Tuesday, November 19, 2013

His Eye Is On The Sparrow: 365-Day Christian Devotional



Give a gift this year that will impact someone's life forever. Includes a full month's meditations on the Return of Christ!

Available from Amazon.com in paperback and kindle editions.
His Eye Is On The Sparrow. 365-Day Christian Devotional

Val Waldeck
www.valwaldeck.com

Monday, November 4, 2013

Prophetic Trends and Headline News: October/November 2013




1. Where is the United States in Bible Prophecy?
 
8 Examples Of The U.S. Military Being Taught To Treat Christians As Extremists And Potential Terrorists

Who are the “extremists” and the “terrorists” that the U.S. military should be concerned about? For years, we were told that the “terrorists” belong to an organization known as al-Qaeda in the Middle East and other radical jihadist groups that are affiliated with them. But now that has all totally changed.

We are discovering that time after time U.S. military personnel are being taught that evangelical Christians are “extremists” that belong to a “domestic hate group” and that they are potential terrorists that could use violence at any time. This vilification of Christians started about the time that Barack Obama was elected and it has greatly accelerated over the past couple of years.

Stunned Christian service members can hardly believe what they are hearing in some of these training sessions. They are being told that they cannot be affiliated with any of these “hate groups” and that anyone found to be supporting such groups could be disciplined under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Fortunately, the U.S. military later publicly disavows many of these training sessions when they are revealed to the public, but the demonization of Christians has not stopped. In fact, it appears to be getting more frequent. The following are 8 examples of the U.S. military being taught to treat Christians as extremists and potential terrorists…

#1 On October 17th, soldiers at Ft. Hood were instructed that evangelical Christians are a “threat to this nation”…

Soldiers attending a pre-deployment briefing at Fort Hood say they were told that evangelical Christians and members of the Tea Party were a threat to the nation and that any soldier donating to those groups would be subjected to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

A soldier who attended the Oct. 17th briefing told me the counter-intelligence agent in charge of the meeting spent nearly a half hour discussing how evangelical Christians and groups like the American Family Association were “tearing the country apart.”

#2 During a recent U.S. Army briefing, the American Family Association was identified as a “domestic hate group“…

Several dozen U.S. Army active duty and reserve troops were told last week that the American Family Association, a well-respected Christian ministry, should be classified as a domestic hate group because the group advocates for traditional family values.

The briefing was held at Camp Shelby in Mississippi and listed the AFA alongside domestic hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam.

#3 A battalion commander assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky sent out a mass email to those under his command last year that included the “Christian Right”, the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson under the heading of “Domestic Hate Groups”.

#4 An unclassified guide for military leaders that was published in August 2011 identifies those that exhibit “extreme religious intolerance” as potentially violent radicals. If you claim that your faith is the only true faith (like most Bible-believing Christians do), that would put you into this category.

#5 Earlier this year, the Pentagon issued a written statement to Fox News that stated that “religious proselytization is not permitted within the Department of Defense” and that “court martials and non-judicial punishments are decided on a case-by-case basis”.

#6 One of the top consultants that Barack Obama has brought in to the Pentagon to work on issues related to religion in the military, Mikey Weinstein, has described evangelical Christians as “human monsters” and “enemies of the United States Constitution“.

#7 Mikey Weinstein also teaches that when an evangelical Christian shares his or her faith, it is the equivalent of being “spiritually raped by fundamentalist Christian religious predators“.

#8 In April of last year, a U.S. Army training presentation specifically identified evangelical Christians as religious extremists. On a slide entitled “Religious Extremism”, “Evangelical Christianity” was at the very top of a list of extremist religious groups that also included al-Qaeda, Hamas and the Ku Klux Klan.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Along with evangelical Christians, Tea Party activists, “conspiracy theorists”, anti-abortion protesters and those concerned about a “New World Order” have also been identified as dangerous extremists in a whole host of official U.S. government documents. For a large number of examples of this phenomenon, please see my previous article entitled “72 Types Of Americans That Are Considered “Potential Terrorists” In Official Government Documents“.

And the frightening thing is that the federal government has actually been doing research into methods that change the way that people view the world. As I have written about previously, the government is actually developing technology that would enable it to brainwash people and change their religious beliefs.

So who would the government do that to?

They would do it to “extremists” and those that belong to “hate groups” of course.

Once you are identified as a “terrorist”, then that gives authorities legal permission to treat you just like they would treat members of al-Qaeda.

That is why it is so important for evangelical Christians to stand up and denounce this kind of vilification.

In Nazi Germany, they didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start shipping Jews and other minorities off to prison camps. It all started with years of propaganda and demonization.

And now a similar thing is happening in the United States.
Ex-CIA Chief: No Solution To EMP Attack
 
Contrary to the findings of a 2008 commission mandated by Congress to consider a defense against an electromagnetic pulse attack and its effects on the national grid, a retired Air Force general who also headed the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency says that there isn’t a solution to an EMP attack.

Speaking before the Bipartisan Policy Center at a conference on the threats to the U.S. electrical grid, Michael Hayden also said the Obama administration has no plan to defend against an EMP.

The conference, however, focused more on the impact of cyber attacks on the national grid.

Experts say that protection against an EMP also would provide protection from a cyber attack.

Hayden said the administration isn’t doing anything to come up with a solution, even though scientists have said that proper hardening of the national grid would mitigate an EMP either from a direct hit from a solar flare or a man-made high altitude nuclear detonation that would emit a ruinous pulse.

An EMP is a high-intensity burst of electromagnetic energy such as gamma rays, x-rays and microwaves caused by the rapid acceleration of super-charged particles.

As a modern technology-based society, the U.S. is heavily dependent on electric power, electronics, telecommunications, information networks and an extensive set of financial and transportation systems.

An EMP event not only would knock out the national grid but would have a cascading effect on all electronics and automated control systems that maintain the life-sustaining critical infrastructures that depend on the proper function of the electrical grid.

Hayden said that when he was in government there was agreement that the EMP issue was serious but would be difficult to solve in a timely fashion.

“I don’t mean to be so flippant, but there really aren’t any solutions to this, so I would just leave it at that,” Hayden said.

Retired Army Gen. Kenneth Chrosniak, who is on a congressional task force on preparation and response plans for EMP emergencies, however, takes exception to Hayden’s comments.

“Well, the general (Hayden) is right in that our government is not preparing to protect us from any of these truly catastrophic events. But, he is also wrong to relegate it to the ‘too hard’ column, Chrosniak said.

“True leadership wasn’t displayed at that time, and still isn’t,” he said. “He had the responsibility at that time to influence change, and he failed. So in actuality, he has no dog in this fight and no claim to any further ‘insights.’

Chrosniak said that as a military leader, he “learned the hard way the tried-and-true adage that you always ‘plan for the worse case situation.’”

He encouraged Hayden to read the EMP Commission reports, an EMP-preparedness law passed in Maine and the proposed SHIELD Act in Congress.

Chrosniak said “there are people out there that are leading the attack to preserve the homeland.”

“Then again, there are many who don’t have the best interest of the homeland at heart,” he said.

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz last week said that the Obama administration is more concerned about a cyber attack than an EMP to knock out the U.S. electric grid system.

“What I have to say is that the whole set of issues that could disrupt the grid are ones that we do look at,” Moniz said. “But our biggest focus, not surprisingly, is on cyber security in terms of disruption of the grid.”

