Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Europe's policymakers must press on with deeper economic integration to "stay the course", the global lender said ahead of Thursday's crunch summit of eurozone leaders.
"To put the crisis behind, we need more Europe, not less. And we need it now," said Antonio Borges, director of the IMF's European department, as it released its assessment of the turmoil.
On Tuesday night, diplomats in Brussels were warning of "bedlam" unless a deal is "more or less" sealed on Thursday.
The crisis around Greek debt now poses "serious risks" that it will infect the region's core powerhouse economies, such as Greece and France, even if officials pursue a strategy aimed at avoiding a default by Athens, the IMF said.
The fears about weaker member states' finances have already sent their borrowing costs sky-high, necessitating bail-outs for Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
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Iran has shot down an unmanned U.S. spy plane over its Fordu nuclear site, a state-run website reported on Wednesday, a day after it confirmed it was installing a new generation of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges.
"An unmanned U.S. spy plane flying over the holy city of Qom near the uranium enrichment Fordu site was shot down by the Revolutionary Guards' air defense units," MP Ali Aghazadeh Dafsari was quoted as saying by the Youth Journalists Club, affiliated to Iran's state TV.
"The plane ... was trying to collect information about the site's location ," he said, without giving details. He did not say when the incident happened.
The Fordu site, secretly built inside a mountain bunker near Qom, was acknowledged by Iran only after Western intelligence agencies identified it in 2009.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast on Tuesday appeared to confirm a Reuters story last week that Iran was installing two more advanced models of the centrifuges used to refine uranium for large-scale testing at a research site.
In January Iran announced it had shot down two unmanned western reconnaissance drone aircraft in the Gulf.
The Pentagon denied that report but acknowledged some spy planes had crashed in the past due to mechanical failure.
Iran is at odds with major powers over its nuclear work, which the United States and its allies say are intended to enable Iran to produce bombs. Iran denies the allegations and
says it wants only to generate electricity.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to end the nuclear row.
Iran has dismissed reports of possible U.S. or Israeli plans to strike Iran, warning that it will respond by attacking U.S. interests in the Gulf and Israel if any such assault was made.
Analysts say Tehran could retaliate by launching hit-and-run strikes in the Gulf and by closing the Strait of Hormuz. About 40 percent of all traded oil leaves the Gulf region through the strategic waterway.
Iran often launches military drills in the country to display its military capabilities amid persistent speculation about a possible U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
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"When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." - Romans 1:21-25
An estimated 18,000 Neo-Pagans gathered at Stonehenge on June 21st to celebrate the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Jonathan Jones atThe Guardian complains that this midsummer revelry is actually misplaced. There's no known historical pagan connection to Stonehenge, and if there were, the worshipers should be out at the winter solstice instead. On June 21, the days begin to shorten again. It would make more sense for northern hemisphere pagans to celebrate the "rebirth" of light in late December. If modern pagans resist freezing to death out at Stonehenge, though, we can hardly blame them.
In our civilized, scientific culture, we tend to think of paganism as something distant, lost in the world of developing nations. In those places, ignorant medicine men seek to chase off disease through spiritual rituals when they would find better results with a tub of bleach water and penicillin. The word "pagan" often brings to mind half-clothed natives dancing around the missionary in the pot, human sacrifice, and barbarism in general.
However, today there is a form of popular paganism that looks surprisingly modern and has followers among intellectuals. While Judeo-Christian morality is increasingly seen as outdated and 'puritanical' in our Western World, the human need for spiritual fulfillment has not disappeared. Instead, updated forms of the old pagan religions are spreading once again. Neo-Paganism embraces a wide variety of religious traditions, including Wicca, Druidism, Asatru, Shamanism, and neo-Native American beliefs, mixing a variety of the ancient pagan beliefs about nature and the universe, fitting them to modern society. College professors, screenplay writers and the leaders of many ecological movements have delved into modern Paganism, and their ideas come home to us through our college students and our children's movies.
Many people dive into Paganism innocently - out of a desire to find out more about God and the spiritual. They love nature, or they are weary of dry, boring church services. Many do not know the Bible well enough to recognize red flags, and a large number of people consider themselves "Christian" pagans. It is important that we recognize when Neo-Pagan beliefs come in conflict with Biblical Christianity and not confuse being "spiritual" with being led by the Holy Spirit. With a better understanding, we can help prepare our families to deal with the lure of modern Paganism.
What Do Pagans Believe?
