Russia shows military might in Syria ahead of peace talks (Source AP) Helicopter gunships sweep low around Russia’s air base on the Syrian coast and air-defense missile systems tower at the base’s edge as warplanes take off one after another. The sound is deafening. Russia’s heavy airstrikes in Syria continued days ahead of the hoped-for start of talks on how to end one aspect of the country’s five-year-old war, where government forces fight rebels, and militants including the extremist Islamic State have seized substantial stretches of territory. Even though the front line is dozens of miles (kilometers) away and the area around the base is tightly controlled, the Russian military methodically patrols to make sure there is no ground threat. Two heavy transport planes were parked near the main terminal as soldiers toting assault rifles stood guard. Since Russia launched its bombing campaign in Syria on Sept. 30, its warplanes have flown 5,700 missions. The number is remarkable for a force comprising just a few dozen warplanes. Since The Associated Press first visited the Hemeimeem base in October, the Russian military has put a second runway into service and has deployed powerful S-400 air defense weapons. Asked how long the Russian air campaign may last, Konashenkov said only that Russia’s goal is to strike extremist infrastructure in support of Syrian government troops. Russian ordnance includes bunker-buster bombs capable of piercing seven meters (23 feet) of rock to destroy underground facilities, Konashenko said. Some of the bombs are laser-guided, but all Russian warplanes at the base are equipped with a sophisticated targeting system, allowing them to use even regular bombs with pinpoint accuracy, he said.
MAN USES MICROCHIP IMPLANTED IN HAND TO PASS THROUGH AIRPORT SECURITY (Source Telegraph) A man who implanted a microchip containing his airline booking details into his hand was able to use it to pass effortlessly through security to his flight. Andreas Sjöström, vice president of digital for technology consulting company Sogeti, had the near-field communication chip (NFC) about the size of a grain of rice injected into his hand with a syringe, before using it at Stockholm Arlanda Airport to pass through security and board his plane. The technology has been used before to make digital payments, control a mobile phone and unlock doors, in the same way contactless payment cards work. All it requires is a scanner to link up to that is compatible with the NFC. Sjöström uploaded his Scandinavian Airlines EuroBonus member ID to the xNT implant and using NFC readers in the Swedish airport was able to register his boarding pass and passport by simply pressing his hand to a scanner.
Iran says it will not moderate its plans to boost oil exports (Source Reuters) Iran is determined to raise its oil output by 500,000 barrels per day as soon as sanctions on its oil industry are lifted, Iran’s national representative to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Mehdi Asali, said on Saturday. “We have not moderated our plans regarding increasing output when sanctions are lifted. It will be increased by 500,000 bpd, and by another 500,000 bpd shortly after that,” Asali was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA. His comments came ahead of the expected lifting of international sanctions on Iran later on Saturday as part of a landmark deal between major powers and Iran to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
Russia’s Military Buildup Continues with Big New Fighter Jet Order (Source The Fiscal Times)
Russia’s military buildup shows no signs of slowing. Moscow recently ordered 50 twin-engine Sukhoi Su-35S multirole fighters to bolster the country’s air force. The new order, first reported by TASS Defense, is valued to be somewhere between $788 million and $1.4 billion, according to trade press reports. The Kremlin ordered 48 of the aircraft in 2009; most of the aircraft have now been delivered, with some spotted late last year flying near the disputed Kuril Islands. Sukhoi also recently inked a $2 billion agreement with China for 24 Su-35S jets and reached a deal to produce another dozen for Indonesia. Last week the company signed an agreement with Algeria for 12 Sukhoi Su-32 tactical bombers, concluding eight years of negotiations. The lucrative contracts have helped boost Russia’s economy, which has been walloped in recent years by economic sanctions over the nation’s actions in Ukraine and the dramatic tumble in the price of oil. The deals, particularly the one with China, also allows Russian President Vladimir Putin to poke his thumb in the eye of the U.S. and its NATO allies at a time of great global tensions, including those in the South China Sea where Beijing is creating man-made islands in an effort to expand its military footprint in Asia. As for the Su-35 itself, the jet is an updated version of the Su-27 (NATO code name: Flanker), a workhorse of the Russian Air Force. Many analysts compare the Su-35 to the F/A-18 Super Hornet made by Boeing. The Su-35 can carry guide air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, among other arms. The updated plane has a new integrated control system that improves the fighter’s handling and maneuverability, better engines and improved stealth radar, according to Sukhoi’s website.