Former CIA director Hayden’s comments are contrary to concerns from another former CIA director, James Woolsey, who is co-chairman of the EMP Coalition recently formed to pursue legislation to protect the grid.

That legislation is the Shield Act, recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz.

The bill would give the federal government authority over the utilities to harden the grid and the electric utilities against an EMP.

As of now, the federal government lacks that authority.

Woolsey said that there is a growing and imminent threat of a natural or man-made EMP on the U.S. electrical grid and other critical infrastructures that are largely unprotected.

In addition to the potential of a high-altitude nuclear burst over a highly populated region of the country, an EMP even from a solar storm maximum also would be devastating to the population over a wide geographical area.

Woolsey has warned that the sun can inflict such an EMP disaster, as it did in the 1989 Hydro-Quebec geomagnetic storm that blacked out eastern Canada, causing billions of dollars in economic losses.

Woolsey said that a recent study by the insurance industry leader Lloyds of London estimated that if that storm would strike the U.S. East Coast, some 20 to 40 million Americans could be without electricity for at least two years.

Scientists from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration say a solar storm maximum could hit earth this year or next, with subsequent solar storms into 2020, as a result of the sun peaking in its current 11-yer cycle of intensity.

If the earth is hit by a direct solar flare, some of which can be 14 times the size of the earth, scientists from NASA and the National Academy of Sciences say it would cost the nation alone up to $2 trillion in the first year. It could take four to 10 years to recover and affect 90 percent of the U.S. population, meaning widespread starvation and death.

Experts say the cost to harden the electrical grid would be no more than $2 billion, a fraction of the toll of an EMP.

2. Israel - God's Timepiece
 
16 Palestinian Demands For Peace Accord
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lamented Monday, Oct. 28 that the release Tuesday night of 26 jailed Palestinians serving life sentences for murdering Israelis, the cause of widespread popular ire, was “one of the hardest decisions” he has ever made.

But he faces much harder decisions from the list of tough demands, debkafile's sources report were presented Israel by the Palestinians in ongoing US-sponsored negotiations, The prime minister has not made them known to the Israeli public.

The new Palestinian terms are so harsh as to surely defy even US Secretary of State John Kerry’s skills in bridging differences.

The prime minister also kept mum about his offer to the Palestinians of financial compensation for land remaining under Israeli control – the first time any Israeli leader has put a price tag on disputed territory.

The 16 Palestinian demands, which debkafile reveals exclusively for the first time below, make the release of convicted Palestinian murderers a dangerous exercise in futility, because each demand is enough to drive the negotiations into impasse, just as Mahmoud Abbas did two years ago.

After seeing the Palestinian list, Netanyahu should have put the release of prisoners on hold until Abbas comes around to a rational perception of the negotiations as a give-and-take process for the object of reaching an agreement – not an opportunity for outrageous extortion.

Israel’s senior negotiator Justice Minister Tzipi Livni tried arguing that the Palestinians were just making an opening bid and they expected it to be driven down in the bargaining process. However, negotiations have been going on for three months and the process is into the fourth month of the nine-month period assigned up to deadline.

Mahmoud Abbas, rather than seeking common ground, has used the time to raise his price for a deal to an exorbitant level, while keeping his hand firmly on the terrorist spigot.

It is a matter of record that a large proportion of jailed terrorists have reverted to violence after they walked in the past through the exits of Israeli jails.

The United States and Israel must acknowledge that the Palestinian state is “under occupation.” (This is the Palestinian response to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand to recognize Israel as the Jews’ national state.)

Israeli must repeal legislation extending Israeli law to East Jerusalem

The Palestinians will have full sovereignty over their air space. (This will bar Israeli air force flights over Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip).

The Palestinians will have exclusive control of all border crossings to neighboring nations. i.e. Israel and Jordan.

Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 boundaries is not enough. Its pull-back must go all the way to the 1949 armistice lines, additionally annexing to the Palestinian state broad strips of Israeli land that were demilitarized at that time.

Among the areas which the Palestinians want to lay hands on are the Ayalon Valley, the Latrun enclave and the Armon Hantatiz district of Jerusalem between the Old City and West Jerusalem; the Huleh Lake Valley; the Golan slopes running down to the Sea of Galilee; and the Nitzana belt north of the Gaza Strip – plus one third of Dead Sea water and shore.

( The Palestinians hope to grab substantial Israeli territory beyond the pre-1967 borders by invoking the long moribund 1949 accords.)

Electromagnetic space (radio frequencies, satellite and other communications) will be under sole Palestinian control

The Palestinians are ready to relinquish 1.9 percent of West Bank territory.

All parts of East Jerusalem including the shrines sacred to Muslims, Christians and Jews will come under sole Palestinian authority against a pledge of freedom of worship.

Israel and its armed forces will draw back from the Palestinian state over a three-year period. Six months after the drawdown is complete, the Palestinians will be willing to sign final peace treaties with the State of Israel

The US and Israel must accept the settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem as “a just and agreed solution.”

Every Palestinian refugee (as per the Palestinian Authority’s definition of up to the fourth generation) will be free to choose between three options: settlement in Israel or the Palestinian state or staying at their present locations.

Whichever option is chosen, the refugees will be entitled to appropriate restitution.
Only when the refugee issue is finally resolved will the Palestinians agree to declare their dispute with Israel at an end

An international mechanism will be tasked with administering the disposition of the Palestinian refugees and their resettlement. It will be composed of Palestinian, Israeli, American, European, Canadian, Australian, Japanese and Arab League representatives

The Palestinian state will be authorized to sign treaties including military pacts without the intervention of a third party, such as Israel.

All parts of the Palestinian state will be clear of Israeli civilian and military presence.

'Palestinian State' Would Leave Israel 'Indefensible'
 
As negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority continue amid international calls for a 23rd Arab state in the Judea and Samaria (West Bank) region - which would leave Israel with the territory it held prior to the 1967 Six-Day War - familiar calls from within Israel are being heard warning of the "indefensible borders" the Jewish State would be left with in such an eventuality.

It is not a new claim. Israel's former Foreign Minister Abba Eban famously referred to the so-called "'67 borders" as "Auschwitz borders," provocatively expressing the fears of many Israelis that a return to the 1949 Armistice lines would leave them perilously vulnerable to attack in a neighborhood which has proven all too often to be hostile to their very presence.

But is that really the case? Or, as some critics of Israel claim, are those fears simply unfounded?

One prominent Israel advocate who has taken it upon himself to clearly illustrate the case is New York based attorney Mark Langfan. On Tuesday Langfan appeared on the CBN News show "The Watchman with Erick Stakelbeck," and, with the aid of three topographical maps set out to prove why in his view a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would create an indefensible security situation for Israel.

The show starts with a regional map showing how Israel provides "the first and last line of defense" between Islamic terror and NATO nations, first among them Greece.

Langfan then showcased a topographical map illustrating how the inaccurately termed "West Bank" actually consists of the mountains of Judea and Samaria. His analysis predicts a Palestinian state there could turn into a strategic terror base in the heart of Israel.

The maps show how 70% of Israel's population and 80% of its industrial base lie in an area nine miles wide at its narrowest between the "Green Line" and the Mediterranean sea.

If a Palestinian state was created in that region, Langfan asserts the Palestinians could easily smuggle in rockets - as has occurred in Gaza - and vividly demonstrated how the katyusha rockets currently being fired from Gaza possess a range that would reach every part of Israel's population center.

