Apocalypse Now or Apocalypse Later

For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

—Matthew 24:21, KJV

According to many, the great Tribulation commences on September 23, 2017. This date corresponds to a heavenly constellation that, they say, is the Great Wonder of Revelation 12:1 revealed to St John in exile on Patmos two thousand years ago:

And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:

The purported Revelation 12:1 Sign, declaring the mid-point of Daniel’s 70th Week and start of Tribulation, falls on September 23, 2017.

Of course there are those who doubt the constellation, said to be a one-in-7000 year event, represents the sign of Revelation 12:1; among whom are some credible exponents of biblical discourse.

Although I may not qualify as a credible exponent of biblical discourse, I am not one of the doubters in this case. My opinion agrees that the Tribulation officially started at sundown September 23, 2017, Jerusalem time. That means that the next 42 months (3.5 years), to use the colloquialism, may seem like “hell on earth”.

Of course the degree of tumult and calamity may vary from individual to individual, community to community, region to region, nation to nation, depending upon many factors that I am not privy to. Repelling of Satan’s wrath may account for most of the 1260 days, after which those sealed by the Almighty, through Jesus, should evade most of the tail-end of the period’s hostilities – the Wrath of God as alluded to in verses 12 to 17, chapter 6, of the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ. This book is John’s insight into heaven afforded him by an angel. The “he” that John witnesses opening the seal is none other than Messiah:

12 And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

13 And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.

14 And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

15 And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains;

16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

17 For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?

Zephaniah (1:15) prophesied it in this wise:

That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,

St. Peter (2 Peter 3:10) describes it in the following manner:

The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise.

Jude (3:16-19) took time to describe perhaps who might suffer the wrath of God:

16 These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.

17 But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ;

18 How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.

19 These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.

Those in the Lord are not like that, according to St. Paul (Eph 5:14-18, KJV):

14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

15 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;

Look Up. Your redemption draws nigh.


Image from: Revelation 12:1 Sign Will Appear In 2017! – YouTube

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Minutes to Midnight

News agencies (and here we quote KTLA 5) are reporting that:

The Chicago-based Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the “Doomsday Clock,” a symbolic countdown to the end of the world, to two and a half minutes to midnight. It marks the first time since 1953 — after hydrogen bomb tests in the US and then Soviet Union — that humanity has been this close to global disaster.

Everybody say “god is a good man” (repeat)
Ah, clock on the world
Driving a dump truck up to the sun
A sigh in the human heart

I look at the clock on the wall
It says three minutes to midnight
Faith is blind when we’re so near
Phar Lap floating in a jar ….

Welcome, to February’s Geopolitical.

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EURO

Here we go, again: Serbia and Kosovo. Are they poised for battle, as Debka reports?

Two armies are already poised for battle: 60,000 Serbian troops, including armored, artillery and air force units, are on war preparedness, facing a much smaller Kosovo security force which, after calling up reserves, numbers around 6,000 combatants.

Not for the first time would a global conflict ignite from sparks originating in the Balkans — before sweeping across Europe like brushfire.

The “Bishop of Rome” (call no man father), has been in the spotlight. He seems a controversial figure, as writes Damian Thompson at The Spectator:

A man who, when he took office, seemed endearingly informal — paying his own bill at his hotel, refusing to live in the Apostolic Palace, making surprise phone calls to members of the public — now cuts a less sympathetic figure. He has broken with a far more significant papal tradition than living in the papal apartments or travelling in limousines. He has defied the convention that a pope, once elected, ceases to play nasty curial politics.

In contrast, continues Damian, Pope Benedict respected this convention:

Liberals who were worried that the ‘Rottweiler’ would harbour ancient grudges watched in amazement — and relief — as he turned into a virtual hermit. This created the factional chaos that led to his resignation — but right up until the end, Benedict was always ‘the Holy Father’.

And then came a surprise announcement: the Bishop of Rome, centrocampista, had played the man and not the ball. The Spectator’s Damian Thompson, this time quoting the Catholic Herald:

The Knights of Malta – an ancient Catholic order that dates back to the crusades – have enjoyed the privileges of a sovereign state for 900 years. Last night the Order of Malta was effectively stripped of its sovereignty in what appears to be a brutal power-grab by the Vatican.

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Americas

Mr Trump had to contend with a brushfire all his own making:

It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, and heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.

