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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Significance of the Resurrection

The US Economy Is "Off The Lows"

In the case of the five year simple moving average of US real GDP growth, or said otherwise - true economic growth (or technically credit expansion) - all one can say is "off the lows."

A quick point: since GDP is really consolidated financial liabilities, which includes the deposit-to-reserve liability match courtesy of the Fed ...
... do not, repeat DO NOT, exclude the $2.5 trillion in credit injected into the $16 trillion US economy by Ben Bernanke, or suddenly one may grasp just how 15% of US GDP is entirely thanks to the Fed.
Zero Hedge

We will rebuild.....

Here we go again with the "we will rebuild"

One week after the tornado tore through Oklahoma, devastating the town of Moore, President Obama traveled to the area, visiting Plaza Towers Elementary School to offer a nation's condolences, and a promise to help Moore rebuild.

The President thanked the Governor and the local mayor for their "quick, outstanding response". Obama praised other local officials instrumental in helping to save lives and jumpstart the town's recovery efforts.

President Obama highlighted the everyday acts of heroism in Moore, thanking first responders and volunteers for embodying the "Oklahoma Standard".

"We’ve seen incredible outpourings of support from churches, from community groups who are helping folks begin to recover," said Obama, "This area has known more than its share of heartbreak. But people here pride themselves on the 'Oklahoma Standard' –- what Governor Fallin has called, 'Being able to work through disasters like this, and [to] come out stronger on the other side.' And that’s what we’ve been seeing this week".

President Obama said that his words are directed to all those involved, "From the forecasters who issued the warnings, to the first responders who dug through the rubble, to the teachers who shielded with their own bodies their students, Oklahomans have inspired us with their love and their courage and their fellowship."

"Moore, like Joplin and New Jersey before it, will rebuild", said President Obama, "The nation is standing by to help. When we say that we’ve got your back, I promise you, we keep our word. If you talk to folks in Alabama who have beenaffected over the last couple of years; you talk to the folks at Joplin, who I know have actually sent volunteers down here to Moore; if you talk to folks in New Jersey and New York, they’ll tell you that when we say we’re going to be there until you completely rebuild, we mean it."

Obama told the story of a Bible found after another deadly tornado in Shawnee, Okla., the day before the one that hit Moore. It was reportedly discovered opened to the words, “A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a cover from the tempest” (Isaiah 32:2).

“And it’s a reminder, as Scripture often is, that God has a plan, and it’s important, though, that we also recognize we’re an instrument of his will,” Obama said. “And we need to know that as fellow Americans, we’re going to be there as shelter from the storm for the people of Moore who have been impacted.”

The President closed by urging every American to step up and help the people of Oklahoma.

After visiting Plaza Towers, President Obama stopped by Moore Fire Department Station #1 to meet with first responders. The fire station has served as a command center throughout the disaster, first for search and rescue and now for survivor services.