Langfan, of "Americans for a Safe Israel", has created these three-dimensional topographical map to explain the implications of strategic height and depth for Israel's security.

Langfan is scheduled to be back on next week with maps detailing the Iranian threat.
This Is the Year For Decision On Iran, Says Former IDF Intelligence Chief
"In a probing interview with New Republic published on Wednesday, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin made his assessment clear: the coming year would be the year of decision for Israel," reports the Times of Israel.

"The next several months, he said, would provide the last opportunity for Israel to confidently and effectively strike Iran’s nuclear program, if that's what it chooses to do."

"Yadlin, now the director of the Tel Aviv-based Institute of National Security Studies, was careful not to advocate for an attack in the interview, and he made clear that Israel also has the option in the coming months to decide to leave the Iranian issue to the Obama administration, or Jerusalem could decide to live with a nuclear-capable Iran," notes the Times.

"According to Yadlin, the timetable for an American decision is different, as US capabilities leave the option of a military strike available for longer. 'For the US, because of their capabilities, it is at least a year post-Israel and will depend on many operational parameters that should not be public knowledge,' he told the magazine's Ben Birnbaum.

He assessed, however, that US opposition to an Israeli strike on Iran may lessen depending on the success of ongoing negotiations between the West and the Iranian regime."

"I think in late 2013 or early 2014, especially if America sees that Iran is not serious about reaching an acceptable agreement and only continues to buy time, the US will accept an Israeli attack because a nuclear Iran is absolutely against American vital national security interests," Yadlin said.

"The negotiations over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, which resumed last week in Geneva and left P5+1 representatives upbeat about conditions for a possible deal, are a win-win for Israel, the former military intelligence chief reasoned," reports the Times.

"If a deal is reached 'which is reliable and contains intrusive inspections and turns the nuclear clock backwards, it's better than the dangerous options of the 'bomb or the bombing.' And if negotiations fail, then there will be legitimacy to take preventive action to stop Iran,' he said.

Yadlin, who helped persuade then-defense minister Ehud Barak and Netanyahu back in 2010 not to strike Iran, said that the probability for a successful Israeli attack against Tehran's nuclear program would soon diminish.

'It can be the last quarter of 2013 or the first, second or even third quarter of 2014. There is not a certain deadline, but the probability of success will eventually decrease to a level that may change the decision to launch the attack.'"

Countering Anti-Israel Evangelism
 
Anti-Israel activism in U.S. church circles has increased in recent years especially among some evangelical elites. Mainline Protestant elites have been anti-Israel for decades.

Last fall officials of several Mainline denominations urged Congress to reconsider U.S. military aid to Israel, prompting Jewish groups to cancel interfaith dialogue. More politically significant have been exertions to shift evangelicals away from their historically strong affinity for Israel.

For the last several years anti-Israel evangelicals have hosted a “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference in Bethlehem featuring some prominent U.S. evangelicals. Last year’s included evangelist Tony Campolo, a spiritual counselor to President Bill Clinton, and Florida mega church pastor Joel Hunter, a spiritual counselor to President Barack Obama.

The next “Christ at the Checkpoint” is February 2014 and will feature Geoff Tunnicliffe, head of the World Evangelical Alliance. There will also be a Dallas Southern Baptist pastor, despite his denomination’s strong support for Israel.

Additionally speaking is Gary Burge of Wheaton College, himself a prominent author critical of Israel who teaches at America’s most prestigious evangelical college. Anti-Israel sentiment among evangelical elites is strongest in academia and in international relief and missions groups.

In November the Alliance for Baptists, a liberal Baptist denomination, will host Waging Peace and Justice in Palestine in Washington, D.C. at a prominent Calvary Baptist Church, which President Obama has attended.

The featured speaker will be a Lutheran Palestinian pastor who in 2009 backed the anti-Israel Christian manifesto Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth, which Western church groups often cite.

And in December, Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA) will host a similar but much larger advocacy event in Philadelphia called Impact Holy Land, featuring prominent Palestinian clergy and U.S. evangelicals.

ESA is now co-headed by Pentecostal academic Paul Alexander, who helped push the Society for Pentecostal Studies in a more Palestinian direction at a 2012 meeting at Pat Robertson’s Regents University.

Anti-Israel activism by Mainline Protestants is often motivated by residual Liberation Theology. For evangelicals, it’s concern about Palestinian Christians, hopes for better relations with Muslims, neo-Anabaptist pacifism discomfited by Israeli military strength, and disenchantment with the old Religious Right’s strong support for Israel.

Responding to these currents, Anglican theologian Gerald McDermott of Roanoke College in Virginia recently defended Christian support for Israel to a mostly liberal-leaning audience of the International Council of Christians and Jews meeting in Chicago, receiving a mixed response. His arguments merit a larger audience.

The critique of pro-Israel evangelicals particularly has been that their motivation rests on end-times theology, controversial even among conservative Christians. McDermott offered broader historical and pragmatic arguments for Christian friendship towards Israel.

McDermott cited the infamous 2006 essay in the London Review of Books by foreign policy scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt that alleged an “Israel Lobby” manipulates U.S. foreign policy and that it is “far from what the national interest would suggest.”

He also referenced a broader understanding of Christian Zionism rooted in American civil religion. The Christian Zionism most commonly criticized and caricatured originated in 19th century premillenialist dispensationalism founded by English pastor John Nelson Darby and popularized by Bible commentator Cyrus Scofield. It asserted that the Jews would rightfully return to their homeland before Christ’s return.

Darby’s modern adherents have included Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Hal Lindsey and John Hagee. McDermott notes that critics complain this sort of Zionism is prone to “ignore the legitimate needs of Palestinians, to support Israel right or wrong and even think Israel can do no wrong, to see the Middle East conflict solely in religious terms, and to ignore indigenous Christians in the region — both Jewish and Arab.”

Christian interest in a Jewish return to Zion actually goes back earlier than Darby, McDermott recalled, especially to the Puritans of Britain and New England in the 17th century. Eighteenth century philosopher-theologian Jonathan Edwards, on whom McDermott has written five books, espoused that perspective.

Early American Calvinist philo-Semitism in fact inoculated America against Europe’s more virulent forms of anti-Semitism, McDermott suggested. It was propelled largely by Christians noticing that the Old Testament refers to “the land” 2,500 times, that at the heart of God’s covenant with Israel is the promise of that land, and that the return of Jews to the land in the last two centuries is a partial fulfillment of biblical prophecies.

Meanwhile, 19th century Protestant philo-Semitism in Britain fueled the Christian Zionism leading to Britain’s Balfour Declaration in 1917 affirming support for a Jewish state. Some English Zionists theorized that God judges nations by their treatment of Jews, contrasting Spain’s 1492 expulsion of Jews and Spain’s subsequent ultimate decline with Britain’s rising glory after Puritan Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell invited Jews to return after four centuries.

In mind to these Christian Zionists was the divine promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Some American Christian Zionists today, such as prominent Southern Baptist leader Richard Land, also commonly quote that passage.

Twentieth century evangelicals were gratified by Israel’s creation in 1947 while liberal Protestants were often more ambivalent. Catholic and liberal Protestant affirmations of God’s continuing spiritual covenant with Jews typically omit any connection to the land of Israel, which many Jewish interfaith partners “believe is an indispensable manifestation of the covenant.”