And so February began with a glaring omission by the freshly inaugurated President with, of all things, his International Holocaust Remembrance Day speech. It was not ideal, but it was more a case of diplomatic boundary-drawing by a new Washington administration, rather than the betrayal suggested by many. Let us not dismiss this very sensitive issue, but rather let the survivors speak for themselves:

Mexico will not be paying for the impassable physical barrier of Executive Order 13767. The U.S. Federal Appeals Court also overturned the immigration and refugee ban, which barred citizens from seven “countries of concern”. According to the BBC (and every other news channel), Mr Trump reacted angrily:

What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into US?” he tweeted.

[Ed: In my quieter moments, (and I mean no disrespect by this) I wonder what our world is coming to when the President of the United States can tweet his every inclination.]

Under the new management, 24 civilians and one Navy Seal were killed on a joint Yemeni raid by soldiers from the UAE, the new U.S. administration targeting “senior Al Qaeda people” — or were they merely following through on their Saudi support? And a “veneer of remorse” … that matters little where there is no remorse at all:

Aaron Miller, at Real Clear World, focused on what will be a more calculated, self-interested, risk-averse America under this new management. Our expectations of American foreign policy, for the foreseeable future, should be down to earth:

It may be that U.S. power simply isn’t well suited for the cruel world we now inhabit; and that rather than finding solutions to problems, we may have to settle for managing and producing outcomes, not end states, that hopefully are more favorable to the United States.

Miller’s colleague, Ann Corkery, pressed for the new president to reverse the old president’s last-minute lifting of sanctions on a despotic Sudanese regime:

the regime has done nothing really to deserve this … we’ve seen increasing repression in Khartoum and elsewhere with many arrests and newspaper seizures unprecedented in the two decades I’ve been working on Sudan.

Leading from behind—a theory championed by Linda Hill of the Harvard Business School, that she developed after reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, and one that was ascribed to President Obama’s foreign policy by one of his own advisers—Ann continued, was not leading at all. Great foresight, in this regard, was shown by Charles Krauthammer as far back as 2011, in describing Obama’s foreign policy doctrine.

“New President – Old President”: this is becoming quite a theme

While the Obama years were highlighted by the “rebalancing”—a pivot to Asia—consistent with his more brusque style, Trump plans to pivot through Asia, according to Max Boot:

President Barack Obama will have to wait until after he leaves office to see if some of his most touted foreign-policy achievements — such as the opening to Cuba and the Iranian nuclear deal — survive his presidency. But even before he exits, it is already obvious that his signature policy in East Asia, the “pivot” or “rebalance,” is deader than a dodo. And, no, it’s not just resting; it’s nailed to the perch.

Max went on to show that psychoanalysis, in our modern world, is now the purview of the common man (Freud, after all, has been a sidelined figure in the field of psychology over the decade or so, but unfairly so):

If he is serious about making good on Pacific Pivot, Part II, Trump will need to rethink his aversion to allies and to free trade — along with his habit of unleashing his id every time he opens his mouth or sends a tweet. The new president will soon discover that Xi Jinping, if he feels insulted, has far more potent means of retaliation than Little Marco Rubio, Lyin Ted Cruz, or Crooked Hillary Clinton could possibly have imagined.

Meanwhile, President Trump looks to wind back American funding to the UN. An “Amexit”, according to Kenneth L Marcus of Algemeiner:

The Trump administration is preparing executive orders that would clear the way to drastically reduce the United States’ role in the United Nations and other international organizations, as well as begin a process to review and potentially abrogate certain forms of multilateral treaties.

Natasha Bertrand, of Business Insider, provides the details:

The legislation, titled the “American Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2017,” was proposed on January 3. It is co-sponsored by a handful of conservative-leaning lawmakers, including North Carolina Rep. Walter B. Jones, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, Missouri Rep. Jason Smith, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, Tennessee Rep. John Duncan, Jr., and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.

But this is in stark contrast to the prior administration (Matthew Lee and Richard Lardner, Times of Israel):

Officials say the Obama administration in its waning hours defied Republican opposition and quietly released $221 million to the Palestinian Authority that GOP members of Congress had been blocking.

And on top of this earlier report from CNS News:

The State Department on Tuesday announced it has transferred a further $500 million to a U.N.-affiliated global climate change fund whose congressional critics have derided as a ‘slush fund’ and ‘handout to foreign bureaucrats.’

An erupting issue, with the presidents inauguration, is the risk of any conflict of interest for a president who has spent his entire life as real-estate tycoon. Amid the talk of dossiers, report of emoluments, claim of compromise and provocation, the “I” word—impeachment—also got a run. There are articles even entitled with the “A”-word, heaven forbid.

Trump’s opponents may think he is doing to the constitution what those Russian hookers are alleged to have done to the bed in the Ritz Carlton’s presidential suite.