Israel National News

Zenith 2016 Part 7

A couple of points need clarification at the beginning of this entry having to do with 1) date-setting; and 2) extra-biblical sources for interpreting end-times prophecy. Setting dates in particular for eschatological affairs have been illustrated historically to be unwise, discrediting those who make such predictions concerning the timing of future events.
          In general, Christians should simply always be ready for the end of the age and the coming of Christ, because, “Ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matthew 24:42). Jesus further told His followers that the exact date of His arrival would be known by “no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). While the particular moment of His appearance thus remains a mystery, elsewhere Jesus explained that the “signs of the times” can be discerned (Matthew 16:3), and when His closest disciples asked Him frankly, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” He provided a long list of specific indicators that would herald His arrival. He then added that, “When ye shall see these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:3; 33–34). Therefore, while most Christians agree they cannot know the exact “hour” of Christ’s coming or the end of the age, they can know the “season.”
          Another issue when interpreting end-time “signs” comes from the use of non-canonical sources. This is obviously problematic when it includes occult sources such as the writings of famous seers like Edgar Cayce or Jeane Dixon. However, aside from such spirit mediums, it is helpful to recall other bona fide revelations that arrived from sources that today would not set well in our denominational boxes. For instance, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Daniel 2. God chose to reveal a prophecy spanning from 605 BC through the second coming of Christ to an arrogant narcissistic pagan king and then required his holy servant, Daniel, to interpret the dream for him. Similarly, God used Balaam, a darkened wizard who now lives in prophetic infamy (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11; Revelation 2:14) to prophesy, “I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth” (Numbers 24:17), a text which scholars today believe spoke unmistakably of the coming of the Messiah. This Pethorian prediction was well over one thousand years before the birth of Christ and from a hostile source, yet it is probably what led the Magi to Bethlehem. The nameless author of the allegedly lost La profezia used Balaam as an example as well, remarking that the gift of prophecy “is essentially a free supernatural gift, in which God certifies the truth of His faith by communicating to different souls, sometimes even infidels like Balaam, in whom altered states have occurred inspiring them spontaneously to speak marvelously of the most sublime mystery of God.”[i] Of course we are instructed in the New Testament not to despise prophesying (1 Thessalonians 5:20) as it is a part of the Church Age.
          Having stated the above, not everybody accepts the wisdom of discussing ancient extra-biblical texts or dates such as the years 2012 and 2016 in particular, most publicly identified with the end of the Mayan Calendar Long Count and Precession Cycle. Yet we do so precisely because the upcoming release of Zenith 2016 and others we have written intend to unveil not just what Bible scholars believe about the end times, but what occultists are convinced of and are dedicated to fulfilling. Knowledge is power, we believe, and prayer is most effective when the target is understood. Our enemy is definitely scheming over particular dates, and from Scripture we learn that demons know something about times and dispensations and plot within them, something they most assuredly want Christians to remain ignorant of.For instance, recall when Jesus went into the valley of the Gadarenes and two exceedingly fierce men possessed with devils came out of the tombs crying, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:28–29; emphasis added). The Greek word for “time” in this verse is kairos, and means a fixed and definite period of days, a decisive epoch waited for. Somehow the evil spirits knew the dispensation of their judgment had not yet arrived, and knowing they perceive such things, it is not hard to imagine extra-biblical prophecies by those such as the Maya or the Cumaean Sibyl having been infused with occult energy providing supernatural perception anddeception. This was illustrated again in the story of Jannes and Jambres (2 Timothy 3:8), who withstood Moses in the Old Testament, and the Pythian priestess in the New Testament (Acts 16:16–17), who somehow knew that God had sent Paul. This fact—that demons can prophesy, know something of times and seasons, and want true Christians to remain ignorant of their schemes related to those specific periods—is especially important at this juncture because while the first part of the “final mystery of the Great Seal” involveswho is prophesied to rule the novus order seclorumthe second, more disturbing, aspect of the US national cipher has to do with when this deity—and its Nephilim army—are predicted to arrive.