McDermott addressed how Christians should view the occupation of the West Bank, which liberal Protestants and some non-Zionist evangelicals routinely denounce. He said the “charge of illegal occupation must… be rejected” because “Israel has made repeated efforts to comply with UN stipulations for the territories, while its Arab neighbors have not.”

And he cited Israel’s willingness in the 1993 Oslo Accord to cede 92 percent of the West Bank, which Palestinians rejected, as the latest example. McDermott noted that Jews have inhabited ancient Samaria (the West Bank) for over 3,000 years, while many anti-Zionists demand a Jewish-free West Bank as requisite for peace.

“What other country has been required to give up land that it won in a defensive war?” he asked. “Do Germans displaced from Königsberg clamor and agitate for that German city to be returned to them by the victorious Russians?”

Today most Christian Zionists “generally think we need more humility when criticizing Israelis for how they treat Palestinians — particularly when the much-criticized fence (more popularly known as ‘the wall’) has nearly eliminated the suicide bombings that were once a weekly occurrence,” McDermott said.

“They wonder how we would respond if we experienced a succession of 9/11-like attacks, regularly over several years, in a country the size of New Jersey or one-seventeenth the size of Germany, where nearly everyone knows someone who has been killed or maimed.” They also notice that critics of Israel hypocritically condemn Israel for alleged human rights abuses but typically ignore Iran, Syria, China, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia.

McDermott suggested non-theological, pragmatic reasons for a pro-Israel stance, such as its status as the “only true liberal democracy in the Middle East — which therefore offers the best environment for human flourishing — but also because it is good for Palestinians.”

Israel is the only Middle Eastern country with “freedoms of speech and press, free trade unions, and religious freedom — for women, ethnic and religious minorities, and homosexuals.” Overall, the 1.3 million Israeli Arabs are the “best-educated, healthiest, and best-fed Palestinians in the Middle East,” thanks mostly to their “citizenship or other participation in the Israeli state.”

Meanwhile, Palestinians under the Palestinian Authority have received per capita every year more foreign aid than the average annual salary in Egypt. Yet Jimmy Carter, a liberal Baptist, and others routinely denounce Israel for practicing “apartheid,” even while Palestinians in Israel have citizenship rights.

“No matter how Israel responds to the current political crisis, Christian Zionists will continue to believe that the land of Israel remains theologically important and that the Jews continue to have an important role in the history of redemption,” McDermott concluded.

“This is the contribution which Christian Zionists have made to the Christian debates about Israel.” Unlike more liberal Christians, evangelicals have “insisted that the Christian church has not replaced the Jews without remainder, that the old and new covenants were integrally connected in the time of Jesus and remain so today, and that if the covenant with Israel is eternal then the promise of land is also still significant.”

Hopefully McDermott’s message about Christians and Israel, linked by both common faith and common adherence to democratic liberty, will resonate among Christians otherwise theologically divided by modern Israel’s exact theological significance.

But more work will be needed to counter events like “Christ at the Checkpoint” that target clergy and young evangelicals especially with superficial appeals for peace and solidarity.

Palestinians Make Stiff Land Demands For Peace Deal
 
The Palestinian Authority demands that any land swap with Israel as part of a peace deal not exceed 1.9 percent of the West Bank, less than half of the land necessary to incorporate the lion’s share of settlers, according to details leaked to Channel 2 by a disgruntled Palestinian official on Sunday.

According to the report, the Palestinians are also insisting that they gain control over water, and control at their sides of the Dead Sea and border crossings; that a Palestinian state be able to sign agreements with other states without Israeli intervention; that Israel release all Palestinian prisoners it holds; and that all Palestinian refugees and their descendants be granted the right to choose to live in Israel or the Palestinian territories as part of a final agreement.

The report made no mention of Israel’s position on these issues, but the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been wary of a Palestinian state exercising full sovereign powers that might threaten Israeli security, and all Israeli governments have rejected the possibility of anything other than a token influx of Palestinian refugees, for fear of remaking the demographic balance of the Jewish state.

Israel, for its part, according to the TV report, has demanded that any peace deal provide Israel with territorial contiguity, that there be an IDF presence in the Jordan Valley for a prescribed period of time, and that, in addition to border adjustments covered by the land swaps, further land be annexed by Israel to cover the major settlement blocs in return for financial compensation to the Palestinians.

In previous rounds of negotiations, the Palestinians agreed in principle to swap some West Bank land for Israeli territory, in order to allow Israel to annex some settled areas adjacent to its border. Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin has estimated that annexation of 4% of the West Bank would be necessary to incorporate 80% of the settler population in a final agreement.

The US-brokered peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority reportedly reached an impasse last month due to the Israeli refusal to discuss land-swap and border issues. Sunday’s report would appear to indicate that the sides have broached the subject.

Israeli and Palestinian officials agreed ahead of the renewal of talks in July not to speak to the press about the progress of negotiations, but Justice Minister and chief negotiator Tzipi Livni on Sunday remarked in an interview with Channel 2 that the sides had yet to reach an agreement.

Asked whether, now that nearly one-third of the nine-month time-frame — set by US Secretary of State John Kerry for the talks — has elapsed, negotiations were one-third completed, Livni tersely replied, “It doesn’t work like that.”

Earlier on Sunday, the Israeli cabinet approved the release of 26 Palestinian prisoners, the second phase of a four-stage release aimed at building confidence with the Palestinians.

A government statement said 21 of the inmates to be released were from the West Bank and five were from the Gaza Strip. “A list of the prisoners is to be published Sunday night on the website of the Israel Prisons Service, after the bereaved families have been informed,” the statement said.

All of the prisoners committed their crimes before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.

The releases were expected to be accompanied by the announcement of new plans for West Bank settlement construction, a senior Israeli official said.

The religious, nationalist Jewish Home party has bitterly attacked the planned prisoner releases in recent days. On Sunday, the party proposed legislation to prevent future releases. Opposed by Netanyahu, the bill was rejected by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in an 8-5 vote.

3. A Revived Roman Empire
 
EU Proposal To Monitor "Intolerant" Citizens
 
While European leaders are busy expressing public indignation over reports of American espionage operations in the European Union, the European Parliament is quietly considering a proposal that calls for the direct surveillance of any EU citizen suspected of being "intolerant."

Critics say the measure -- which seeks to force the national governments of all 28 EU member states to establish "special administrative units" to monitor any individual or group expressing views that the self-appointed guardians of European multiculturalism deem to be "intolerant" -- represents an unparalleled threat to free speech in a Europe where citizens are already regularly punished for expressing the "wrong" opinions, especially about Islam.

The proposed European Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance was recently presented to members of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, the only directly-elected body of the European Union.

The policy proposal was drafted by the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation (ECTR), a non-governmental organization established in Paris in 2008 by the former president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, and the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor.

The ECTR -- which describes itself as a "tolerance watchdog" that "prepares practical recommendations to governments and international organizations on improving interreligious and interethnic relations on the continent" -- includes on its board more than a dozen prominent European politicians, including former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar.

The ECTR first presented its proposal for a Europe-wide Law on Tolerance to the European Parliament in November 2008 as part of the European Week of Tolerance that marked the 70th anniversary of the Kristallnacht, a night of anti-Semitic violence that began the Jewish Holocaust in Germany.

After five years of lobbying in Europe's halls of power, the ECTR proposal appears to be making headway, as evidenced by the European Parliament's recent decision to give the group a prominent 45-minute time slot to present its proposal to the Civil Liberties committee on September 17.