This is all nothing less than a “foreign policy revolution”, says National Review‘s Charles Krauthammer:

Trump outlined a world in which foreign relations are collapsed into a zero-sum game. They gain, we lose. As in: “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries” while depleting our own. And most provocatively, this: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.”

Calling for the adoption of a 2% of GDP minimum defense spending for individual NATO nations, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis added that:

America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defense.

(As it stands, this is achieved only by the United States, (3.6%), Greece, Great Britain, Estonia, and Poland.)

No longer can the American taxpayer carry a disproportionate share of the defense of Western values. Americans cannot care more for your children’s future security than you do,” Mattis said. “Disregard for military readiness demonstrates a lack of respect for ourselves, for the alliance, and for the freedoms we inherited which are now clearly threatened.”

Canadian PM Trudeau returned fire in defending his nation’s NATO commitment against criticism from President Trump about unequal investment within the alliance.

At Business Insider, Linette Lopez argues that Steve Bannon not only believes in the theory of saeculum or a “fourth turning”—whereby man’s history moves in cycles of 80-100 years with each culminating in tumult, what the ancient Greeks called “ekpyrosis”, often war—that not only is mankind in one right now (the catalyst for our fourth turning, the GFC says Bannon, has already happened), but that Bannon is trying to catalyse it.

All of these periods were marked by periods of dread and decay in which the American people were forced to unite to rebuild a new future, but only after a massive conflict in which many lives were lost. It all starts with a catalyst event, then there’s a period of regeneracy, after that there is a defining climax in which a war for the old order is fought, and then finally there is a resolution in which a new world order is stabilised.

We have entered How and Strauss’ regeneracy stage, a period of isolationism —of infrastructure building and strong centralised government power and a new economic dawn. Global authoritarian politics is the preparation for massive conflict, East (Middle East or China) vs. West.

This is ‘a global existential war’ that likely will become ‘a major shooting war in the Middle East again.’ War with China may also be looming.

Lopez argues, on the other hand, that there is a large gap, for instance, between Trump’s “American carnage” of today and Roosevelt’s inaugural address of 1933, in which he described a country laid waste by the Depression.

A key feature of the fourth turning, is that of a key figure, a “Grey Champion”:

Early on in their epoch, Fourth Turning Grey Champions are faced with a choice. Either they will die to their political ego and tell the truth like the Lincoln did in the Civil War Saeculum. Or they will succumb to the allure of quasi-heroic can kicking like FDR did in the Great Power Saeculum.

The election of Trump did not mark the end for the Deep State, but just the beginning of the end. Just as Paine’s Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence denoted the beginning of a long string of bloody trials and tribulations, Trump’s ascendency to the presidency has marked the beginning of a battle – with the outcome dependent upon our response to the clashes ahead.

The regeneracy spurred by Thomas Paine and the nation’s Founding Fathers in 1776 was followed by five years of ordeal, misery, misfortune, bloody routs, and numerous junctures where total defeat hung in the balance. Lesser men would have abandoned the cause during the dark bitter winter at Valley Forge in 1778.

Lending to the debate, in his new book Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity,  is Samuel Huntington. As portrayed at Online Opinion, fundamental to national identity is culture, and Anglo-Protestant culture is what defines America rather than (her) creed: “those aspirational political values which Americans hold dear, liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, human rights, the rule of law, private property.”

Don DeBats explains:

Huntington sees both the idea of an American national political identity and its cultural core as under attack. But these enemies are not Islamic terrorists. They are America’s own political and cultural elites with their doctrines of cultural pluralism. Armed with a misinformed virtue, these elites, says Huntington, have systematically undermined the very idea of a national identity and sought to erase its cultural component, leaving the salience of American national identity low and the substance resting on an insufficient political creed.

By invoking Wilbur Zelinsky’s doctrine of ‘First Effective Settlement’, “the original Anglo-Protestant cultural core as carried by the first settlers”, Huntington’s says, that that “exerted an extraordinary shaping force on the ideas of those who followed.”

In this Anglo-Protestant culture was the definition of America as a Christian nation with a specifically Protestant moral compass and the work ethic; here was the central agreement on English as America’s only language, the British traditions of law, justice and limits on government. And here too was the source of America’s love of European art, literature, philosophy and music.

Lopez makes a good argument and her fear is not misplaced, but we cannot help but suspect that Steve Bannon is more right than wrong on this one. Sometimes you just have to go on instinct, and not the facts as they appear at any point in time.

§

The signing of executive orders has become almost a daily occurrence in the recent American past:

As one of his first acts in office, President Trump signed an executive order signalling that the Keystone XL pipeline is on again.