          From Christians to New Agers, skeptics to historians, the world was enthralled until recently with the meaning of the year 2012. In general, the excitement (or dread, as the case may be) surrounded a variety of predictions made by ancient and modern sources concerning a portentous moment in time. Mankind was on course toward unprecedented global upheaval, according to these experts, when the Earth, and all life upon it, will undergo apocalyptica marked by the “thirteenth baktun” of the Mesoamerican Mayan Long Count. The exact end date of this calendar was December 21, 2012, when during the winter solstice at 11:11 GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), the sun arose in Sagittarius, the centaur with a bow—the symbol for Nimrod coming out from the mouth of Leviathan and the sun “god” rising again—Nimrod/Osiris/Apollo. The Mayans predicted this conjunction, interpreting it as a harbinger of the end of the world as we know it and the beginning of a final era. While the Maya were not alone among ancient cultures in this regard—for instance, the Hindu Kali Yuga calendar started approximately during the Mayan Fifth Great Cycle and also predicted global Earth changes following the year 2012—it is the Maya who were mostly credited with fixing the importance of this date. Researchers say cataclysmic events associated with this final dispensation have already started, including geologic upheaval, drought, famine, mass extinction, and the arrival of solar maximum following the year 2012.
          Like the Aztec and Inca, the Maya believed Earth seasons and celestial cycles were affected by otherworldly and prophetic significance. Mayan priests interpreted such activity and coupled it with the mathematics of their calendars, making predictions based on the terrestrial and celestial cycles.
          Early on, the only known Mayan inscription that elaborated on the specific significance behind the end of the thirteenth baktun—December 21, 2012—was discovered on Monument 6 at Tortuguero, in Tabasco, Mexico. Though defaced from area construction and previous looting of the archaeological location, scholars were able to partially translate the monument, finding that it referred to the year 2012 and a return of the spirit of Bolon Yokte K’u, the underworld lord who represents the solar system and the nine support gods orbiting the Sun.
The inscription: Tzuhtz-(a)j-oom u(y)-uxlajuun pik (ta) Chan Ajaw ux(-te’) Uniiw. Uht-oom ? Y-em(al)?? Bolon Yookte’ K’uh ta ?
The interpretation: “The Thirteenth ‘Bak’tun” will be finished (on) Four Ajaw, the Third of Uniiw (K’ank’in). ? will occur. (It will be) the descent (??) of the Nine Support? God(s) to the ?.”
          While New Agers admitted the end of the Mayan calendar thus heralded the return of the spirit of Bolon Yokte K’u to Earth beginning in 2012 (the date the Toltec prophesied the return of the spirit Quetzalcoatl), a few rightly claimed this advent and the roll-over of the Mayan calendar and Jaguar prophecies accompanying it did not forecast the end of the world but rather a new dispensation or Golden Age of ascended consciousness.
          And the Maya were not the only ancient society to foresee the beginning of a new epoch starting in 2012.
          For instance, the “Cherokee Rattlesnake Prophecies,” also known as the “Chickamaugan Prophecy” or the “Cherokee Star Constellation Prophecies,” are part of a series of apocalyptic prophecies made by members of the Cherokee tribe during 1811–1812. The prophecies are very similar to Mesoamerican belief, and are viewed by scholars as likely referring to the return of Quetzalcoatl in 2012–2016. Like the Maya, the Cherokee calendar ended mysteriously in the year 2012 when astronomical phenomena related to Jupiter, Venus, Orion, and Pleiades caused the “powers” of the star systems to “awaken.”
          A portion of the “Rattlesnake Prophecy” reads:
At this time [the end of 2012] of the fingers striking Jupiter that Orion Star System will awaken. And the Pleiades and Orion will war once again as in old. Jupiter and Venus will awaken to its destiny of Time/Untime of cycles. Orion will war with Pleiades, Jupiter will war with Venus.…
[Following] the year…2012 an alignment will take place both on the Cherokee calendar and in the heavens of the Rattlesnake Constellation.… It is the time of the double headed serpent stick. It is the time of the red of Orion and Jupiter against the white blue of Pleiades and Venus…the Cherokee Rattlesnake Constellation will take on a different configuration. The snake itself will remain, however; upon the Rattlesnake shall be added upon its head feathers, its eyes will open and glow, wings spring forth as a winged rattlesnake. It shall have hands and arms and in its hands shall be a bowl. The bowl will hold blood. Upon its tail of seven rattles shall be the glowing and movement of Pleiades.
            The Rattlesnake shall become a feathered rattlesnake or feathered serpent of Time/Untime [Quetzalcoatl?].
            And upon the Rattlesnake is also the Milky Way. A crossing of the Milky Way shall be seen at these times.
            And the Cherokee calendar shall end in the year 2012…[heralding] the coming of the Pale One once again.[ii]