Pope to Visit Synagogue in Sign of Friendship Amid Questions (Source ABC) Pope Francis becomes the third pope to visit Rome’s main synagogue in a sign of continued Catholic-Jewish friendship that was highlighted by a recent Vatican declaration that it doesn’t support official efforts to convert the Jews. But the visit also follows a series of developments that have upset some in the Jewish community, including a new Vatican treaty signed with the “state of Palestine” and Francis’ own words and deeds that have been interpreted by some as favoring the Palestinian political cause. The chief rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, said in an interview that the papal visit is aimed at showing five decades of improving Christian-Jewish relations and interfaith harmony, at a time of Islamic extremist violence around the globe. But he said some recent Vatican developments “cannot be so appreciated by the Jewish community.” Earlier this month, a treaty went into effect regulating the life of the Catholic Church in the Palestinian territories. It was the first treaty the Holy See had signed with the “state of Palestine” after the U.N. General Assembly recognized Palestine in 2012. Before that, in May last year, Francis privately told the visiting Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, that he was “a bit an angel of peace.” And a year before that Francis began his visit to the region in Bethlehem, not Israel, and stopped his popemobile to pray at the separation barrier Israel had built around the West Bank city. Given all that, Jews welcomed a document issued by the Vatican last month tracing 50 years of improved relations following the Second Vatican Council’s “Nostra Aetate” declaration which , among other things, repudiated the centuries-old charge that Jews as a whole were responsible for the death of Christ. In the new document, the Vatican went farther than “Nostra Aetate” or any subsequent Vatican statement making clear that Jews are in a salvific relationship with God and that the Catholic Church “neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.” “This document is very significant,” said Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee, the Vatican’s longtime dialogue partner with the Jewish community who will attend Sunday’s visit as a representative of the chief rabbinate of Israel. But Rosen, during the official Vatican launch of the document, pointed out the absence of any reference to Jews’ relationship with the land of Israel, or to the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See in 1993. That development alone has paved the way for successive papal trips to Israel.
Activists call for American Indian genocide monument near Moscow US embassy (Source RT)
Russian activists are requesting permission to install a monument near the US embassy in Moscow dedicated to the genocide of American Indians. A member of the Russian Public Chamber says the move could soon get official support. The activists have launched a petition in support of the monument on the change.org website. It says that “despite assuming the position of a ‘global policeman’ the United States still refuses to accept the responsibility for killing over 15 million Native Americans.” The petition goes on to call for public support for the monument, which would be dedicated to “the memory of American Indians who perished as heroes in the unfair war with treacherous invaders.” According to the author of the document, the request will be forwarded to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin, and to the Russian Public Chamber.
Public Chamber member Valery Korovin said in comments to RIA Novosti that the petition was timely and official support for it was very likely. “The initiative to install this monument is very urgent today because it would remind everyone how the history of the United States started. It must become a silent reproach to the modern-day American elites who have seriously diverged from the ideals that were made a foundation of American statehood,” Korovin told reporters. He also noted that activists should consider a separate petition calling on the US Congress to recognize the genocide of American Indians and to pass a law on the rehabilitation of Native Americans – which is necessary for the US “be done with this dark spot in their history.” “Without the repentance of US society it is impossible to talk about this country’s leadership. The United States now has no moral right to speak about the rights and freedoms of any ethnic groups,” he added.
MALE BASS ARE EXPERIENCING UNWANTED SEX CHANGES (Source NEWSER) Male bass are experiencing unwanted sex changes, apparently thanks to the “chemical soups” that pass for waterways in the Northeast. The Washington Post reports 85% of male smallmouth bass surveyed in the region have “characteristics of the opposite sex”—specifically eggs where their testes should be. The same is true of 27 percent of area largemouth bass, Vice adds. For a recently published study, researchers tested bass near 19 wildlife refuges in the Northeast, according to a US Geological Survey press release. Researchers didn’t do a chemical analysis of the water where the intersex fish were found, so they can’t be sure specifically what is causing the sex changes. But they suspect the problem is things that get dumped down drains and into US waters. Researchers believe the likely culprits are birth control pills, pesticides, hormones in livestock manure, and other chemical-heavy products, according to the press release.