Not good news for Venezuela:

Not to put too fine a point on it: Keystone XL is a kick in the nuts Ottawa has aimed milimetrically at Caracas.

“The whole point of Keystone XL”, argues Francsico Toro at Caracas Chronicles, “is to take Alberta’s extra-heavy oil from the middle of Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast.” The Gulf [of Mexico] Coast is home to the specific refineries that can process the extra-heavy crude — which just so happens to be the same type of crude that oil-rich (but in economic dire straits) Venezuela produces. Keystone XL is a direct competitive threat to Venezuela’s oil industry.

President Trump met with Japan’s PM Abe, the latter looking to arrange for a bilateral trade agreement in the wake of the demise of the TPP at the hands of the former:

And ex-CIA boss Brennan—extrapolating from Lloyd Billingsley FrontPage Mag article—may have a genuine chance of being offered the role of chimney-sweep:

He faces damage left by outgoing CIA boss John Brennan, who never should have had that job or any intelligence post, not even to make coffee.

In mid-January, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega received a visit from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen. Not a wise move, according to Rod Sweet (Global Construction Review):

It is astonishing because Ortega (pictured) has pinned Nicaragua’s fortunes on a Chinese-built, $50bn transoceanic canal that would make it a global shipping node to rival Panama, while, for China, Taiwanese sovereignty is a thick red line, the crossing of which makes any government a mortal enemy of its long cherished “One China” policy.

Finally, in the Americas, President Trump gave his first address to Congress, including a lament and honour to fallen Navy Seal Owens. As reported by J. E. Dyer, the difference between what President Trump said and what his predecessor would have said (in those circumstances) is stark:

It was like balm to the spirit, to hear a president simply assure a sailor’s widow, not that she had our support, as if she were a collapsing railroad bridge, but that her husband’s legacy is etched into eternity.

And then President Trump went on to do many of the things that his predecessor might also have done, but didn’t: like speak about the tangible aspects of American corporate leadership; like using the explicit phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”.

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Eurasia

The Threat from Kaliningrad is Real”, argues Jorge Benitez at Real Clear World:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been deploying more and more forces in a strategic piece of Russian territory that lies in a vulnerable area of NATO geography. How President-elect Donald Trump responds to this challenge will be one of the first tests of his new administration.

Russia erred with its show of support for the Trump candidacy, going as far as champagne celebrations to the result of the November ballot. This outward show goes against the precepts of international diplomacy. It is not statesman-like and it shows poor judgement. It invites claims of meddling in the internal affairs of another sovereign, whether the claims are founded or not. And it leaves you open for ridicule when things don’t work out as you had hoped. And things for Russia are not working out, with a Trump presidency, as they would have hoped. (In diplomacy, particularly international diplomacy in the era of instant media, discretion remains the better part of valour.)

At this stage of his rule, Putin faces a dilemma, says Petrov. He can either move further ahead to full scale authoritarianism, or start liberal political and economic reforms. Moving in any direction will be difficult.

“Russian military embarks on ‘colossal’ construction programme”, says the Global Construction Review, including converting the makeshift port at Tartus into a permanent facility “capable of basing 11 ships headed by a vice admiral.” Multiple constructions will begin in and across Russia but also Kaliningrad and the Kuril Islands off the coast of Japan. There are also 100 military infrastructure projects planned for the Arctic this year alone. Utilising modular steel-frame construction, “in 2016, more than 2,500 buildings were added to the military estate”, the remaining infrastructure will all be built within the space of 2-3 years.

[T]he largest of the projects involved the construction of port facilities for submarines at Novorossiysk and accommodation for two missile brigades in the Southern Military District.

The infrastructure spending has two benefits: to boost Russia’s military arsenal; and to give a timely boost to the Russian economy.

Turkey has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, rating for press freedom in the world. That fact is not lost on Chancellor Merkel.

Ms Merkel has the uncanny ability to raise the difficult conversation, in a matter-of-fact way, yet without offending. This is her charm, I am convinced. The Merkel touch. (Perhaps less convinced would be Gerhard Schröder, but that’s another matter entirely.) Of course there is a steely determination behind that affable persona — Ms Merkel, I mean. (Perhaps Mr Schröder too.)

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Asia

“One China” is a pleasant fiction. It is a vestigial diplomatic arrangement whereby China gets official recognition from most of the world and the U.S. recognizes Taiwan as an unofficial ally.