2012 and Prophecy from the Zohar on Messiah’s Return
Widely considered the most important work of Jewish Kabbalah, the Zohar is a collection of books written in medieval Aramaic over seven hundred years ago containing mystical commentary on the Pentateuch (five books of Moses, the Torah). In addition to interpreting Scripture, the Vaera section (volume 3, section 34) includes, “The signs heralding Mashiach,” or, “The coming of the Messiah.” The fascinating date for “his” appearance is set in the Zohar during 2012–2013. Given the rejection of Jesus by orthodox Jews as Messiah, this seven-hundred-year-old prediction indicates the Antichrist “arrived” circa 2012–2013.

The Eight-Hundred-Year-Old Prophecy of Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel
Will the years immediately following 2016 be prophetically important for Israel and the world? Earlier we noted when seventy years (a biblical generation) is added to 1948—the year Israel was formally recognized as an independent nation by the United Nations—it brings us through the year 2018. Does this mean the year 2019—exactly seven years after 2012—would mark the year that Jesus Christ returns with the armies of heaven to establish His rule over Earth? According to an eight-hundred-year-old prophecy, it certainly could. Before he died of cancer, J. R. Church analyzed the ancient predictions of Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel and noted:
Ludwig Schneider, writing for Israel Today(March 2008) said, “Some 800 years ago in Germany, Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel was a top Talmudic scholar with an inclination for the mystical. Before he died in the year 1217, he prophesied that the Ottoman Turks would conquer Jerusalem and rule the Holy City for ‘eight Jubilee Years.’” A biblical Jubilee year consists of 50 years. Fifty multiplied by eight equals 400 years.
Afterwards, according to Ben Samuel, the Ottomans would be driven out of Jerusalem, which would remain a no-man’s land for one Jubilee year. In the tenth Jubilee year [2017]…the Messianic end times would begin.…
Looking back at Ben Samuel’s prediction, we should note that the Ottoman Empire did conquer Jerusalem in 1517, exactly 300 years after the rabbi’s death, and was defeated 400 years later in 1917.
In Israel Today, Ludwig Schneider continues, “This came to pass 300 years after Ben Samuel’s death. He could not have based this prophecy on events that could be foreseen, but only on the results of his study of the Bible.
According to Leviticus 25, the nation is reunited with its land in the year of Jubilee. Therefore, the Jubilee year plays an important role in Israel’s history. In this case, the Jubilee began with the defeat and conquest of the Mamelukes in Jerusalem by the Ottoman Kingdom in 1517. The Turks reigned over Jerusalem until the British General Edmund Allenby defeated them exactly eight Jubilees later in 1917.
“Ben Samuel’s prophecy was fulfilled precisely because 1517 to 1917 is exactly 400 years. Afterward, Jerusalem was a no-man’s land for 50 years during the time of the British Mandate (1917–1967) and the time of Jordanian rule (1947–1967), another Jubilee year. During the Six Day War in 1967, Israel captured Jerusalem from Jordan and the city returned to the Jewish people after nearly two millennia of exile. After that, the countdown for the Messianic age began.”
Schneider assumes that since Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel’s prediction appears to be fulfilled to date, then 2017 should launch the beginning of the Messianic era.[iii]

2012 and Matthew 24
Is it possible that Jesus marked the year 2012 as the start of the final age? When His disciples asked, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world [aion]?” (Matthew 24:3), Jesus answered, “as the Days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:37).
          The word aion in this text is not the general word for “time” (chronos) in Greek. Aion is the word the Greeks used to designate an actual cycle of the Milky Way alignments or the span of an age. Before he passed away, David Flynn emailed me to say: “The answer Jesus provided His apostles for ‘when’ the end of the aion would occur was specific. The astronomical signs in the heavens would be just as those during the days of Noah when Leviathan encircled the horizon in the dawn of the Summer solstice. There could have been no more accurate comparison made between our present time than the age of Noah.… The present aion is coming to a close. Like the sunteleiabefore, there will be great upheaval and change.”[iv]