Paganism in general, no matter which local flavor, is characterized by reverence for nature and usually involves a number of gods, goddesses, or spirits. Shamanism, Druidism, and the local religions of hundreds of cultures can all be considered pagan. The most prevalent form of modern Paganism is Wicca, or witchcraft, which is an occult form of Paganism that includes casting spells and seeking 'hidden knowledge'.
Modern Paganism is a religion that reveres Nature as divine. Pagans see every plant, animal, man and woman as part of that divinity. Unlike the God of the Bible, who is separate from and greater than His creation, the natural world itself is considered divine and holy. While the God of the Bible created us in His image, the god and goddess are made in our image - in the image of created things.
To the Pagan, the divine is both female and male, so that Pagans worship both the goddess and the god; loving, wise figures who are seen as completely equal. There are also other lesser gods and goddesses called pantheons. Since Nature is seen as female - Mother Earth or Gaia - the goddess tends to be emphasized. She is seen as our mother, the creator and sustainer of life. Since she is responsible for all living things, the other creatures on our planet are seen as our brothers and sisters. For this reason, Pagans are highly environmentally conscious people - sometimes to the extreme.
Pagan rituals and celebrations follow the cycle of life through the year - birth, maturity, aging and death, spring, summer, autumn and winter - in a continual, never-ending cycle. Even the universe is in a continual cycle. When this world ends, another will begin. The God of the Bible calls Himself the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End (Rev 1:8). However, Pagans deny any beginning or end, but see a constant cycle of death and rebirth. For this reason, they tend to affirm some form of reincarnation.
Sex and nudity are seen as part of nature, and Pagans have no qualms about sexual activity outside of marriage. In fact, Pagans have much in common with the ancient fertility religions and the high place worship that was done in groves of trees thousands of years ago (Ezek 6:13, Jer 3:6). In that respect, it is interesting that on May 1 Pagans celebrate Beltain, the marriage of the goddess and god, when the god becomes Oak King.
Pagans do not believe in sin or Satan. They are often upset when they are seen as Satanists or satanic, since Satan does not enter into their worldview. Rather, they accept concepts of karma and positive and negative energy. They have no rules or guidebook and no leader. Each pagan follows his or her own spiritual path. The single solid rule of Paganism is: "If it harms none, do what you will." They seek to do 'good' according to their individual understanding of good, to help their communities and take care of the environment and create positive energy. They are responsible to themselves alone, and have their own values and ethics.
Paganism offers spirituality without any rules or regulations, and connection with the spiritual world without requiring submission to the will of the one true God. Paganism teaches that the individual is god, free to choose his or her own path, his or her own boundaries for morality. This is very appealing to those wanting to throw off what they see as oppressive patriarchal religions in favor of the more 'compassionate' female goddess of Paganism. It has had a great deal of influence in the intellectual world, as well as among teenagers. Teens who love nature anyway, and who don't want to be told what to do, find Paganism an attractive form of religion.
Unfortunately, while Pagans see their religion as harmless and good for the environment and community, they do not know the spiritual forces that are truly at work behind it (Eph. 6:12, 1 John 4:1-3). Denying the problem of sin is self-deceptive and dangerous (1 John:1:8). And by denying sin, Pagans reject their need for a Savior. Whether or not Pagans believe in Satan has no bearing on the reality of his existence and his ability to influence their lives. Paul warns that even Satan can be transformed to look like an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). A good con artist never looks like a con. Instead, he offers you what you want, in a most appealing package, so that when you buy into his lie and accept what he offers, he can pillage you and strip you bare.
God wants us to seek Him with all our hearts, and He said we would find Him when we do so (Deut 4:29, Jer 29:13). We need to make sure that our seeking Him is according to truth, and the Bible is God's Word to us, His own revelation of who He is. We must always be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11, who "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily" to make sure the things they were being taught were so.
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NASHVILLE INT’L AIRPORT — A Wyoming man walked through a TSA checkpoint with a raging erection on Tuesday, daring TSA officers and even fellow passengers to give him an invasive pat down.
“I’m next,” Warren Kelvin, 34, screamed as he pushed to the front of the security line. According to TSA officials, Kelvin had ingested two Viagra and wore sweatpants without boxers for his Southwest flight from Nashville to Phoenix.
“I thought he was carrying a baton in his pants,” said Amanda Watershed, second shift supervisor of the A Terminal at Nashville International Airport. “Nope… That was his penis.”
Even though TSA officials allowed Kelvin to initially pass through security without the controversial pat down, the passenger on more than one occasion got back in line until he felt that he had been thoroughly inspected. Kelvin finally got the invasive pat down by 38-year-old officer Duncan Allbright after 80 minutes and four trips through security.