The Sino-American relationship hinges on three issues. Ben Shapiro, at Geopolitical Futures, sees the crux of this tango to be:

  1. The South China Sea: while the United States is not impressed by China’s behaviour in the South China Sea, the  “political and military costs of stopping them” are not worth the risk.
  2. US-China Trade: is too important for both sides to risk, “there will be friction, accusations and recriminations, but trade will go on.”
  3. North Korea: Is North Korea a top national security threat for the U.S.? Not really.

North Korea does not have a device capable of reaching the United States. If it develops one, North Korea won’t fire it at the U.S. Mutually assured destruction loses nothing in its translation to Korean. North Korea’s key goal is regime survival. Its nuclear program is about ensuring that survival. The irony of nuclear weapons is that they only ensure survival by not being used.

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Middle east and north africa

Changes are coming thick and fast in Israel and, as Carolyn Glick argues, in the wake of stalling American plans to relocate its Israeli embassy, Israel’s time to act decisively is now. Israel, according to Glick needs to act while a Republican government is in power — as President Obama’s lasting legacy is “his transformation of the Democratic Party into an anti-Israel party”, ensuring that “his deep hostility toward Israel will likely be shared by his partisan successors.” What Ms Glick never fails to do (and why not?, somebody has to) is retain the dying art of calling a spade a shovel, and always at just the right time:

Trump’s emerging strategy on Iran and ISIS, together with his refusal to operate in accordance with the standard US playbook on the Palestinians, indicates that the US has abandoned this practice. Under Trump, Israel is free to defeat its enemies.

There’s one main obstacle to peace, its name starts with “P”:

The new administration appears to understand, as Obama never did, that the biggest obstacle to peace is the Palestinians, who have repeatedly rejected Israel’s offers of a two-state solution that would involve dismantling settlements. Had they ever said “yes” to Israel’s offers, those settlements beyond Jerusalem and the blocs would have been vacated years ago.

And one person’s errand is to predict President Trump’s next move, and its name starts with “F”:

Predicting what Donald Trump will ultimately do in the Middle East or anywhere else is a fool’s errand. But if there is any one overarching theme to his foreign policy it is a rejection of his predecessor’s approach. Trump has already shown an understanding that Obama’s misguided Middle East preoccupations weakened the U.S. position and made the region a more dangerous place. He may make mistakes of his own in the next four years, but it is highly unlikely that he will repeat those of his predecessor.

Adam Kredo, at Washington Free Beacon, in effect claims (and who would argue this) that national security adviser Flynn was ousted by political pressure originating from none other than ex-President Obama himself.

The abrupt resignation Monday evening of White House national security adviser Michael Flynn is the culmination of a secret, months-long campaign by former Obama administration confidantes to handicap President Donald Trump’s national security apparatus and preserve the nuclear deal with Iran, according to multiple sources in and out of the White House who described to the Washington Free Beacon a behind-the-scenes effort by these officials to plant a series of damaging stories about Flynn in the national media.

Webster Tarpley reports of his reservations for all the potential candidates to replace Mr Flynn: including General David Petraeus, who served as Director of the CIA in 2011/12; former head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander; former 4-star marine General James Jones who was head of the National Security Council for President Clinton in 1993; and John Bolton who served as ambassador to the UN in 2005/06 . More importantly, with respect to this saga, and as anticipated, there are clear and continuing signs that ex-President Obama will not go quietly into the night. He may be officially out of office, but the ex-President’s tenure is not yet over — not if he has anything to do with it.

But at Geopolitical Futures, George Friedman saw things differently, believing that Flynn may have been undercut by the likes of Mattis and Tillerson within his own ranks:

The real problem is not that he spoke to the Russians or visited Moscow. There was no secret deal. Rather, the problem was that he tried to execute a radical shift in strategy that was actively opposed by senior officials. When they heard what Flynn was doing, they went ballistic. To put it another way, Trump shut down an attempt by Flynn to bring the Russians into the IS war. And Putin did not escape the sanctions.

With the usual media circus around Washington, it’s easy to forget that world continues tearing itself apart, one car bomb at a time.

Baghdad, Feb 17 (2017)

Islamic State is under the pump but managed, critically, to recapture a handful of villages on the outskirts of Raqqa by mid-month, using “dam warfare” to raise the Euphrates River water level. Islamic State fighter numbers has been the purview of guestimates but they are still sufficient, according to Cheyenne Ligon, for IS to fight on multiple fronts.

The current battle unfolding between the SDF [Syrian Defence Forces] and IS in western Raqqa is significant. It represents an instance in which IS’ core territory is being threatened.