Protestant Reformers and the Years 2012–2016
Among the turn-of-the-century protestant reformers, there were an astonishing number of theologians that believed the False Prophet and Antichrist would take the stage between the years 2012 and 2016! The famous preacher Jonathan Edwards was convinced of this possibility and held a postmillennial view based on the twelve hundred and sixty days the woman is in the wilderness in Revelation 12:6. He interpreted those days as the years that the true Church was to be oppressed by the papists. Clarence Goen writes of this, “Edwards considered that the most likely time for the…reign of Antichrist was 1260 years after AD 756 (the acceding of temporal power to the Pope),”[v] which would place the apex of Antichrist’s power squarely in 2016 (and it seems judicious to observe that 2016 falls in range of 3.5 years from June, 2012). When we were doing research for the book, Petrus Romanus: The Final Pope Is Here, we learned of this belief by Edwards and sought to verify it by examining a collection of his personal voluminous writings. We found confirmation within a series of his sermons, preached at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1739, on how history and prophecy coincide:
I am far from pretending to determine the time when the reign of Antichrist began, which is a point that has been so much controverted among divines and expositors. It is certain that the twelve hundred and sixty days, or years, which are so often in Scripture mentioned as the time of the continuance of Antichrist’s reign, did not commence before the year of Christ four hundred and seventy-nine; because if they did, they would have ended, and Antichrist would have fallen before now. The rise of Antichrist was gradual. The Christian church corrupted itself in many things presently after Constantine’s time; growing more and more superstitious in its worship and by degrees bringing in many ceremonies into the worship of God, till at length they brought in the worship of saints, and set up images in their churches. The clergy in general, and especially the bishop of Rome, assumed more and more authority to himself. In the primitive times, he was only a minister of a congregation; then a standing moderator of a presbytery; then a diocesan bishop; then a metropolitan, which is equivalent to an archbishop; then a patriarch. Afterwards he claimed the power of universal bishop over the whole Christian church; wherein he was opposed for a while, but afterwards was confirmed in it by the civil power of the emperor in the year six hundred and six. After that he claimed the power of a temporal prince, and so was wont to carry two swords, to signify that both the temporal and spiritual sword was his. He claimed more and more authority, till at length, as Christ’s vice-regent on earth, he claimed the very same power that Christ would have done, if he was present on earth reigning on his throne; or the same power that belongs to God, and was used to be called God on earth; to be submitted to by all the princes of Christendom.[vi]
          We also found this letter by Edwards which addresses the 1260 days specifically:
To the Rev. Mr. M’Culloch.
Northampton, Oct. 7, 1748.
Rev. and Dear Sir,
[edited out first section]
With respect to your very ingenious conjectures, concerning the period of forty-two months, or one thousand two hundred and sixty days, of the outer court and holy city’s being trodden under-foot of the Gentiles; you know, Sir, that that forty-two months, or one thousand two hundred and sixty days, spoken of Rev. xi. 2. has been universally understood, as being the very same period with the 1260 days of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, spoken of in the next verse; and the one thousand two hundred and sixty days of the woman’s being led in the wilderness, chap. xii. 6. and the time, times, and half a time, of her being nourished in the wilderness from the face of the serpent, ver. 14. and the forty-two months of the continuance of the beast, chap. xiii. 5. But it does not appear to me probable that these forty-two months of the continuance of the beast, means the sum of the diverse periods in which the plat of ground, whereon the ancient literal Jerusalem stood, was under the dominion of the Romans, Saracens, Persians, and Turks; but the space of time during which the reign of antichrist or the popish hierarchy continues; and as to the particular time of the downfall of antichrist, you see my reasons in the forementioned pamphlet, why I think it certain that it will not be known till it be accomplished: I cannot but think that the Scripture is plain in that matter, and that it does, in effect, require us to rest satisfied in ignorance till the time of the endcomes.
However, I should be very foolish, if I were dogmatical in my thoughts concerning the interpretation of the prophecies: especially in opposition to those who have had so much more opportunity to be well acquainted with things of this nature. But since you have insisted on my thoughts, I conclude you will not be displeased that I have mentioned them, though not altogether agreeable to yours. I am nevertheless greatly obliged to you for your condescension in communicating your thoughts to me. If we do not exactly agree in our thoughts about these things, yet in our prayers for the accomplishment of these glorious events in God’s time, and for God’s gracious presence with us, and his assistance in endeavours to promote his kingdom and interests, in the meantime, we may be entirely agreed and united. That we may be so, is the earnest desire of, dear Sir,
Your Affectionate Brother and Servant,
In Our Common Lord,
Jonathan Edwards[vii]
          As Cris Putnam endeavored to demonstrate in our book Petrus Romanus, the pope’s rise to temporal power began when Pope Stephen began courting Pepin around 751 and then became a reality in 756 with the expulsion of the Lombards. Putnam quickly broke out his calculator and saw that 756 placed the target sometime in 2016 which can also be thought of as in the range of three and a half years from 2012. Around that same time during our investigation,a friend named Trey Clark emailed after doing some digging of his own and made us aware of a sermon collection from the 1800s, titled, “Lectures on the Revelation,” by the Reverend William J. Reid, pastor ofFirst United Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which were given over a period of time ending in March of 1876. Like Jonathan Edwards had over a hundred years earlier, Reid deduced the False Prophet and Antichrist would arrive sometime around 2012–2016. Soon we uncovered numerous other ancient examples in which the years 2012 and 2016 specifically were foreseen as when the False Prophet and the Antichrist would appear, followed by the destruction of Rome. These included:
•      The Theological Dictionary of Princeton University (1830)
•      Critical Commentary and Paraphrase on the Old and New Testament by Lowth and Lowman (1822)
•      The American Biblical Repository (1840)
•      Notes on the Revelation of St. John by Lowman (1773)
•      The Christian Spectator, “The Monthly” (1885)
•      Abridgement of Ecclesiastical History (1776)
•      The Works of the Rev. P. Doddridge, DD (1804)
•      The International Sunday School Lessons Pub (1878)
•      Character and Prospects on the Church of Rome in Two Discourses by the Rev. William Mackray (1829)
•      The Panoplist and Missionary Magazine (1809)
•      Lectures on Romanism by Joseph F. Berg (1840)
•      The Congregational Magazine for the Year (1834)
•      The Presbyterian Magazine (1858)
Raiders News Update.com