Also known as the "Model Statute for Tolerance," the ECTR's proposal was presented as part of the EU's ongoing work towards a new "Equal Treatment Directive" (ETD) that would vastly expand the scope of discrimination to all sectors of life in both the public and private spheres.

Critics of the ETD, currently being negotiated within the Council of the European Union, say the directive seeks to establish an ill-conceived concept of "equal treatment" as a horizontal principle governing the relationships between all and everyone, thus interfering with the right of self-determination of all citizens.

According to European Dignity Watch, a civil rights watchdog based in Brussels,

The principles of freedom of contract and the freedom to live according to one's personal moral views are in danger of being superseded by a newly developed concept of 'equality.' It would undermine freedom and self-determination for all Europeans and subject the private life of citizens to legal uncertainty and the control of bureaucrats.

It is about governmental control of social behavior of citizens. These tendencies begin to give the impression of long-passed totalitarian ideas and constitute an unprecedented attack on citizens' rights.

When viewed in the broader context of the ETD, the ECTR document is so audacious in scope, while at the same time so vague in defining its terminology, that critics say the proposal, if implemented, would open a Pandora's Box of abuse, thereby effectively shutting down the right to free speech in Europe.

According to Section 1 (d), for example, the term "tolerance" is broadly defined as "respect for and acceptance of the expression, preservation and development of the distinct identity of a group." Section 2 (d) states that the purpose of the statute is to "condemn all manifestations of intolerance based on bias, bigotry and prejudice."

An explanatory note to Section 2 states: "Religious intolerance is understood to cover Islamophobia" but it provides no definition at all of "Islamophobia," a term invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1990s. If taken to its logical conclusion, Section 2 would presumably ban all critical scrutiny of Islam and Islamic Sharia law, a key objective of Muslim activist groups for more than two decades.

The document also declares that "tolerance must be practiced not only by governmental bodies but equally by individuals." Section 3 (iv) elaborates on this: "Guarantee of tolerance must be understood not only as a vertical relationship (government-to-individuals) but also as a horizontal relationship (group-to-group and person-to-person). It is the obligation of the government to ensure that intolerance is not practiced either in vertical or in horizontal relationships."

According to Section 4 (f) (i) of the document: "There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant. This is especially important as far as freedom of expression is concerned." Section 5 (a) states: "Tolerance (as defined in Section 1(d)) must be guaranteed to any group, whether it has long-standing societal roots or it is recently formed, especially as a result of migration from abroad."

Section 6 states: "It goes without saying that enactment of a Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance does not suffice by itself. There must be a mechanism in place ensuring that the Statute does not remain on paper and is actually implemented in the world of reality."

An explanatory note to Section 6 (a) states: "Members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups are entitled to a special protection, additional to the general protection that has to be provided by the Government to every person within the State." Another note adds: "The special protection afforded to members of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups may imply a preferential treatment. Strictly speaking, this preferential treatment goes beyond mere respect and acceptance lying at the root of tolerance."

Section 6 (b) demands that every one of the 28 member states of the EU "set up a special administrative unit in order to supervise the implementation of this Statute." An explanatory note adds: "The special administrative unit should preferably operate within the Ministry of Justice (although the Ministry of the Interior is another reasonable possibility)."

Section 6 (c) calls for the establishment of a "National Tolerance Monitoring Commission as an independent body -- composed of eminent persons from outside the civil service -- vested with the authority to promote tolerance." An explanatory note adds: "The independent Commission will be empowered to express its views regarding implementation of the Statute by all concerned. Implementation in this context includes (but is not limited to) the imposition of penal sanctions."

Section 7 (a) states: "The following acts will be regarded as criminal offences punishable as aggravated crimes: Incitement to violence against a group and group libel. "Group libel" is broadly defined as: "defamatory comments made in public and aimed against a group or members thereof with a view to inciting to violence, slandering the group, holding it to ridicule or subjecting it to false charges."

Section 7 (b) states that "Juveniles convicted of committing crimes listed in paragraph (a) will be required to undergo a rehabilitation program designed to instill in them a culture of tolerance." Paragraph 7 (e) states that "victims of crimes listed in paragraph (a) will have a legal standing to bring a case against the perpetrators, as well as a right to redress." Paragraph 7 (f) states that "free legal aid will be offered to victims of crimes listed in paragraph (a), irrespective of qualification in terms of impecuniosity."

Section 8 states that "the government shall ensure that (a) Schools, from the primary level upwards, will introduce courses encouraging students to accept diversity and promoting a climate of tolerance as regards the qualities and cultures of others." An explanatory note adds: "It is very important to start such courses as early as possible in the educational program, i.e. in elementary school. Yet, these courses must be offered also at higher levels of education, up to and including universities."

Section 9 (a) states: "The government shall ensure that public broadcasting (television and radio) stations will devote a prescribed percentage of their program to promoting a climate of tolerance." Section 9 (b) adds: "The government shall encourage all privately owned mass media (including the printed press) to promote a climate of tolerance." Section 9 (c) states: "The government shall encourage all the mass media (public as well as private) to adopt an ethical code of conduct, which will prevent the spreading of intolerance and will be supervised by a mass media complaints commission."

The document, if adopted by the European Parliament in its current form, would -- among other problems -- establish a right to a freedom from hurt feelings at the expense of the freedom of speech and expression.

In practical terms, critics say, the highly subjective definition of terms and concepts such as "tolerance," "discrimination," "vulnerable," and "disadvantaged," amounts to a legal straitjacket that would encourage frivolous litigation aimed at silencing individuals and groups, or at finding circumlocutions that appear to avoid violating these principles.

"Faith-based groups and schools, adherents of a particular religion or even just parents who want to teach their children certain moral values would all be put under general suspicion of being intolerant," according to European Dignity Watch.

"Even worse, if enshrined as EU policy, such language also could lead to the possibility that charges are brought on unclear or even without legal grounds. The chilling result of this would be the dramatic diminution (and possible disappearance) of the fundamental freedom of expression -- individuals and groups would censor themselves, afraid that they might be prosecuted for expressing their own personal moral views," the NGO argues in a statement.

"The authors of this proposed statute -- under the aegis of an international NGO for tolerance and reconciliation -- have invited the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee to endorse it as a legal project. But not only would an adoption of this statute at the national level of the European states be a significant step backward," the statement concludes, "but the supra-national surveillance that it would imply would certainly be a dark day for European democracy."

4. The Gog/Magog War
 
‘Russia Eyes Egypt’s Ports In Bid To Boost Military Presence’
 
Russia has been seeking to upgrade its military ties with Egypt in an effort to augment its limited access to the Mediterranean and bolster its navy’s presence in the region, the London Times reported Sunday.

According to the report, Moscow has been shopping for alternatives to the Tartus port in Syria, where it maintains a limited naval facility, due to fears that President Bashar Assad’s regime will eventually be toppled by rebel forces.

The Times of Israel could not independently confirm the report.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia would seek to maintain a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean, but experts say the base in Tartus can’t provide sufficient support for such a presence and is too small for large ships.

“Tartus is vulnerable and not good enough and the Egyptian ports are perfect for the Russian navy,” the Times quoted an unnamed Israeli defense source as saying.

An Egyptian diplomatic delegation was in Moscow over the weekend for meetings with Russian officials. According to the Times, the purpose of the trip was to lay the groundwork for a visit to Cairo by Putin.