According to the Iraq Sitrep, Muqtada Al-Sadr is inciting large scale demonstrations again:

The increased intensity of the Sadrist demonstrations could escalate ongoing intra-Shi’a competition in Baghdad and southern Iraq. Sadrist Trend leader Muqtada al-Sadr retains the momentum to continue mass protests, busing in and mobilizing thousands on February 11, then again on February 14, and calling for another protest on February 17.

The GCR is also reporting that Iran, freed from the imposition of sanctions, is negotiating $8.6 billion of oil refinery refurbishment contracts as well as planning for 12 new refineries, while Reuters reports that Iran has discovered  two billion barrels of light crude in reserves, in its western Lorestan province, to add to its 160 billion barrels of proven reserves that amounts to 10% of the world’s total and ranking it fourth highest in the world

§

European Union

The export-heavy German economy may become a victim of her own success, if the European and global economic doldrums continue. Antonia Colibasanu, at Geopolitical Futures, reports on the triad of exports, banks and shipping, with Germany recording the largest trade surplus of any nation in the world at almost half its GDP. Germany, critically then, is dependent on foreigners having money to but her exports. But on the same day as the trade figures were released, the second largest bank in Germany, Commerzbank, announced increased provisions for bad shipping loans. And this is hot on the heels of Deutsche Bank (Germany’s largest) losses on shipping loans having tripled in a year. It is this financial sector exposure to the shipping industry coupled with her strong balance of trade that makes Germany vulnerable to the economic global winds of fortune.

Based on Petrofin Global Bank Research statistics, German banks own one-fourth of all outstanding shipping loans made by large banks (about $90 billion). That makes them vulnerable to the shipping malaise. … So far, none of these shipping-related credit problems have been big enough to challenge the German banking system’s stability. … But the rate at which losses are increasing year-on-year is worrisome, especially since the shipping industry is not expected to recover large profit margins anytime soon. The acceleration of bank losses due to shipping sector problems indicates the increasing vulnerability of the German banking sector to global markets.

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Africa

David Rogers at Global Construction Review summarises the port infrastructure “revolution” coming to a desperate continent, where 90% of trade, including domestic, “moves by sea … partly because it can’t move any other way”, thanks to the insatiable resource appetite of the cashed-up Chinese.

With its crippling deficiency in ports and overland transport infrastructure, Africa has been cut off from modern world trade. But over the next five years, thanks to international investment, much of the continent will be fitted with state-of-the-art deepwater container terminals able to handle supersized box carriers, plus modern transport networks to distribute them.

One of the projects has been the “commissioning of a standard-gauge electric rail line between Addis Ababa and Djibouti”, … giving “landlocked Ethiopia a much-needed outlet to the Indian Ocean”.

Finally, this month, did Ian Tuttle—Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow at the National Review Institute—follow our recent post on partisanship? Probably not. But he may as well have:

This country has plenty of activists, in government and out of it. Massive numbers of people on both sides are prepared to march and shout and donate and propagandize on behalf of their preferred causes. We don’t need more activists. We need journalists.

Where has that old friend gone
Lost in a February song

Tell him it won’t be long
till he opens his eyes, opens his eyes …

Donald Trump settled quickly into the Whitehouse, hitting the ground running. His stunning election victory is a point of inflection in global politics, unleashing a reactionary wave of leftist movements both domestically and internationally (having become long-accustomed to the reactionary far-right discourse that so closely accompanied the Obama years radical agenda). With policies that are inclined increasingly toward the far right, we are now quickly getting used to the howls from the left. It’s February 2017, and two-and-a-half minutes to midnight.


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apocalypse

A revealing. A revelation. An unveiling.

Message from a malach with word from Yeshua to St John – Jacopo Vignali, oil on canvas (17th century) [Wikimedia Commons]

The “Apocalypse” is the Revelation of Yeshua Messiah. It is given to Him directly from the Almighty Father. He passes it on to St. John via an angel (malachim). It comes with a blessing to those who read it, those who heed it, and those who keep it. For the time really is at hand.

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

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Holy Grotto of the Revelation on the island of Patmos, Greece. [Image: Pinterest]

Word meaning changes with time — and place. The word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek and means simply “to reveal” or “a revealing” — that’s it. Yet even the esteemed Oxford (online) has this to say …

  1. The complete final destruction of the world, as described in the biblical book of Revelation: (especially in the Vulgate Bible) the book of Revelation.
  2. An event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale:

… before it comes to its senses and confirms that etymologically—and still to this very day—its meaning in Greek is “UNCOVER”:

Origin: Old English, via Old French and ecclesiastical Latin from Greek apokalupsis, from apokaluptein uncover, reveal; from apo-un– + kaluptein to cover.