“Even after we let him pass through he kept walking out of the terminal and getting back in line,” said Watershed. “Finally, Duncan had to bite the bullet for everyone and do a thorough screening of him in a private [security] room.”
Allbright, a 14-year veteran of airport security, announced his retirement shortly after Kelvin boarded the plane. “I’m going home to take a shower and make love to my wife,” said Allbright as he got into his car. “This job isn’t for me. I’ve suddenly lost my passion for touching strangers.”
U.S Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano dismissed concerns that more TSA officers would quit or that more travelers would take similar measures to get their “jollies”. “I am hoping this is an isolated incident. If flights were a lot cheaper, I could see more people doing this,” said Napolitano, “but with the cost of airplane fuel rising, I don’t think $560 roundtrip is a bargain price to get fondled.”
Calls to TSA headquarters went unanswered, as everyone there is just exhausted.
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PARIS, July 18 (UPI) -- This is how it must have felt in late July 1914 as Europe careened blindly into a war that would shatter its wealth and its culture and nobody knew how to stop it.
The world we have known since the end World War II, of ever-broadening economic prosperity, is poised for implosion. The global economy has proved over the past three years to be a resilient beast but even it cannot survive the simultaneous collapse of Europe and the United States, its two dominant components.
We are two weeks away from an American default on the world's greatest, most liquid and essentially most stable source of the debt and credit that fuel the economy of the whole planet. And yet the prospect of default has gone from unthinkable to unlikely to possible and is now teetering on the brink of the probable.
We may be a week away from a collapse of the eurozone and the chaos then unleashed would leave the European Union in shreds. The world's two largest economies would crumple together, like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Moriarty plunging together in a death grip over the Reichenbach Falls. At least Arthur Conan Doyle had the good sense to bring Sherlock Holmes back to life. The world of the euro and dollar wouldn't find reincarnation to be so easy.
As in 1914, there is nothing inevitable about this gruesome double stagger to disaster. Economic conditions have not brought us to this pass. This is a political crisis, brought on by obstinacy, ignorance and dogma.
The ignorance defies belief. We all saw what happened when Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008. A U.S. default would be like that, only a hundred times worse, triggering cascades of defaults and bankruptcies as the credit default markets unwound. Interest rates would soar worldwide. A new Great Depression would follow.
And recall that in this world of tight supply chains for our supermarkets, modern societies are perhaps six meals away from blood on the streets.
The dogma is extraordinary. Those Republican congressmen and their Tea Party chorus who say that a U.S. default is needed to tame the beast of Big Government are terrifyingly sure of themselves, even though their leaders know the risks.
"I don't think anybody in the world really believes that the United States is going to default on our debt," Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on Fox News last week. "But given what is going up in Europe, something could spook the market, missing Aug. 2 could spook the market and you could have a real catastrophe."
There is no shortage of reasonable solutions. The "grand bargain" that Boehner and U.S. President Barack Obama have discussed, which would secure $4 trillion in cuts over the coming decade, is one. The proposal of the Debt Commission, led by former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and Erskine Bowles, White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, is another.
As Bowles told the National Governors' Association last week: "We can't grow our way out of this. We could have decades of double-digit growth and not grow our way out of this enormous debt problem. We can't tax our way out. The reality is we've got to do exactly what you all do every day as governors. We've got to cut spending or increase revenues or do some combination of that."
The obstinacy on display defies belief. Politics is about compromise and building consensus but the current U.S. Congress spurns such qualities as weakness.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the same obstinacy and ignorance are on display, although there is a little less dogma. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has had repeated opportunities to craft a deal that would recapitalize the banks and secure the debt of Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Their total debt is easily manageable, totaling around 7 percent of European gross domestic product.
The mechanisms of a solution aren't complicated. A true euro-bond, in which all eurozone countries become jointly and severally responsible for the debt, would have resolved the crisis overnight had it been applied two weeks ago.
But that was before the markets got spooked by Merkel's antics and her refusal to tell German voters the truth: that their country's $200 billion a year trade surplus, itself an underlying cause of the euro crisis, can only be sustained if Germany uses its financial strength to hold the eurozone together.
So now Italy, with its $2 trillion in sovereign debt, is itself on the line. The result is that in government treasuries and top banks and investment houses, contingency plans are being drafted for a euro collapse.
There is increasing speculation of the eurozone splitting between a solvent Teutonic north (Germany, Holland, Finland, Austria) and an instant devaluation of an insolvent south (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece). Nobody knows into which camp France might fall.