Egypt, whose relationship with the US has been suffering in the wake of recent political turmoil in the country, has been on the lookout for a new military patron, and Russia’s need for a larger, more reliable port of call in the Middle East could present a confluence of interests for Cairo and Moscow.

On October 19, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Egypt was looking to Russia to supply it with arms after the US froze much of its military aid in protest over the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi.

Dissatisfied with Egypt’s progress toward reinstating a democratic government, the US announced earlier this month that it was freezing a sizable portion of the $1.5 billion it provides Egypt each year.

US officials said the aid being withheld included 10 Apache helicopters, at a cost of more than $500 million, M1A1 tank kits and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The US had already suspended the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets and canceled biennial US-Egyptian military exercises.

Israel has reportedly argued “directly and bluntly” with the Obama administration against cutting aid to Egypt, telling Washington it was making “a strategic error” in reducing financial assistance to Cairo.

A renewed alliance with Moscow – the Soviet Union was Cairo’s chief backer for much of the second half of the twentieth century – could also infuse Egypt’s ebbing economy with much-needed tourism and investments.

Another ally of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, said Saturday that it had boosted its aid pledges to Egypt’s military-backed government to a total of $4.9 billion.

The deal, signed for $1.9 billion in new loans, fuel supplies and other assistance, came during a visit to Abu Dhabi by Egyptian interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi.

7. Increase In Knowledge/New Technologies

A Look Into Facebook's Potential To Recognize Anybody's Face
 
Revelations about NSA spying have left people wondering about the privacy of their digital data. But what about the privacy of their faces?

The movies make facial recognition look easy: In the 1998 film Enemy of the State, a team of NSA agents simply freeze a surveillance tape, tap some keys and identify the face a few computer beeps later.

But Neeraj Kumar, an expert in computer vision at the University of Washington, says we're nowhere close to just grabbing anybody's face off a security camera and coming up with a name.

Facial recognition has become pretty good at one-to-one comparisons — for instance, checking your face against the photo on your company ID. The accuracy is up to 95 percent.

But that's not so good if you're trying to come up with a name, and you're comparing one photo against many possible matches.

"Each time you do a comparison, there's 5 percent chance that it's wrong," Kumar says. "And that adds up. In fact, it multiplies up. Very quickly, you find that a 95 percent accuracy leads to pretty terrible results when you're actually trying to answer the question of, 'Who is this person?' "

Universal Challenges

That's a hard question for a computer. It's even harder when you ask it to identify a face in what experts call an "image from the wild."

"You're looking at surveillance-type images from low-resolution cameras," says Manuel Cueva, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who trains officers in their facial recognition system. "If the image is such poor quality, you may not get any results, period."

The software can get confused by shadows and weird angles. Even a goofy smile can throw it. So that's problem one.

Problem two in this quest for universal facial recognition is that the software needs to compare one picture to another. In LA County, for instance, officials will run the image against their booking photos — about 6 million mug shots.

But if you've never been arrested in LA County, their system won't name you. And that's usually the end of it.

"There really isn't a set standard that we follow to be able to extend our searches into other jurisdictions," Cueva says.

Some agencies and states are working to increase sharing of mug shots and department of motor vehicles photos. But as of right now, we simply don't have a universal database of faces.

Or ... do we?

A Billion Custom Facial Models

Look at Facebook, says Amie Stepanovich, director of the domestic surveillance project at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C.

Facebook has the largest biometric database in the world — "and it's all been formed by people voluntarily submitting pictures to Facebook and identifying who they belong to," she says.

Theoretically, every time you label faces by tagging a picture, you're chipping away at those two big challenges for universal facial recognition. First, you're helping to build a super-database of labeled faces. Second, you're uploading multiple versions of each person's face, which can improve a system's accuracy.

Face Space

A bigger facial recognition database could allow Facebook to collect more data about whom we are interacting with in the real world.

Sean Mullin, CEO of BI2 Technologies, scans his own eye with the MORIS, or Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System. The device attaches to an iPhone and allows police in the field to scan a person's iris, face or fingerprint and then check it against a database to verify his or her identity.

"If you had lots of photos of each person ... you could build a model for Martin, a model for me, a model for other people. Now you have a custom-tuned model for each person," Kumar, from the University of Washington, says.

Multiply that by a billion — a billion custom-tuned facial "models."

Facebook would not answer NPR's questions about what it does with facial recognition information; social media companies rarely talk about their internal systems.

But they're surely aware of their huge database's potential. Last year, Facebook bought Face.com, whose company's founders had published a paper titled "Leveraging Billions of Faces to Overcome Performance Barriers in Unconstrained Face Recognition."

Transparency And Possibility

Stepanovich wants social media companies to explain how facial models can be used. On Facebook, for example, you can't identify faces of people who aren't already your "friends," but she wonders if, behind the scenes, Facebook can do broader searches — say, at the request of the government.

"As we're seeing specifically over the past few months, no matter how much a company attempts to protect your privacy, if they're collecting information about you, that information is vulnerable to government search," Stepanovich says.

Facebook won't say whether this is technically possible; Google, which offers the competing Google Plus service, also won't comment on the record about the feasibility of broader face searches.

Kumar doubts anyone is doing universal searches of Facebook faces. He says the numbers are just too big.

However, if social media companies are able to narrow the search — say, if they can compare a photo with the facial models of everybody who "likes" NPR, or everybody who lives in Des Moines — then, Kumar says, you'd have the makings of a useful search tool.

A Chip In The Head: Brain Implants Will Be Connecting People To The Internet By The Year 2020
 
Would you like to surf the Internet, make a phone call or send a text message using only your brain? Would you like to “download” the content of a 500 page book into your memory in less than a second? Would you like to have extremely advanced nanobots constantly crawling around in your body monitoring it for disease?

Would you like to be able to instantly access the collective knowledge base of humanity wherever you are? All of that may sound like science fiction, but these are technologies that some of the most powerful high tech firms in the world actually believe are achievable by the year 2020.

However, with all of the potential “benefits” that such technology could bring, there is also the potential for great tyranny. Just think about it. What do you think that the governments of the world could do if almost everyone had a mind reading brain implant that was connected to the Internet? Could those implants be used to control and manipulate us? Those are frightening things to consider.

For now, most of the scientists that are working on brain implant technology do not seem to be too worried about those kinds of concerns. Instead, they are pressing ahead into realms that were once considered to be impossible.

Right now, there are approximately 100,000 people around the world that have implants in their brains. Most of those are for medical reasons.

But this is just the beginning. According to the Boston Globe, the U.S. government plans “to spend more than $70 million over five years to jump to the next level of brain implants”.

This new project is being called the Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS), and the goal is to be able to monitor the “mental health” of soldiers and veterans. The following is how a recent CNET article described SUBNETS…

SUBNETS is inspired by Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a surgical treatment that involves implanting a brain pacemaker in the patient’s skull to interfere with brain activity to help with symptoms of diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson’s. DARPA’s device will be similar, but rather than targeting one specific symptom, it will be able to monitor and analyse data in real time and issue a specific intervention according to brain activity.

This kind of technology is being developed by the private sector as well. In fact, according to Scientific American scientists are becoming increasingly excited about how brain implants can be used to “reboot” the brains of people with depression…

Psychological depression is more than an emotional state. Good evidence for that comes from emerging new uses for a technology already widely prescribed for Parkinson’s patients. The more neurologists and surgeons learn about the aptly named deep brain stimulation, the more they are convinced that the currents from the technology’s implanted electrodes can literally reboot brain circuits involved with the mood disorder.