Russian Orthodox icon of the Apocalypse ca. 16th century. The two-edged sword from Messiah’s mouth resembles a trident [not sure why, possibly depicting the Trinity]. St John is bowing at the feet of Messiah while angels minister to our King. There seems to be much toing and froing on earth, perhaps the opening of each seal or at the epistle to each church in Asia? It’s possible, on further inspection, that there are four caricatures of St John: one at Messiah’s feet (previously described); one receiving revelation–perhaps, rather, it’s the little bittersweet book of chapter 10–from an angel (top right); another ministering to church fathers (bottom left); and yet another comforting the saints on earth and perhaps edifying and imploring their patience (middle right).  [Wikimedia Commons]

Across the pond and the Merriam-Webster fares little better:

1a: one of the Jewish and Christian writings of 200 BC to AD 150 marked by pseudonymity, symbolic imagery, and the expectation of an imminent cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil and raises the righteous to life in a messianic kingdom

1b: Revelation

2a: something viewed as a prophetic revelation

2b: armageddon

It, too, backtracks to the word’s origin:

Middle English, revelation, Revelation, from Anglo-French apocalipse, from Late Latin apocalypsis, from Greek apokalypsis, from apokalyptein to uncover, from apo- + kalyptein to cover — more at hell.

More at hell. Really? I’ll pass.

Then this:

First Known Use: 13th century

That’s astounding. No doubt the Greek word apokalypse predates the 13th century. It’s Anglo-French adoption into generalised usage—to mean “the end of the world”—began in the 13th century, apparently. This predates the Gutenberg printing press. Word had got out.

Yet the synonyms, of apocalypse, don’t fill me with the same dread — they don’t pass muster (or cut the mustard … or should that be pass the mustard?):

Synonyms: disaster, calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe, debacle (also débâcle), tragedy

Opening the seals. Mortier’s Bible, Phillip Medhurst Collection [Rev 6:9-11]

Now these are, supposedly, from two of the finest dictionaries of the English language. Perhaps I need to let my pedantry go and acknowledge that most (English-speaking) people will think of a cosmic cataclysm when they hear, today, the word “apocalypse”: and perhaps even many (or most) speakers of Greek.

orthodox-apocalypse-fresco

Apocalypse depicted in Christian Orthodox traditional fresco scenes in Osogovo Monastery, Republic of Macedonia. My Macedonian (or is that Bulgarian?) is poor but my eyes can see, from 9-12 o’clock: the throne room in heaven with the lamb and seven candlesticks, a living creature, and 24 elders around the Ancient of Days; 7 o’clock: four horsemen go riding (interestingly, the first has a halo which may suggest an (incorrect) interpretation of Revelation 6:2, by the artist, as that of Messiah) with plague and pestilence in their wake; 3 o’clock: the 7-headed, 10-horned, beast of the Sea as people worship (take) the Mark of the Beast amidst chaos and destruction; a central motif depicts Messiah with the seven candlesticks (representing the seven churches) and seven stars in his right hand (representing the angels of each church) telling to John to “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter”; finally, the bottom (truncated circle) motif looks to be the sounding of one of the seven trumpets. [Wikimedia Commons]

Where the West fails, the East comes to our aid. The Jewish Encyclopaedia begins its entry with:

An “Apocalypse,” in the terminology of early Jewish and Christian literature, is a revelation of hidden things given by God to some one of his chosen saints or (still oftener) the written account of such a revelation. The word is derived from the Greek ἀπōκάλυψις, “uncovering,” “disclosure”; a noun which does not appear at all in classical Greek, and in the later profane writers is not employed in any way that corresponds to the use above mentioned; it seems to have originated among Greek-speaking Jews, and then passed from them to the Christians, who developed it still further.

[Apostolic era Jews were, apparently, familiar with apocalyptic literature, it was commonplace at the time — a bit like today.]

The Jewish Encyclopedia then qualifies this statement with a modern interpretation (before going on to describe the characteristics of apocalyptic literature):

In recent times the designation apocalyptic literature, or apocalyptic, has commonly been used to include all the various portions of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, whether canonical or apocryphal, in which eschatological predictions are given in the form of a revelation. That the term is at present somewhat loosely used, and often made to include what is not properly apocalyptic, is due in part to the fact that the study of this literature as a distinct class is comparatively recent.