Has Germany’s Strongman Finally Arrived? (Source thetrumpet.com) Germany is facing one of the worst crises in its modern history. Refugees from the Middle East are flooding into Europe by the hundreds of thousands, and more are traveling to Germany than to any other nation—an estimated 1.5 million just this year! This is an emergency with massive implications for Germany. First is the financial cost of assimilating all those people into German society, including the strain on public services and welfare programs. Many Germans are also troubled by the cultural and religious influence of so many Arabs and Muslims. Then there is the very real danger of violent terrorists entering in among the refugees! German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been very liberal in opening Germany’s borders to this flood of foreigners, and she is quickly losing popular support as a result. One prominent politician who has strongly criticized Chancellor Merkel for her response to the refugee crisis is Edmund Stoiber. He was once chairman of the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. “Certainly he would ask the question, how many people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds can our country accommodate?” he said, according to Germany’s Der Bayernkurier. Spiegel Online published an article about the crisis on August 31. Its title: “Dark Germany, Bright Germany: Which Side Will Prevail Under Strain of Refugees?” Will this nation lose control of its borders and succumb to the flood of immigrants until much of it becomes more foreign than native? That is what we are seeing in Britain and the U.S. Or will Germany find some bright, enlightened course of action to solve this crisis? Or—will it respond with a strongman—and a dark Germany? Biblical prophecy makes the answer clear. A strongman is on the scene, just waiting for the right moment to emerge.
China plane landings in South China Sea raise tensions (Source AFP) China’s recent landing of aircraft on a contested reef in the South China Sea is raising tensions and promoting instability in the region, the Pentagon warned. A Department of Defense spokesman said three civilian flights are now believed to have landed on one of the islands, corroborating Chinese state media reports that three civilian aircraft have landed on Fiery Cross reef in the disputed Spratlys island group. “We clearly are concerned by these flights… and we’re concerned by all of these activities being conducted by the Chinese in disputed islands in the South China Sea,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters. “We call for a diplomatic resolution to these issues in the South China Sea and certainly these flights do nothing to foster further stability and understanding in that part of the world,” Cook said.China’s initial aircraft landing on Saturday prompted a formal diplomatic complaint from Hanoi, which labelled it a violation of sovereignty. The Philippines also said it would file a protest.
Global Financial Turmoil Continues on Fears of Slower Growth (Source globalresearch.ca) China’s stock market was closed early for the second time in four days as stocks plunged as soon as it opened.. When the markets re-opened the losses continued and the market was shut for the day when they hit 7 percent. The China plunge came after a day of turbulence in European and US markets on, prompted by a further drop in oil prices, rising concerns over Chinese growth and financial stability, and worries over emerging market debt. Reports of a North Korean hydrogen bomb test added to the uncertainty. In the US, the major indexes fell by more than 1 percent, with the Dow and the S&P 500 ending the day below 17,000 and 2,000, respectively. The US share sell-off followed sharp declines in Japan and other parts of Asia, as well across Europe. The main factor at work is the deepening trend toward recession in the global economy, which is starting to undermine the financial bubble that has been created by the pumping of trillions of dollars into global financial markets by the US Fed and other major central banks. Market analysts speaking to the American business channel CNBC cited China and signs of a worsening situation globally and in the US. “It’s pretty much the same story. You’ve got China growth problems,” and “the US manufacturing sector seems to be in recession territory,” one commentator said. Another commented that the “biggest thing affecting markets” is that “we’re coming in with an assumption that the global economy is slowing more” in 2015 than 2016. “We’re worried about China.” Another analyst told the Los Angeles Times that markets were “trading on fear that Chinese growth is going to collapse and that… lower oil prices are going to lead to a growing number of defaults in the high-yield bond market.” Those fears have been compounded by the fall in the price of Brent crude to below $35 per barrel for the first time since 2004, while the price of American crude hit its lowest point in seven years. The falling oil price feeds directly into energy markets via energy-based companies and into the high-yield or “junk” bond market, which saw an infusion of cheap money when oil was trading at more than $100 a barrel barely 18 months ago. The worsening situation in China is evidenced both in the economy and the financial system. Chinese growth is already down to its lowest levels in a quarter of a century, with manufacturing activity experiencing lower growth for five months in a row and exports down for each of the last 15 months. But a new cause for concern appeared on Wednesday with the news that the services sector had experienced its lowest growth for 17 months. The official policy of the Chinese government is that it is making a transition to a more service-based economy. Chinese stock market and financial turbulence, which rattled world markets in August last year, has also returned. On the first day of trading, markets were automatically shut down following a drop of almost 7 percent, as the date for the lifting of government restrictions on share trading imposed in August approached. As in the crisis five months ago, there are concerns about the stability of the Chinese currency, the renminbi. It has now reached its lowest point in five years, as the gap between its value in the more tightly controlled domestic market and the offshore market widens to record levels. The offshore value of the renminbi has dropped by more than 2 percent this week, recalling the events of August, when its surprise devaluation sent shock waves through world markets.