Assad: We received 1st shipment of Russian S-300 missiles

Syrian President Bashar Assad told Al-Manar that his country has already received the first shipment of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia.

During the interview with Hezbollah's television network, which will be aired in full Thursday evening, the embattled Syrian leader said the next shipment is due to arrive "soon."

Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar published excerpts from the interview, in which Assad reiterated his foreign minister's warning and said "the Syria army will retaliate immediately to another Israeli strike in Syrian territory."

Assad also clarified that his government would not stand in the way of Syria groups "that will want to fight for the liberation of the Golan (Heights)."

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday that the S-300 missile shipment "is a threat, and I can testify that the deal is not making headway. The shipments have not left yet. Let's hope they won't, and if they do, we'll know how to act."

The US State Department expressed firm opposition on Tuesday to Russia's plan to transfer S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria. "We think that's a mistake" said Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell in a briefing, "they've described it as fulfilling existing contracts... We're going to continue to work with them."

McCain in south Turkey with US troops before entering Syria (Photo: Reuters)

White House Spokesperson Jay Carney said in regards to the advanced missiles that "on the matter of Russian arm sales, we've made clear in the past and made clear again our firm belief that providing arms to the Assad regime does not bring us closer to the political transition that Syria deserves."

Israel has been trying to prevent the transfer of the advanced S-300 missiles to Syria. Earlier this month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Putin’s residence in Sochi in an effort to block the arms deal, but shortly after the meeting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Russia would remain committed to previously signed arms deal "regarding agreements pertaining to aerial defense weapons."

On Tuesday Russia's deputy foreign minister said Moscow reserves the right to provide Syria with state-of-the art air defense missiles, seeing it as a key deterrent against foreign intervention in the country

'Next missile shipment coming soon.' Assad (Photo: EPA)

Sergei Ryabkov wouldn't say whether Russia has shipped any of the long-range S-300 air defense missile systems, but added that Moscow isn't going to abandon the deal despite strong Western and Israeli criticism.

According to Al-Akhbar, during the interview Assad condemned Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for supporting and funding the rebels. He claimed some 100,000 fighters from Arab and other countries have entered Syria and are backed by Turkey, Qatar and the Saudis. The president said Syria has agreed in principle to take part in the planned peace talks in Geneva, but it did not appear he was convinced they would yield any significant results.