The good news is that unlike July 1914 armies and battle fleets aren't being mobilized. The bad news is that if the double collapse of dollar and euro takes place, the armies would be needed to maintain some kind of order at home. But that would only work if the governments can continue to pay and feed the troops.
Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Analysis/Walker/2011/07/18/Walkers-World-It-looks-like-1914-again/UPI-28941310985179/#ixzz1Sb3fjfz1
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Thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) troops crossed into northern Iraq over the weekend, bombarding Iraqi Kurdish villages.
The Iraqi government has quietly acknowledged the Iranian military operation on Iraqi soil, but has not called it an invasion.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the prime minister of the Kurdish regional government, Dr. Barham Salih, left for Beijing as the Iranian invasion began, for a long-planned trip aimed at encouraging Chinese investment in Iraq.
The Iranian military offensive is targeting bases controlled by the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK), the largest and best-organized Iranian opposition group currently operating inside Iran.
Sherzad Kamangar, a PJAK spokesman in northern Iraq, told Newsmax that by Monday evening PJAK forces had pushed the Iranian troops out of Iraqi.
Kamangar said PJAK had confirmed the deaths of 108 Iranian revolutionary guards troops in the clashes, and wounded 200 more, while losing seven PJAK guerilla fighters.
An Iranian Revolutionary Guards spokesman, Delavar Ranjbarzadeh, told Iran’s state run news agency that “a large number" of rebels died in clashes near Sardasht, Iran, where the IRGC claims it has dismantled a PJAK base.
PJAK members claimed they had captured 40 IRGC troops who surrendered when the rebels attacked a Revolutionary Guards base near Sardasht, a Kurdish city and government outpost not far from Iran’s northern border with Iraq.
The IRGC had been building up its forces along the northern border with Iraq for several weeks, reinforcing bases in Sardasht, Piranshahr, and Mariwan in Iranian Kurdistan.
In early July, PJAK fighters clashed with IRGC troops on the Iranian side of the Qandil Mountains where PJAK is based, and killed 18 IRGC officers.
But PJAK never announced the skirmish, or their success. “Our struggle is not a military struggle,” PJAK Secretary General Rahman Haj Ahmadi told Newsmax in an interview. “It is primarily a political struggle to change the culture.”
PJAK sources claim that high-ranking Turkish officers and special forces teams are playing an active role in the Iranian army thrust into Iraq. Turkey and Iran have established a joint operational base to attack the Kurds in Urimyeh, in northwestern Iran, where Turkish anti-insurgency experts have been training their Iranian counterparts.
PJAK seized recently manufactured U.S. weapons from Iranian-backed counterinsurgency fighters in clashes two years ago, which they believe were supplied by the Turks to Iran.
The IRGC deployed heavy weaponry in their assault including tanks, katyusha rocket launchers, artillery, mortars, and U.S.-built Huey Cobra attack helicopters against PJAK guerillas.
PJAK’s secretary general, Rahman Haj Ahmadi, believes that Iran is seeking to push PJAK fighters out of the border regions between Iran and Iraq to replace them with radical Islamic terrorists.
“We have been protecting the border from Iranian infiltration since 2003,” he told Newsmax. “That’s one reason Iran wants to push us out. They want to replace us with al-Qaida or Ansar al Islam,” a radical al-Qaida offshoot that operated in Iraqi Kurdistan before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
“If that happens, Suleymania will become another Fallujah,” he warned. Suleymania is a major city in northeastern Iraq that many Iraqi Kurds consider their second capital.
Ahmadi said that PJAK was pro-Western, secular, and a “natural ally of the United States in the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism.”
Leaked letters from the Kurdistan regional government representative in Tehran, Nazim Debagh, shows Iran repeatedly pressing the government to crack down on PJAK fighters over the past two years, and threatening to take matters in their own hands if it did not act.
Read more on Newsmax.com: Iranian Troops Attack Kurdish Camps in Iraq
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(CNSNews.com) - While the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has voted this year to approve House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's (R.-Wis.) proposal--that would put the government on a gradual path to a surplus by 2040--and plans to vote on a balanced budget amendment next week that would cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP, the only budget proposal President Obama's has publicly revealed in 2011 would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, increase the deficit by $26 billion this year, $83 billion next year, and $2.7 trillion over the next decade.
Additionally, although annual budget deficits would decline somewhat between 2013 and 2015 under Obama's proposal, according to the CBO, after that they would start increasing again, going up every year from 2016 to 2021, the last year estimated by the CBO.
