing it if it had. This is seriously troubling.

TTB: Have you ever been paid for your work by The Huffington Post?

LS: No I have never been paid by HuffPo and I have always felt that that gave me the liberty to explore areas that might not be acceptable to the mainstream media. This is just shocking.

TTB: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

LS: I devoted nearly forty years to politics, public policy, and public service. I worked for two Presidential administrations, two U.S. Senators, two Governors, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and briefly for the Screen Actors Guild. I was a whistleblower in the documentary Gasland, Part 2 and am the author of two books: The Evolution of a Revolution: An Attack upon Reason, Compromise and the Constitution (which ironically is a collection of 86 articles I wrote in HuffPo over a 4 and a half year period) and Fracktured, just recently released, which is the definitive anti-fracking novel.

TTB: Would you still write for HuffPo in the future?

LS: Of course it depends upon what the actual story and fallout is from this sorry episode but yes I would still consider writing for HuffPo. I need to see how it plays out. I will coordinate with the VAXXED team. I will be speaking at the premier in Santa Monica later today, after the 4:40 show.



Nature Calms the Brain and Heals the Body

By David Suzuki | April 19, 2016

Last Updated: April 19, 2016 3:32 pm

For the most part, our brains didn’t evolve in cities. But in a few decades, almost 70 percent of the world’s people will live in urban environments. Despite the prosperity we associate with cities, urbanization presents a major health challenge. Cities, with their accelerated pace of life, can be stressful. The results are seen in the brains and behavior of those raised in cities or currently living in one.

On the upside, city dwellers are on average wealthier and receive better health care, nutrition, and sanitation than rural residents. On the downside, they experience an increased risk of chronic disease, a more demanding and stressful social environment and greater levels of inequity. In fact, city dwellers have a 21 percent greater risk for anxiety disorders and a 39 percent increased likelihood of mood disorders.

A study published in Nature links city living with sensitivity to social stress. MRI scans show greater exposure to urban environments can increase activity in the amygdala, a brain structure involved in emotions such as fear and the release of stress-related hormones. According to the study, the amygdala “has been strongly implicated in anxiety disorders, depression, and other behaviors that are increased in cities, such as violence.”

The researchers also found people who lived in cities for their first 15 years experienced increased activity in an area of the brain that helps regulate the amygdala. So if you grew up in the city, you’re more likely than those who moved there later in life to have permanently raised sensitivity to stress.

Author and Professor David Gessner says we’re turning into “fast twitch” animals. It’s like we have an alarm clock going off in our brains every 30 seconds, sapping our ability to concentrate for longer periods of time. The demands of urban life include a constant need to filter information, dodge distractions, and make decisions. We give our brains little time to recover.

How do we slow things down? Nature seems to be the answer. Cognitive psychologist David Strayer’s hypothesis is that “being in nature allows the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s command center, to dial down and rest, like an overused muscle.”

Research shows even brief interactions with nature can soothe our brains. Stanford’s Gregory Bratman designed an experiment in which participants took a 50-minute walk in either a natural or an urban environment. People who took the nature walk experienced decreased anxiety, brooding, and negative emotion and increased memory performance.

Bratman’s team found walking in natural environments can decrease rumination, the unhealthy but familiar habit of thinking over and over about causes and consequences of negative experiences. Their study also showed neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness was reduced in participants who walked through nature compared with those who walked through an urban environment.

Korean researchers investigated the differences in brain activity when volunteers just looked at urban versus natural scenery. For those viewing urban images, MRI scans showed increased blood flow to the amygdala region. In contrast, areas of the brain associated with empathy and altruism lit up for those who viewed natural scenes.

In Japan, scientists found people spending time in nature—shinrin-yoku or “forest bathing”—inhale “beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils, and negatively-charged ions” which interact with gut bacteria to strengthen the body’s immune system and improve both mental and physical health.

Spending time in nature regularly is not a panacea for mental health but it’s an essential component of health and psychological resilience. Nature helps us withstand and recover from life’s challenges. Even city dwellers can find nearby nature—a garden, local park, or trail—to give their overworked brains a break.

Let’s show our brains—and bodies—some love. Get outside!


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

But ask now the beasts, if they may speak to thee; and the birds of the air, if they may declare to thee. Tell the earth, if it may speak to thee: and the fishes of the sea shall explain to thee. Who then has not known in all these things, that the hand of the Lord has made them? Whereas the life of all living things is in his hand, and the breath of every man.”
(Job 12:7-10)