Meanwhile, the military chief of the main umbrella group of Syrian rebels, the Free Syrian Army, has accused Hezbollahfighters of "invading" Syria in a BBC interview.

Gen. Salem Idris claimed that more than 7,000 fighters of the Lebanese Shiite movement were taking part in attacks on the rebel-held town of Qusair.

Gen. Idris made an emotional appeal to Western powers on the BBC World Service's Newshour program, saying: "We are dying. Please come and help us."

He appealed for more weapons "to defend our citizens" and said the FSA was fielding fewer than 1,500 fighters in the fight for Qusair, armed only with light weapons.

More than 50,000 residents were trapped in the town and a "massacre" would occur if it fell, he added.

US Senator John McCain said on Wednesday, two days after meeting with rebels in Syria, that he is confident the US can send weapons to fighters in Syria without the risk they will fall into the wrong hands.

"We can identify who these people are. We can help the right people," McCain said on CNN's program "Anderson Cooper 360."

McCain, a Republican, is an outspoken advocate for US military aid to the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad and has angrily denounced Democratic President Barack Obama - McCain's opponent in his failed 2008 presidential race - for shying away from deeper US involvement in the conflict, which has claimed 80,000 lives.

Critics of some lawmakers' push to arm the rebels have expressed concerns that weapons could end up in the hands of militants who might eventually end up using them against the United States or its allies.

But McCain said such radical fighters make up only a small part of the rebels forces.

For example, he said, Syria's Islamist al-Nusra Front, identified as an alias of al-Qaeda in Iraq, accounts for only about 7,000 of the 100,000 fighters battling the government of Assad.

"Every single day, more and more extremists flow in... "They're flowing in all the time, these extremists. But they still do not make up a sizeable portion," the Arizona senator said.


Is the Dollar Dying? Why US Currency Is in Danger

The U.S dollar is shrinking as a percentage of the world's currency supply, raising concerns that the greenback is about to see its long run as the world's premier denomination come to an end.

When compared to its peers, the dollar has drifted to a 15-year low, according to the International Monetary Fund, indicating that more countries are willing to use other currencies to do business.

Bove uses several metrics to make his point, focusing on the dollar as a percentage of total world money supply.That total has plunged from nearly 90 percent in 1952 to closer to 15 percent now. He also notes that the Chinese yuan, the yen and the euro each have a greater share of that total.
"If the dollar loses status as the world's most reliable currency the United States will lose the right to print money to pay its debt. It will be forced to pay this debt," Bove said. "The ratings agencies are already arguing that the government's debt may be too highly rated. Plus, the United States Congress, in both its houses, as well as the president are demonstrating a total lack of fiscal credibility."

Bove is not the only one sounding the reserve currency alarm, though the issue has fallen off the front pages as hopes for a sustained U.S. recovery have taken hold and the stock market has surged to near-record highs.

But the looming battle over budget sequestration in Washington could revive long-standing fears of fiscal stability.

"If (dollars) no longer offer the safety that investors have come to expect, they will not function as the stable collateral required by bank funding markets," Barry Eichengreen, a professor at the University of California, Berkley, warned in aFinancial Times commentary late last year. "They will not be regarded as an attractive form in which to hold international reserves. And they will not be seen as a convenient vehicle for merchandise transactions."

But the Federal Reserve's successive quantitative easing programs, which have created $3 trillion in new greenbacks, continue to spur worry over the dollar's status.
"The No. 1 security issue we have as a nation is the preservation of the U.S. dollar as the world's reserve currency," said Michael Pento, president of Pento Portfolio Strategies. "It's a thousand times more important than a nuclear bomb being tested by North Korea. It's a thousand times more important that we keep the dollar as the world's reserve currency, and yet we are doing everything to abuse that status."

The dollar's seemingly precarious status is why Pento remains bullish on gold and believes the dollar's demise as the premier reserve currency could end even sooner than Bove predicts -- perhaps by 2015.


The Homeland Security Department is buying $100 million smartcards with iris and facial recognition capabilities.