In short, the only budget proposal Obama has put forward this year for the public to review and analyze puts the federal government on a path to eventual bankruptcy.
In the latest Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the president's budget--published in April--the CBO compared its "baseline" estimates for the coming decade to what it estimates would be the fiscal results of Obama's budget plan. (The CBO's baseline largely assumes current law will be maintained.)
"According to CBO's projections, if all of President Obama's budgetary proposals were enacted, they would add $26 billion to the baseline deficit for 2011," said the CBO analysis. "As a result, the 2011 deficit would total $1.43 trillion or 9.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product." Under the baseline projection, as of April, CBO estimated the deficit this year would reach $1.399 trillion.
"In 2012, the deficit under the President's budget would decline to $1.2 trillion, or 7.4 percent of GDP, CBO estimates. That shortfall is $83 billion greater than the deficit that CBO projects under the current baseline," said the CBO report. "Deficits in succeeding years under the President's proposal would be smaller than the deficit in 2012, although they would still add significantly to the federal debt."
"In all, deficits would total $9.5 trillion between 2012 and 2021 under the President's budget (or 4.8 percent of total GDP projected for that period)--$2.7 trillion more than the cumulative deficit in the CBO baseline," said CBO.
Under Obama's budget proposal, according to the CBO, after 2012 the year-to-year annual deficits would only decline until 2015, when the deficit would be $748 billion. After that, the deficits would begin increasing again--year after year. By 2021, the last year in the CBO projections, the deficit under Obama's plan would be $1.158 trillion. That would be marginally less than the $1.2 trillion deficit CBO estimates will occur in 2012 under Obama's plan, but it also would be $429 billion higher the $729 billion deficit the CBO estimates would occur in 2021 if current law were simply maintained as assumed by CBO's baseline estimate.
Although CBO does not estimate the effect of the Obama budget past 2021, it does show that from 2016 to 2021 the Obama budget proposal would see increasing deficits every year. In other words, if Obama's budget were enacted, according to the CBO, Obama not only would increase the deficit by $2.7 trillion over current law over the next decade, but also, when he left office in 2016, he would be leaving the government with the prospect of ever increasing annual budget deficits.
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It’s official: Greece is going to default, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.
That is, if you believe the word of a predictive software program called Senturion, first developed by U.S. consulting firm Sentia Group for use by U.S. military commanders in Iraq.
A release from the company explained that Senturion analyzed the positions of leading EU officials, private financial institutions and Greek political factions in the week following a critical parliamentary vote at the end of June.
That vote passed important austerity measures, but Senturion found that the Greek government “conclusively cannot deliver on all of the terms specified in the austerity package and most specifically privatization, setting the country on a course to possible sovereign default.”
The software, developed to help assess “life-and-death battlefield situations,” uses methodology based on Nobel Prize-winning bargaining theory and has completed more than 460 projects with 85% accuracy since its first contract with the U.S. Department of Defense in 2005.
Well, looks like that’s it then. Best not to take any chances. Nobody paid any attention when Skynet first came online and look where that got us. Alright everybody, pack it up and go home.
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While the wider market sank deep into the red, Centrica provided a bright spot as analysts at Barclays Capital awarded the owner of British Gas a “double-upgrade”, saying that the utility company had defied their “formerly bearish expectations and demonstrated that it retains a firm grip on its earnings”.
Raising their recommendation to “overweight” from “underweight”, analysts said: “In recent months it has become clear that Centrica is something of a safe haven: it has demonstrated exceptional pricing power, it operates in a surprisingly supportive political environment, its balance sheet and cash flow remain strong. Whilst it has faced earnings pressures in the first half of 2011, these in our view are transient issues.”
As the broker also upped its earnings-per-share forecasts by an average of 7pc and raised its price target to 370p from 320p, Centrica put on 1.1 to 318½p.
Joining Centrica were precious metal miners, Randgold Resources andFresnillo as investors headed to those other safe havens – gold and silver, with the yellow metal again hitting record highs.
Randgold Resources ticked up 95p to £55.60 while Fresnillo claimed the gold medal, advancing 34p to £16.59. That was mirrored on the second tier where Centamin Egypt put on 5.7 to 141½p and African Barrick Gold climbed 16.9 to 472.3p.
But they failed to drag the market into positive territory as worries about the debt situation in the US and Europe continued to unnerve investors.
The results of the European bank stress tests did little to quell investors’ concerns about the eurozone debt crisis as traders were unimpressed that they did not factor in the impact of a Greek default.