Would you like to have your brain “rebooted” by a chip inside your head?

And of course this is how brain implants will be marketed to the public at first. They will be sold as something that has great “health benefits”. For example, one firm has developed a brain implant that can detect and treat epileptic seizures…

The NeuroPace RNS is the first implant to listen to brain waves and autonomously decide when to apply a therapy to prevent an epileptic seizure. It was developed by a company with a staff of less than 90 people, only about 30 on the core electronic, mechanical, and software engineering teams.

A different team of researchers has discovered that it can stimulate the repair of brain tissue in rats using brain implants…

Stroke and Parkinson’s Disease patients may benefit from a controversial experiment that implanted microchips into lab rats. Scientists say the tests produced effective results in brain damage research.

Rats showed motor function in formerly damaged gray matter after a neural microchip was implanted under the rat’s skull and electrodes were transferred to the rat’s brain. Without the microchip, rats with damaged brain tissue did not have motor function. Both strokes and Parkinson’s can cause permanent neurological damage to brain tissue, so this scientific research brings hope.

Most of us won’t need brain implants for medical reasons though.

So how will they be marketed to the rest of us?

Well, what if you were told that they could give you “super powers”?

Would you want a brain implant then?

The following is a short excerpt from a recent Scientific American article…

Our world is determined by the limits of our five senses. We can’t hear pitches that are too high or low, nor can we see ultraviolet or infrared light—even though these phenomena are not fundamentally different from the sounds and sights that our ears and eyes can detect. But what if it were possible to widen our sensory boundaries beyond the physical limitations of our anatomy?

In a study published recently in Nature Communications, scientists used brain implants to teach rats to “see” infrared light, which they usually find invisible. The implications are tremendous: if the brain is so flexible it can learn to process novel sensory signals, people could one day feel touch through prosthetic limbs, see heat via infrared light or even develop a sixth sense for magnetic north.

And some very prominent Internet firms simply take it for granted that most of us will eventually have brain implants that connect us directly to the Internet…

Google has a plan. Eventually it wants to get into your brain. “When you think about something and don’t really know much about it, you will automatically get information,” Google CEO Larry Page said in Steven Levy’s book, “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes Our Lives.” “Eventually you’ll have an implant, where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.”

At this point you might be thinking that this will never happen because getting a brain implant is a very complicated and expensive procedure.

Well, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, that is not actually true. In fact, the typical procedure is very quick and often only requires just an overnight stay in the hospital…

Neural implants, also called brain implants, are medical devices designed to be placed under the skull, on the surface of the brain. Often as small as an aspirin, implants use thin metal electrodes to “listen” to brain activity and in some cases to stimulate activity in the brain. Attuned to the activity between neurons, a neural implant can essentially “listen” to your brain activity and then “talk” directly to your brain.

If that prospect makes you queasy, you may be surprised to learn that the installation of a neural implant is relatively simple and fast. Under anesthesia, an incision is made in the scalp, a hole is drilled in the skull, and the device is placed on the surface of the brain. Diagnostic communication with the device can take place wirelessly. When it is not an outpatient procedure, patients typically require only an overnight stay at the hospital.

In the future, the minds of most people could potentially be connected to the Internet 24 hours a day. Imagine sending an email or answering your phone by just thinking about it. According to the New York Times, this is where we are eventually heading…

Soon, we might interact with our smartphones and computers simply by using our minds. In a couple of years, we could be turning on the lights at home just by thinking about it, or sending an e-mail from our smartphone without even pulling the device from our pocket. Farther into the future, your robot assistant will appear by your side with a glass of lemonade simply because it knows you are thirsty.

Researchers in Samsung’s Emerging Technology Lab are testing tablets that can be controlled by your brain, using a cap that resembles a ski hat studded with monitoring electrodes, the MIT Technology Review, the science and technology journal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported this month.

The technology, often called a brain computer interface, was conceived to enable people with paralysis and other disabilities to interact with computers or control robotic arms, all by simply thinking about such actions. Before long, these technologies could well be in consumer electronics, too.

So how far away is such technology?

According to a Computer World UK article, Intel believes that they will have Internet-connected brain implants in people’s heads by the year 2020…

By the year 2020, you won’t need a keyboard and mouse to control your computer, say Intel researchers. Instead, users will open documents and surf the web using nothing more than their brain waves.

Scientists at Intel’s research lab in Pittsburgh are working to find ways to read and harness human brain waves so they can be used to operate computers, television sets and cell phones. The brain waves would be harnessed with Intel-developed sensors implanted in people’s brains.

The scientists say the plan is not a scene from a sci-fi movie, Big Brother won’t be planting chips in your brain against your will. Researchers expect that consumers will want the freedom they will gain by using the implant.

And that would only be the tip of the iceberg. Futurist Ray Kurzweil is actually convinced that we will all eventually have hordes of nanobots running around our bodies monitoring our health and looking for disease…

‘Bridge two (is) the biotechnology revolution, where we can reprogram biology away from disease.

‘And that is not the end-all either.

‘Bridge three is to go beyond biology, to the nanotechnology revolution.

‘At that point we can have little robots, sometimes called nanobots, that augment your immune system.

‘We can create an immune system that recognizes all disease, and if a new disease emerged, it could be reprogrammed to deal with new pathogens.’

Such robots, according to Kurzweil, will help fight diseases, improve health and allow people to remain active for longer.

Are you ready for this kind of a future?

These technologies are being developed right now, and they will be enthusiastically adopted by a large segment of the general public.

At some point in the future, having a brain implant may be as common as it is to use a smart phone today.

Consumers Want Biometric Authentication
 
Consumers want to see biometric authentication options for their smartphones and tablets as a way of protecting themselves from mobile threats, according to a Zogby poll featured in an article in Investor Ideas.

The poll also showed that people are reliant on their smartphones for making purchases and conducting other financial transactions while at the same time the vast majority of smartphone users do little to secure their devices.

Easier than Passwords

More than half of those surveyed would be willing to use fingerprint authentication for smartphone security. Users were also interested in retinal scans and photo identification as a way to provide security authentication. "Using biometric authentication is gaining in popularity because it is perceived that it will be more convenient than passwords," Andy Steingruebl, PayPal's director of ecosystem security, told Jonathan Camhi in a recent article in Bank Systems and Technology.

It is easy to see why, as mobile commerce continues to grow, biometrics would be more convenient than using passwords. The current size and design of smartphones can make simple typing difficult, and passwords — often requiring capitalization, numerics and special characters — can be even more complicated.

Many users store passwords on their devices to avoid this annoyance, which is not a good security practice. A fingerprint or retinal scan would encourage users to practice better security habits.

A Security Boost for Customers

Smartphone owners are using their device to make at least a quarter of all their purchases, the Zogby poll found. Yet the majority of users do not take even the smallest security step — locking the phone with a PIN — to protect the data stored on the device.

Biometric authentication could be the competitive edge a midsize company needs to make itself standout in the crowd. Mobile devices give IT departments a lot of flexibility on the type of security to implement. Smartphones and tablets have built in cameras and microphones that allow facial or voice recognition to be an option, for example, and websites can be designed to accept fingerprint authentication.