The Homeland Security Department is buying $100 million worth of services to issue staff at all agencies smartcards with iris and facial recognition capabilities.

Late Friday, DHS opened the bidding process for a decade-long project to upgrade personnel identification cards that are used to access federal buildings and networks. Following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, Homeland Security Presidential Directive–12, or HSPD-12, mandated biometric IDs for employees governmentwide. But many workers, including 82 percent of DHS computer users, flash the credentials at guards, rather than digital readers, largely because the cards’ electronic components haven’t been activated, according to internal audits.

Now, contractors will replace about 161,924 cards in 2013 and 116,172 cards in 2014, according to contracting documents.

“The present Identity Management System was designed in 2008 and has remained basically unchanged since its inception. New more capable methods are now available that must be evaluated and implemented to move the [ID management] process into compliance,” project plans state.

The work includes "the full range of program management support, engineering services, labor, materials, and equipment" to operate the entire credentialing process, from enrolling employees to synching with card readers on facilities and computers, the contracting papers state. The deal is capped at $99.5 million.

The use of iris recognition is expanding governmentwide. In July 2012, the Obama administration announced plans to embed iris images in all employee ID cards. Meanwhile, DHS and the Justice Department are collecting iris snapshots to identify legitimate travelers as well as track criminal offenders.

Companies competing for the Homeland Security smartcard job must "demonstrate the system’s ability to capture facial, fingerprint and iris biometric,” technical specifications state.

The contractor will provide the technology backbone for up to 400 workstations that distribute IDs at sites departmentwide. Wherever possible, the new tools will be incorporated into the department's roughly 405 pre-existing stations. The contract also requires as many as 16,000 "light activation stations" -- PCs connected to a credential management computer program -- that allow workers to independently update ID data and reset passwords.

The new supplier will be responsible for adapting current operations overseen by incumbent contractor XTec to the new arrangement without disrupting credentialing or login systems on buildings and computers. Homeland Security’s goal is to minimize "downtime and cost overruns as well as functional, security and performance impacts,” according to the contracting documents. The technologies in need of transitioning include "back-end infrastructure and interfaces and distributed end user facing systems."

Since clinching the DHS ID management award in 2008, Reston-based XTec has continued to win credentialing contracts from other major departments. In February, the General Services Administration closed a deal with the firm for an unspecified price to issue smartcards for more than 90 agencies that outsource their HSPD-12 credentialing services to GSA, according to XTec.

As of December 2012, most federal employees were carrying biometric IDs but more than 40 percent didn’t use them to log onto agency networks, according to the executive branch’s annual report on adherence to the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act. Last year, about 57 percent of computer accounts required smartcards to sign in, down from 66 percent in 2011. A decrease in smartcard usage at the Pentagon and significantly less usage at the Agriculture Department drove the decline.


Thousands flee as volatile South American volcano threatens to erupt

Chile and Argentina have evacuated a region near the Copahue volcano in the Andes on the border between the two countries, after fears intensified that it would erupt.

Both South American nations issued red alerts on Monday and put evacuation measures in place, with thousands leaving their homes.

Copahue is covered with glaciers and has around a dozen craters, one of which, “el Agrio” (the bitter one), has been spewing gas for months. The gases have diminished in the last few days but the seismic activity has increased – thousands of minor tremors have been registered in the last 48 hours – leading to the decision to evacuate.

“The situation is extremely complicated,” said Gonzalo Arroyo, regional director of ONEMI, the Chilean Home Office’s Emergency Office. “We’re talking about an up to 95 per cent chance of an eruption.”

Both countries have been quick to signal that the evacuation is a preventative measure. Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera called for calm when he announced on Monday that some 2,000 people located in a 15-mile radius of the volcano would have to leave.

This is not the first time that Copahue, towering at nearly 3,000m above sea level, has raised concerns. In December last year it began spewing ash that reached up to a mile in the sky, as well as lava.

There are some 3,000 volcanoes in the southern Andean mountain range, around 500 of them active. The last major Copahue eruption was in 1992.

The Independent