Stating the obvious, clearly the word apocalypse has gained a life, and dread, all its own — well beyond that of the word “Revelation”. Nothing else compares with “Apocalypse”, and yet here we are as close to it as can be. The four horsemen ride as I write. In a matter of months, and the tribulation (Satan’s wrath) will be upon us—7 Trumpets (inclusive of 3 woes and 7 thunders)—and then the 7 bowls of God’s wrath, poured out on earth, one by one, at the blowing of the 7th Trumpet. It is real and it is almost here. Everything (almost) has been revealed. And what has been revealed is—clearly—coming to pass. And the great fear and trepidation I had as a child makes it that much harder to believe that it is, finally, upon us.

But do not fret, but do hang on. Be of good cheer. Pray for one another. Messiah is with you. [I should know, He has revealed himself to me. And He will to you too.]  He gave us His Revelation so we would prepare. Remember the seven virgins and the oil. Make sure you have plenty of oil (i.e. full of the Holy Spirit) to make it to the 1335 days.

Look up!


Annotations

This post is about the word apocalypse (with a little “a”) but one cannot, particularly in the present time, do it any justice without incorporating much about the Apocalypse. Clearly, this is not (nor is it intended to be) an exhaustive “interpretation” of  the Apocalypse. And Apocalypse art (and literature) is an entire field of study in itself (one for another day), and one in which there are so many internal inconsistencies (e.g. Cupid-like angels, St John on Patmos looking about 30 years old; etc.). And now, before us, life will be imitating art. Rather than looking at a tapestry, some of the world will be able to look out their window to see the Apocalypse. Others will watch it unfold on television.

Much of the following, about apocalyptic literature, is taken from a podcast by

One of the rewards of faith is the once-in-a-while lifting of the veil for a glimpse into the unseen and the unknown for a select few — to show the mortal that although things on earth seem unjust, a day is yet coming when God will reveal his wrath against the wicked and the righteous will be rewarded. God is still on the throne.

Isaiah’s vision of the Lord is an apocalypse, but the Book of Daniel is the first major literature befitting apocalyptic genre in the Bible. Furthermore, the are references to the Book of Enoch throughout the New Testament and it seems likely that the Apostles read it and that Yeshua, too, read it. The apocryphal Book of Enoch is also a good example of apocalyptic literature. Enoch, who was taken by God, may be considered the grandfather of Jewish mysticism. Enoch is given a tour of heaven by the angels: he is shown the seven heavens; the throne of glory; the heavenly chambers; where the souls of the righteous and the souls of the wicked are held; the heavenly worship services (the heavenly liturgy); the war between the forces of good and evil; and at the end a final judgement.

Other popular apocalyptic literature include mystic first and second century (and prior) literature, including Kabbalistic literature:

  • The Apocalypse of Baruch [Baruch was scribe to the prophet Jeremiah]
  • The Apocalypse of Adam
  • The Apocalypse of Elijah
  • The Apocalypse of Ezra
  • The Apocalypse of Noah
  • The Apocalypse of Paul
  • Hekhalot rabbati: The Greater Treatise Concerning the Palaces of Heaven

Apocalyptic Literature usually begins with a protagonist (human) — and it is written in the first person, who retells (writes down) their experience in the following manner:

  1. starts with an ascension, a translation, or vision or dream or spiritual experience — an unveiling
  2. usually involves an angelic “tour” guide
  3. a tour
  4. heavenly worship services or visions
  5. God intervenes and serves up justice
  6. use of symbolic language to explain spiritual things
  7. instills a sense of wonder and amazement and even, despite its revelatory theme, puzzlement
  8. offers a word of encouragement

The Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation) is not a crystal ball nor is it a sequence of End-Times events but rather it is a mix ‘n’ mash of events out of order. But, despite that, it’s central theme is literal and not allegorical. It is written to the first century disciples. It is a Jewish book. It invokes imagery derived from the Tanakh (Old Testament or Jewish scriptures), from the Temple Service and the priestly worship, from Jewish tradition, from Jewish liturgical ceremony, from synagogue tradition, from Jewish eschatology.


Recommended

The Apocalypse tapestry depicts the Apocalypse book as written by St John. It was made in Paris according to drawings by Hennequin of Bruges [aka Jean Bondol]. It was ordered by duke Louis I of anjou in 1373 and it took only a few years to complete it (completion date: 1382). King René of Anjou had it installed in the cathedral in the 15th century. The tapestry was originally 140x6m. Some parts were destroyed, but more than 100m are still visible today. [see Featured Image above]

  • Apocalypse, Charles C Torrey – Jewish Encyclopedia (online)
References
Featured Image

Tapisserie de l’apocalypse in Angers, France [Wikimedia Commons].

 

A Strong Delusion

And he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer

Credit: God's Name: more to it than you'd guess

Credit: God’s Name: more to it than you’d guess