The primary concern with this type of personal data has been storage and privacy. For commercial and business purposes, storage of the data will be on the shoulders of the company's IT department. This could be the sticking point for midsize businesses with a limited budget.

The data will require secure storage space, either on-site or in the cloud. It will also require IT departments to provide assurances of privacy to their customers indicating that their fingerprints or their facial features are safe from hackers. The question for midsize companies is whether the expense is worth it.

Before testing any new security feature or addition to a network, backups should be in place in case of a problem with the data. There will also be a need for a backup to biometric authentication as there can be security issues with new software as well.

Facial recognition software now requires the user to blink because often the software cannot tell the difference between a live person and a photo.

Similarly, a fingerprint scan might be smudged. In these types of situations, a security question or password might also be required. In fact, the safest form of security is to pair biometric recognition with another form of authentication.

Consumers are using their mobile devices more than ever for purchases, but they do not want to be bothered with worrying about security. Given the popularity of mobile devices, security measures need to be put in place that are both safe and easy to use.

As the bring-your-own-device movement also continues to increase in popularity, it will be up to IT departments to do more on their end to provide better protection for customers and for employees, and biometric authentication may be part of the solution.
Concerns Grow Over Testing Of Real Life "Terminator" Robots
As head of computer science at RPI, James Handler knows more about robotics and artificial intelligence than most people. So when he says the time is now for a ban on so-called "killer robots" -— machines with weaponry and decision-making power to kill, without human oversight -— it's reasonable to listen.

Last week, Hendler was among nearly 300 scientists from three dozen countries who signed a statement to the United Nations calling for governments to stop such robotic technology, which has long been the stuff of dystopian science fiction and films as far back as the 1927 silent German classic "Metropolis."

While the public might envision something along the lines of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the "Terminator" movies, the military term for such weapons is "lethally autonomous robots," or LARS, meaning the machine's artificial intelligence would select and destroy targets, human or otherwise. The lethal machine could be a flying drone, tank, vessel, vehicle or fixed weapon that could sense its surroundings and fire based on its findings.

"The first generation of such machines are already being tested by some countries," said Hendler, a 56-year-old expert in robotics and artificial intelligence and former scientific adviser to the Air Force who joined RPI in 2006. In Troy, his research involves something called the semantic web, an extension of the World Wide Web to enable computers to interpret the meaning and context of words and numbers.

This year, he was named director of the RPI Institute for Data Exploration and Applications, a $60 million project to explore applications of so-called "Big Data," based on increasingly powerful computing, artificial intelligence and device networking over an expanding Internet.

During the 1990s, when Hendler headed a robotics lab at the University of Maryland, the idea of "weaponizing" robots, which were still relatively clumsy devices, was still theoretical. Now, he said, the technology, particularly the sciences of target recognition and cognitive computing, has caught up. In cognitive computing, systems are trained using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to sense, predict, infer and, in some ways, think, according to experts.

"For the time being, such robots are still expensive, hard to build and owned by very few," Hendler said. "But we are at a cusp in time when that won't be the case. And it will be very hard to put these things back in the box."

This week, at the U.N., diplomats from Egypt, France and Switzerland proposed regulating "killer robots" while the technology is still developing, becoming some of the first international voices to back calls that groups like Human Rights Watch and Campaign to Stop Killer Robots began raising last year.

The idea that man-made machines, once capable of independent action, could turn on their creator has long haunted science-fiction writers. So troubling was this scenario that prominent writer Isaac Asimov, when he began writing about robots in the 1940s, made his first law of robotics this: A robot must not harm a human, or cause a human to come to harm through its inaction. In his second law, robots had to obey humans unless obeying violated this directive.

Hendler said he is less worried about legions of lethal robots turning against humankind in general, than he is about such killing machines being used by criminal gangs, terrorist groups, military strongmen or dictatorships.

For example, during the 2011 civilian uprising in Egypt, the army refused orders from the government to suppress protesters. But if the government had squads of lethal robots to deploy, a massacre could have ensued as machines blindly followed commands without the moral choice faced by human soldiers.

"We are not facing Terminators yet," Hendler said. "But some of these technologies are very close and within a decade will be there. Most of the science fiction about use of robots contained these ethical dimensions. But when you look at the military arenas where developments are taking place, you are not seeing these ethical issues being raised."

Hendler said he "wanted to see these discussions taking place now, while these things are just starting to come out. We need to have roboticists, ethicists and government officials talking about this now."

8. Christian Worldview/Issues

Young Adults Who Abandon Faith May Have 'Lukewarm' Upbringing
 
The idea that young adults are abandoning their faith in droves may be widely accepted but isn't fully accurate. So says a Focus on the Family study that casts light on trends among young adults that may contradict doomsday predictions for the Christian faith.

The study, titled "Millennial Faith Participation and Retention," tracked the religious trends of Millennials (usually those born between 1980 and 2000) and found that only a fraction are leaving their childhood faith -- usually because they may not have had much of one to begin with.

The study utilizes data from the Pew research sources and the National Science Foundation's annual General Social Survey.

About a fifth (18 percent) of young adults raised in homes with any measure of religious influence are now unaffiliated with a specific faith, according to the Focus on the Family analysis. Sixty (60) percent of Millennials, meanwhile, categorize themselves as "keeping faith."

Of those who are unaffiliated, only 11 percent said they had a strong faith as a child and lived in a home where a vibrant faith was practiced and taught. In other words, the vast majority of young adults leaving Christianity never had a strong faith to start with.

"This is not a crisis of faith, per se, but of parenting," the Focus on the Family study noted.

"Parents who provide a home where faith is vibrantly practiced -- even imperfectly -- are remarkably likely to create young adults who remain serious Christians, even as they sometimes go through bumpy spots in the road," the study said. "[N]ot surprisingly, homes modeling lukewarm faith do not create enduring faith in children."

The study also found that 20 percent of young adults are switching faiths, with most of the transition being from one Christian denomination to another.

Citing the General Society Survey (GSS), the study noted that the percentage of Americans identifying with mainline Protestant churches declined by 2.2 percent from 1991 to 2012, while those identifying with more conservative evangelical churches gained slightly (0.6 percent).

The GSS also indicated a commonly-reported growth in the number of Americans claiming no particular religious affiliation (from 8.1 percent in 1991 to 19.7 percent in 2012). Among Millennials, however, the study says that many of these "nones" have not abandoned faith altogether but rather turned to a more generalized spirituality.

The study, which was released in August, cited some leading theories as to why "nones" have risen in number among Millennials: Young adults tend to engage less in community participation (which includes church); are more likely to view religious people as insincere, hypocritical or judgmental; and are increasingly breaking from churches and people who practice "what they see as strident conservative political rhetoric."

Additionally, the study noted that leading scholars associate religious disengagement with the trend to postpone marriage and parenthood.

"Settling down in family usually means settling down to church," the study said. "Growing strong marriages and thriving families is an important church growth strategy that cannot be ignored."

Among the study's key conclusions for ministry:

-- Churches clearly teaching the Bible (conservative evangelical churches) grew while those that do not (mainline denominations) declined. Young adults want "uncompromising truth" that "calls them to something beyond themselves."

-- Homes with serious faith tend to produce children who carry faith into adulthood. Christians should create homes where children "witness a vibrant faith that's lived out honestly and intentionally."

-- Millennials want serious, substantive faith -- not entertainment and theatrics. "Truth trumps trappings," the study said.